Wednesday, November 20, 2019
US House Judiciary Committee advances sweeping marijuana reform bill, the MORE Act, by a vote of 24-10
As report in this press piece, headlined "House panel passes bill aiming to legalize marijuana, but top Democrat concedes ‘Senate will take its own time,’" a notable marijuana reform bill advanced in Congress today, but its long-term prospects are still limited. Here are the basics:
The Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted in favor a bill that decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level, with a couple of Republicans supporting the measure.
The panel’s chairman, however, had acknowledged Tuesday that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act could be a tough sell in the Republican-controlled Senate. “The Senate will take its own time, but then the Senate always does,” said Jerry Nadler, the New York Democrat. He aimed to sound upbeat during Tuesday’s news conference ahead of Wednesday’s markup session for the bill: “The energy and the political pressure from the various states is growing rapidly. The Senate is subject to that, too. We’ll accomplish this.”...
Nadler, for his part, had on Tuesday described the committee vote on the MORE Act as “part of a long-term fight.” He stressed Wednesday that House lawmakers can negotiate with the Senate. Pro-marijuana activists have been celebrating the action in the House Judiciary Committee, with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also known as NORML, calling it the “biggest marijuana news of the year” and the “first-ever vote to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.”
Besides decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, the MORE Act aims to expunge prior marijuana convictions and spur re-sentencing hearings for people still under supervision. It also would set up a 5% sales tax on marijuana products that would fund three grant programs, including one that would provide job training, legal aid and other services to the individuals hit hardest by the War on Drugs....
The MORE Act [available here] has more than 50 co-sponsors in the House, including Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a member of the House Judiciary Committee who voted for the measure on Wednesday. The backers of the bill in the Senate include Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
The House committee voted 24-10 in favor of the bill on Wednesday, a House clerk said. Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the committee’s top Republican, was among the GOP lawmakers who didn’t support the measure.
Collins said the MORE Act was a non-starter for most of his Republican colleagues. He suggested it won’t become law and lead to real change. “Do we want to accomplish something or do we just want to make a political statement?” Collins asked.
Groups in Washington that have disclosed lobbying on the MORE Act this year include the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), the Cannabis Trade Federation, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union and NORML.
The cannabis industry has set a fresh record for its overall annual lobbying spending in Washington, with an outlay of $3.77 million through this year’s third quarter as it has pushed for a bill that would protect financial institutions that work with the marijuana industry.
As reported in this Politico piece, headlined "New Jersey marijuana legalization bill dead; lawmakers will let voters decide," legislators in the Garden State have failed again to achieve significant marijuana reforms through the traditional legislative process and now have a new 2020 plan. Here are the details and backstory:
For the second time this year, top Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey pulled the plug on legislation to legalize cannabis sales for recreational use, killing any likelihood Gov. Phil Murphy will deliver on a key campaign promise before 2021.
Instead, legislative leaders introduced a resolution Monday that would put a recreational use question on the November 2020 ballot. The resolution would need to pass both houses of the state Legislature by three-fifths majorities in one year or by simple majorities in consecutive years to make it onto the ballot.
“We made further attempts to generate additional support in the Senate to get this done legislatively, but we recognize that the votes just aren’t there. We respect the positions taken by legislators on what is an issue of conscience," Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a joint statement with Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who had been the lead sponsor of the cannabis legalization bill, NJ S2703 (18R), in the upper house....
Murphy, who campaigned heavily on a pro-cannabis platform in 2017, was disappointed by the announcement, but said in a statement he has “faith that the people of New Jersey will put us on the right side of history when they vote next November.“ “By approving this ballot measure before the end of this legislative session, New Jersey will move one step closer to righting a historical wrong and achieving what I have spent more than three years advocating for,” the governor said.
Several polls released over the last two years suggest a solid majority of New Jersey residents support marijuana legalization. Even so, NJ RAMP —an affiliate of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana — has already said it plans to fight the measure at the ballot box.
Should voters approve the referendum, it would be up to the Legislature to take action to grant oversight of the adult use industry to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which was previously established through medical marijuana legislation passed earlier this year....
Monday’s announcement marks the conclusion of a long odyssey for the Democrat’s recreational use bill, which was originally scheduled for a vote in March after months of protracted negotiations between Murphy, Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. That vote was scuttled after Sweeney and Murphy failed to whip up the necessary 21 votes in the upper house. A majority of Assembly members supported the bill.
Two months later, amid an escalating feud between Murphy and South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross over tax incentives, Sweeney said there wasn’t a viable path forward for the bill’s passage, laying some blame on the administration’s efforts to unilaterally expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.
Sweeney reversed course several months later, saying he’d like to give the legislation another shot with some technical revisions to accommodate regulatory changes established through the state’s new medical marijuana law, NJ A20 (18R), along with criminal justice reforms that have since been included in subsequent legislation. Both bills had previously been linked to the fate of recreational use legislation.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
US House Judiciary Committee to hold mark up of MORE Act proposing federal decriminalization of marijuana on Nov 20
As detailed in this press release, "House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) [Monday] announced the Committee will hold a markup on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), comprehensive legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, reassess marijuana convictions, and invest in local communities. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the companion bill in the Senate." Here is more about MORE moving forward legislatively:
Ahead of the markup, on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, Chairman Nadler, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and additional Members of Congress, will hold a press conference to highlight the legislation.
"Our marijuana laws disproportionately harm individuals and communities of color, leading to convictions that damage job prospects, access to housing, and the ability to vote." said Chairman Nadler. "Recognizing this, many states have legalized marijuana. It’s now time for us to remove the criminal prohibitions against marijuana at the federal level. That’s why I introduced the MORE Act, legislation which would assist communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of these laws. I am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Blumenauer, as well as other Members of Congress who have helped pave the way for this important measure. I look forward to moving this legislation out of the House Judiciary Committee, making it one step closer to becoming law."
"Our federal cannabis policies have been rooted in the past for far too long. As states continue to modernize how we regulate cannabis, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our policies are fair, equitable, and inclusive," said Congresswoman Lee. "As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Cannabis Caucus, I am pleased to see Chairman Nadler and the Judiciary Committee take this historic step in marking up the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act. I’m pleased that this critical bill includes key tenets from my own legislation to right the wrongs of the failed and racist War on Drugs by expunging criminal convictions, reinvesting in communities of color through restorative justice, and promoting equitable participation in the legal marijuana industry. I applaud Chairman Nadler for his leadership and look forward to seeing this bill move out of committee."
Tuesday Press Conference on MORE Act
Date: November 19, 2019
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Location: Rayburn House Office Building Room 2237, Washington, D.C. Live stream: https://www.facebook.com/HouseJudDems/
Wednesday Markup of the MORE Act
Date: November 20, 2019
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Location: Rayburn House Office Building Room 2141, Washington, D.C. Live stream: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVvv3JRCVQAl6ovogDum4hA
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act:
- Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
- Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
- Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
- The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.
- The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
- The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
- Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
- Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
- Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
- Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
- Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.
The full text of the MORE Act is available at this link. Based on my email traffic, I know a lot of marijuana reform groups are very excited about this legislative development. But I will await news that the full House will be voting on the bill, as well as some indication that the Senate might be interested in taking up any marijuana reform proposals, before thinking that federal reform is anywhere close to becoming a reality.
As noted in this prior post when the MORE Act was first introduced, I am excited that the most comprehensive federal marijuana reform bill to be getting attention includes a provision (Section 5) establishing a "Cannabis Justice Office" within the within the federal Office of Justice Programs. In my 2018 article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices," I make the case for using marijuana revenues to help build an institutional infrastructure for helping to remediate the various harms from the war on drugs. Though this proposed Cannabis Justice Office is not exactly what I had in mind, I am thrilled to see a major reform bill focus on creating an infrastructure for continued emphasis on justice and equity issues.
Prior related post:
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
The question in the title of this post is the headline if this notable new editorial in the journal Drug Discovery Today authored by Patricia Zettler and Erika Lietzan. (Disclosure/humble brag: Professor Zettler is on the Ohio State College of Law faculty and a member of our Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.) Here are excerpts from the start and end of the piece:
In the last two years the cannabidiol (CBD) market has exploded. Consumers can purchase CBD-containing oils, lotions, gummies, tea, coffee, water, popcorn, and cereal, on store shelves and online. Celebrities and athletes are touting the benefits of these products, and sales are forecast to exceed $20 billion in the next five years. This market explosion has coincided with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)’s 2018 approval of the first CBD drug (Epidiolex), for treating seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy in children, as well as the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed cannabis with low levels of delta-9-tetrahydocannabinol (THC) — “hemp” — from the federal list of controlled substances. And it comes on the heels of nearly 40 states enacting comprehensive laws to legalize cannabis for medical use (and sometimes recreational use) within their borders.
Yet significant questions remain about the legal status of these widely available CBD products. Most sales of CBD-containing foods and supplements violate the “drug exclusion rules” in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). But FDA has yet to enforce those rules, apart from sending warning letters to a few sellers. The agency is instead considering what approach to take. Several former agency officials — including former Commissioner Scott Gottlieb — have urged FDA to create a sensible, science-based path forward for consumer products. The time is ripe for the agency, lawmakers, health care providers, the drug discovery community, and the public to consider the purpose of the drug exclusion rules and what a different approach — exempting CBD — might mean for consumer and patient access and safety, as well as innovation incentives....
As a practical matter, CBD-containing foods and supplements may be here to stay. Lawmakers or FDA may decide that the drug exclusion rules are unwarranted for CBD, given the federal descheduling of hemp, state legalization of cannabis products, and (eventually) rigorous evidence that CBD products are relatively safe. But FDA should not default into this position simply because a robust, albeit unlawful, market has already emerged. A decision to give CBD special treatment should be made thoughtfully and with public participation, accounting for possible gains in consumer access and choice, as well as the lost opportunity to learn, and harness, CBD’s full therapeutic potential.
November 12, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
The title of this post is the title of this new paper now available via SSRN authored by Rob Mikos. Here is its abstract:
The states have launched a revolution in marijuana policy, creating a wide gap between state and federal marijuana law. While nearly every state has legalized marijuana in at least some circumstances, federal law continues to ban the substance outright. Nonetheless, the federal response to state reforms has been anything but static during this revolution. This Essay, based on my Distinguished Speaker Lecture at Delaware Law School, examines how the federal response to state marijuana reforms has evolved over time, from War, to Partial Truce, and, next (possibly) to Capitulation. It also illuminates the ways in which this shifting federal response has alternately constrained and liberated states as they seek to regulate marijuana as they deem fit.
Tuesday, November 5, 2019
This new Politico piece reports on this interesting new polling that seems to me to present the deepest accounting of (shallow?) views on a range of cannabis related issues. Here is part of the Politico piece:
Americans now think marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol, tobacco or e-cigarettes, according to new polling results from POLITICO and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health released Monday. Just 1 in 5 Americans believe marijuana is very harmful to people who use it. Twice as many said the same about alcohol, 52 percent characterized e-cigarettes as very harmful and 80 percent said tobacco cigarettes are very harmful....
The poll shows marijuana largely has avoided a perception hit following nearly 2,000 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses, including at least 37 deaths. The most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 80 percent of vaping products linked to lung problems contained THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana. Most of the vaping products tied to the outbreak were bought on the black market, although a handful of deaths have been tied to products purchased through state-legal marijuana dispensaries. The poll was conducted in early October, at least a month after news broke of health issues associated with vaping....
The market for CBD products has exploded since hemp was legalized under the 2018 farm bill, with Americans using it to treat everything from back pain to cancer. But despite widespread use, many Americans don't know what it is.
Nearly half of respondents indicated they weren’t familiar with CBD. Yet CBD is widely seen by the general public as a benign substance. Only 8 percent of total adults polled and 5 percent of those familiar with CBD said they think it is very harmful.
A majority of people familiar with CBD said they want little to no interference or regulation by the federal government. Only half of those who knew what CBD was thought the Food and Drug Administration should regulate the safety of products that contain it. The FDA is wrestling with how it should regulate the rapidly growing industry.
Of consumers familiar with CBD, 55 percent said they should be able to buy it over the counter if they think it‘s effective for them — whether or not a clinical trial has proven that it actually is. And more than 3 out of every 5 CBD users say they’d consider using their favorite products even if the FDA found that the product doesn’t actually help in the way it claims to....
While 67 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents support federal marijuana legalization, only 45 percent of Republicans are on board. That translates to 62 percent of Americans supporting federal legalization, a huge leap from the 44 percent of Americans who thought legalization was a good idea in 2009...
But when it comes to CBD, there is no partisan divide. According to the Harvard poll, 13 percent of Republicans and Democrats indicated they use CBD products. In addition, 83 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans think it should be sold in drugstores like CVS or Walgreens. The real CBD divide is generational: 21 percent of adults under 30 use it, versus 11 percent of adults over 65.
November 5, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, November 4, 2019
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article authored by Robert Mikos and Cindy Kam. Here is its abstract:
Over the past two decades, a growing cadre of US states has legalized the drug commonly known as “marijuana.” But even as more states legalize the drug, proponents of reform have begun to shun the term “marijuana” in favor of the term “cannabis.” Arguing that the “M” word has been tainted and may thus dampen public support for legalization, policy advocates have championed “cannabis” as an alternative and more neutral name for the drug. Importantly, however, no one has tested whether calling the drug “cannabis” as opposed to “marijuana” actually has any effect on public opinion.
Using an original survey experiment, we examine whether framing the drug as “marijuana” as opposed to “cannabis” shapes public attitudes across a range of related topics: support for legalization of the drug, moral acceptance of its use, tolerance of activities involving the drug, perceptions of the drug’s harms, and stereotypes of its users. Throughout each of our tests, we find no evidence to suggest that the public distinguishes between the terms “marijuana” and “cannabis.” We conclude with implications of our findings for debates over marijuana/cannabis policy and for framing in policy discourse more generally.
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Though the direction of public polling is never a sure forecast of the direction of public policy, the rapid reform of marijuana laws at the state level in the US has move in sync with a rapid rise in public support for such reform. And, as detailed in this Gallup posting, headlined "U.S. Support for Legal Marijuana Steady in Past Year," polling this year suggests that support for marijuana legalization is not waning (but also not growing). Here are the details:
Americans' support for legalizing marijuana has held steady at 66% over the past year, after rising 30 percentage points between 2005 and 2018. The latest results are based on Gallup's annual Crime survey, conducted Oct. 1-13. Not only have 66% favored legalizing marijuana in the 2018 and 2019 Crime polls, but the same level of support was found in an intervening Gallup survey, conducted in May.
Gallup first asked about making marijuana use legal in 1969, when just 12% of Americans favored the proposal. Nearly a decade later, a 1977 survey found support had increased to 28%, but it held at about that level through 1995, finally surpassing 30% in Gallup's next measurement, in 2000. Since then, the percentage of Americans advocating legal marijuana usage has more than doubled, with support increasing significantly among all major subgroups.
As public opinion has become increasingly pro-marijuana, so has state policy. As of June, 11 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana. Twenty-two other states allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Majorities of most key subgroups now favor making marijuana legal, according to an analysis of the opinions of more than 3,500 adults asked the question in the three 2018-2019 Gallup surveys. There are essentially no meaningful differences in support for legal marijuana by gender, education, income, region and urban/suburban/rural residence -- between 60% and 70% of subgroup members within those categories favor legalization. Opinions do vary significantly according to partisanship and ideology, age and generation, race, and religiosity.
Americans on the left of the political spectrum are more likely than those on the right to favor making marijuana legal. However, the differences are greater by political ideology than by partisanship. Twenty-five points separate Democratic (76%) and Republican (51%) support for making marijuana legal, with independents (68%) near the national average.
In contrast, 82% of liberals versus 48% of conservatives want to see marijuana made legal, a 34-point difference. Conservatives are one of the few major subgroups expressing less-than-majority support for making marijuana legal. Moderates' opinions (72%) are closer to those of liberals than conservatives.
Generally speaking, younger adults are much more likely than older adults to favor legalizing marijuana. This includes 81% of adults under age 30 as well as 80% of the larger millennial generation subgroup, consisting of those born between 1980 and 2000. By contrast, less than half of senior citizens (49%) are in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, and the percentage is even lower -- 40% -- among adults born in 1945 or before. Baby boomers and members of Generation X are close to the national average in terms of wanting marijuana to be made legal, at 61% and 63%, respectively.
Majorities of major U.S. racial and ethnic subgroups endorse the legalization of marijuana, but blacks are more likely to hold this view than whites, while Hispanics show even less support. Americans who attend religious services on a weekly basis are among the subgroups least likely to say marijuana should be made legal, with just 42% in favor. That compares with more than three-quarters of those who seldom or never attend church (77%) and 63% of those who attend occasionally.
Americans have rapidly shifted to backing legal marijuana in the past decade after consistently expressing opposition for 40 years. It appears the increases in support have halted for the time being, with no change in the percentage favoring legalization over the past year. However, given generational differences in support for legalizing marijuana use, it is likely the percentage who endorse making marijuana use legal will continue to expand in the years ahead.
Even if support has leveled off for the time being, it remains solidly above the majority level, and has created a public opinion environment that is conducive to more states adopting pro-marijuana policies. Although most states now allow marijuana usage for medical if not recreational purposes, the drug remains illegal according to federal law.
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Senator Bernie Sanders puts forth details for his plan to legalize marijuana and repair harms of the drug war
In August, Senator Bernie Sanders released this extended plan detailing a wide array of criminal justice reform proposals. Unsurprisingly, one plank of his broader reform plan included a commitment to "legalize marijuana and vacate and expunge past marijuana convictions, and ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs." Today, as detailed on this campaign page, Senator Sanders has provided a lot more of his proposed particulars for marijuana reform and here are excerpts:
As president, Bernie will:
Legalize marijuana in the first 100 days with executive action by:
- Nominating an attorney general, HHS secretary, and administrator for the DEA who will all work to aggressively end the drug war and legalize marijuana
- Immediately issuing an executive order that directs the Attorney General to declassify marijuana as a controlled substance
- While Congress must aggressively move to end the war on drugs and undo its damage, as president Bernie will not wait for Congress to act. Passing legislation to ensure permanent legalization of marijuana
Vacate and expunge all past marijuana-related convictions.
- In a Sanders administration we will review all marijuana convictions - both federal and state - for expungement and re-sentencing. All past convictions will be expunged.
- Based on the California model, we will direct federal and state authorities to review current and past marijuana related convictions for eligibility. This review will include re-sentencing for all currently incarcerated with marijuana convictions. Following determination of eligibility or status, prosecutors will have one year to appeal or object, after which authorities will automatically expunge and vacate past marijuana convictions for all those eligible.
- Federal funding will be provided to states and cities to partner with organizations that can help develop and operate the expungement determination process, much like how California worked with Code for America....
Ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs, especially African-American and other communities of color. With new tax resources from legal marijuana sales, we will:
- Create a $20 billion grant program within the Minority Business Development Agency to provide grants to entrepreneurs of color who continue to face discrimination in access to capital.
- With this revenue we will also create a $10 billion grant program to focus on businesses that are at least 51% owned or controlled by those in disproportionately impacted areas or individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses....
- Use revenue from marijuana sales to establish a targeted $10 billion USDA grant program to help disproportionately impacted areas and individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses start urban and rural farms and urban and rural marijuana growing operations to ensure people impacted by the war on drugs have access to the entire marijuana industry....
- Create a $10 billion targeted economic and community development fund to provide grants to communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.
Ensure Legalized Marijuana Does Not Turn Into Big Tobacco Big Tobacco is already targeting the marijuana industry for its profits. As president, Bernie will not allow marijuana to turn into Big Tobacco. He will:
- Incentivize marijuana businesses to be structured like nonprofits.
- We will provide resources for people to start cooperatives and collective nonprofits as marijuana businesses that will create jobs and economic growth in local communities.
October 24, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Abby Graves, a recent graduate The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. This paper is the fourteenth paper in an on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. (The thirteen prior papers in this series are linked below.) Here is this latest paper's abstract:
Marijuana has taken a long journey through the court of public opinion; from condemned fringe use in minority communities and by jazz musicians through the 20s and 40s, to its heyday in the 60s and 70s era of Woodstock and Bob Dylan, only to be villainized again in the 80s and 90s. Today, the public perception of marijuana is dawning a new era of acceptance, in no small part thanks to its normalization in rap music and white America’s embrace of men like Calvin Broadus, also known as Snoop Doggy Dogg. Modern popular culture has slowly changed the public perception of recreational marijuana use and paved the way for legalization. Social scientists have been able to link the lyrics in popular music to the attitudes in popular opinion, and this paper will focus on the influence of hip hop, gangsta rap, the cult of celebrity, and Snoop Dogg himself on modern legalization efforts and cannabusiness.
Prior student papers in this series:
- "The Canna(business) of Higher Education"
- "Marijuana Banking in New York and Around the US: 'Swim at Your Own Risk'"
- "Intellectual Property Survey: Cannabis Plant Types, Methods of Extraction, IP Protection, and One Patent That Could Ruin It All"
- "Marijuana in the Workplace: Distinguishing Between On-Duty and Off-Duty Consumption"
- "An Argument Against Regulating Cannabis Like Alcohol"
- "The State of Marijuana in The Buckeye State and Fiscal Policy Considerations of Legalized Recreational Marijuana"
- "Race Based Statutes at Play with Cannabis: Cultivating a Process for Weeding Out the Competition"
- "Tribal Cannabis: Balancing Tribal Sovereignty and Cooperative Enforcement"
- "Land of the Free, Home of the (Disgruntled) Brave: The Case for Allowing Veterans Access to Medical Marijuana"
- "Cannabidiol (CBD) in the Therapeutics Industry"
- "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Why IRC § 280E Is Not the Industry Killer It Is Portrayed to Be"
- "Achieving Diversity in the Marijuana Industry: Should States Implement Social Equity into Their Regimes?"
- "Cannabis Legalization: Dealing with the Black Market"
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Senate International Narcotics Control Caucus to hold hearing on "Marijuana and America’s Health: Questions and Issues for Policy Makers."
As reported here via Marijuana Moment and as made official on this Senate webpage, the Senate International Narcotics Control Caucus is scheduled to hold a two-panel hearing on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at 2:30pm under the title "Marijuana and America’s Health: Questions and Issues for Policy Makers." Here is the "Witness List":
Panel I Consisting of:
- Jerome Adams, MD, Surgeon General of the United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
- Nora Volkow, MD, Director, National Institute of Drug Abuse, North Bethesda, MD
Panel II Consisting of:
- Robert Fitzgerald, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, University of California-San Diego, San Diego, CA
- Staci Gruber, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
- Sean Hennessy, Pharm.D, Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
- Madeline Meier, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Here is some context from the Marijuana Moment article:
While the panel has released few details about the meeting, the list of witnesses gives some indication about what kind of subject matter will be covered.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams is set to participate in the first panel. The official is an outspoken critic of cannabis reform, decrying increased THC potency and decreased perception of marijuana risks among youth. He issued an advisory in August warning the public about marijuana use by adolescents and pregnant women.
Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA), will join Adams on that panel. While often skeptical about claims about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis such as its ability to help people overcome addiction to opioids, Volkow has repeatedly stated that the Schedule I status of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act is inhibiting research into the plant....
For the caucus’s second panel, four professors from universities across the country will weigh in on marijuana and public health. Robert Fitzgerald of the University of California at San Diego, Staci Gruber of Harvard Medical School, Sean Hennessy of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Madeline Meier of Arizona State University are scheduled to testify.
Fitzgerald and Gruber have led departments within their respective schools that have conducted studies into marijuana, such as Gruber’s research demonstrating that the use of medical cannabis can improve cognitive functioning. Meier is well-known for her 2012 study linking frequent marijuana use to a drop in IQ.
Monday, October 21, 2019
The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Daniel Orenstein and Stanton Glantz now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:
Cannabis is widely used in the U.S. and internationally despite its illicit status, but that illicit status is changing. In the U.S., 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis, and 11 states and D.C. have legalized adult use cannabis. A majority of state medical cannabis laws and all but two state adult use laws are the result of citizen ballot initiatives, but state legislatures are beginning to seriously consider adult use legislation. From a public health perspective, cannabis legalization presents a mix of potential risks and benefits, but a legislative approach offers an opportunity to improve on existing legalization models passed using the initiative process that strongly favor business interests over public health.
To assess whether state legislatures are acting on this opportunity, this article examines provisions of proposed adult use cannabis legalization bills active in state legislatures as of February 2019 to evaluate the inclusion of key public health best practices based on successful tobacco and alcohol control public health policy frameworks. Given public support for legalization, further adoption of state adult use cannabis laws is likely, but legalization should not be viewed as a binary choice between total prohibition and laissez faire commercialization. The extent to which adult use cannabis laws incorporate or reject public health best practices will strongly affect their impact, and health advocates should work to influence the construction of such laws to prioritize public health and learn from past successes and failures in regulating other substances.
October 21, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, October 6, 2019
The quoted part of the title of this post is the headline of this new Atlantic commentary authored by Sarah Milov. The piece caught my eye in part because the piece's author, a history professor at the University of Virginia, is also the author of an interesting sounding new book, The Cigarette: A Political History. Here are some excerpts from this new Atlantic commentary:
Especially because Americans of color have borne the brunt of the drug war, they deserve to share in the marijuana boom now taking hold across the country. And if America’s long history with another smokable intoxicant — tobacco — is any guide, government rules will decide who can profit from growing the crop. At the moment, though, those rules favor well-connected corporate growers rather than independent farmers, much less independent farmers of color....
Making up for the brutal inequalities of the drug war should be a major goal of marijuana reformers — but so far, the reality isn’t working out that way. state that reforms its marijuana laws must decide how it will allocate production rights. Right now, states severely restrict the number of licenses awarded to cannabis growers, ensuring corporate domination of the industry. In New York, where medical marijuana is legal, just 10 companies own licenses to cultivate and dispense marijuana. Competition is fierce over the licenses, which can sell for tens of millions of dollars — even before an ounce of marijuana is sold. For this reason, licenses tend to go to well-financed pot conglomerates that own cultivation facilities in multiple states.
That outcome should not come as a surprise. A federally supported program set rules for tobacco growers from the Great Depression until early this century. Its history suggests that production regulations, when done right, can be a powerful tool to spread wealth — but also that, when done wrong, they are a highly efficient way of excluding people from an industry....
But for all its flaws, the tobacco program succeeded at what it was meant to do: endowing a designated class of Americans with a way of life that buoyed entire regional economies. Because of strict production restrictions, tobacco farms were among the smallest for any staple commodity, which forestalled the consolidation of farms and an exodus of residents from rural areas. And there were many tobacco farmers in the middle stratum of the farm income ladder, and relatively few at the top. Small tobacco farms could still provide for a decent standard of living because tobacco was a high-value crop. Growing even a small amount could be lucrative. In 1980, an acre of cigarette tobacco was worth $2,700, as opposed to $150 for corn or $250 for soybeans. “There is absolutely nothing on this Earth that can compete with tobacco money,” a USDA economist told The Washington Post in 1980. Except, he added, “illegal smoking material.”...
Now that “illegal smoking materials” are legal in many states, the licensure system for marijuana cultivation is poised to replicate some of the oligopolistic features of the tobacco program, while thwarting its genuinely redistributive ones. Instead of charging would-be cannabis growers for the privilege of growing, states should award licenses to a larger number of applicants from communities that have been hit hard by the War on Drugs. Much as small-scale tobacco farms anchored entire communities across the Southeast, cannabis cultivation on a human scale, rather than a corporate one, can build wealth within communities of color where opportunities to amass property have been denied— frequently at the hands of the government.
Indeed, the excesses of the drug war aren’t the only reason to enact more inclusive policies for marijuana farming. U.S. agricultural policy, too, has throughout its history been skewed against African Americans. When black farmers have availed themselves of government programs, they have frequently found discrimination and, ultimately, dispossession.
But those same tools can be put to work in the opposite direction. The tobacco program was devised to address the emergency of the Great Depression, and it did so in a way that sustained the livelihoods and communities of a targeted group of Americans. The effects of the War on Drugs are no less severe for communities of color, and the need for opportunity is no less urgent.
October 6, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Programs (HIDTAs) are, as explained here, a special kind of drug-enforcement task force that was "created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 [and] provides assistance to Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States." The Rocky Mountain HIDTA has been especially focused on marijuana reform in Colorado, and it has produced regular annual reports around this time under the title "The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact." Volume six of that report, which runs around 70 pages and was just release, can be accessed at this link.
Here are excerpts from the report's executive summary highlighting some of coverage:
Section I: Traffic Fatalities & Impaired Driving
- Since recreational marijuana was legalized, traffic deaths in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased 109 percent while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 31 percent.
- Since recreational marijuana was legalized, traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled from 55 in 2013 to 115 people killed in 2018....
Section II: Marijuana Use
Since recreational marijuana was legalized:
- Past month marijuana use for ages 12 and older increased 58 percent and is 78 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 4th in the nation.
- Adult marijuana use increased 94 percent and is 96 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 4th in the nation.
- College age marijuana use increased 18 percent and is 48 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 6th in the nation.
- Youth marijuana use decreased 14 percent and is 40 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 6th in the nation.
Section III: Public Health
- The yearly number of emergency department visits related to marijuana increased 54 percent after the legalization of recreational marijuana (2013 compared to 2017).
- The yearly number of marijuana-related hospitalizations increased 101 percent after the legalization of recreational marijuana (2013 compared to 2017).
As I have noted before, the these RMHIDTA "Impact" reports are clearly exclusively interested in emphasizing and lamenting any and all potential negative impacts from marijuana reform in Colorado while deemphasizing and mariginalizing any and all potential positive impacts. This bias toward emphasizing the negative and ignoring positive impacts is most obvious in terms of the report's (almost non-existant) discussion of the economic development and tax revenues resulting from legalization. Jobs created by marijuana reform are not mentioned anywhere in the report, and a short discussion of tax revenues in the final sections of the report highlights only what a small portion of the overall state tax revenue is represented by marijuana taxes.
But, as I have also said before, despite these reporting biases, this report still usefully assembles lots of data and usefully represents the latest, greatest effort by the law enforcement community to make the case that marijuana reform in Colorado is a failed experiment. Serious students of marijuana law and policy should take the time to review what this report says and how it is saying what it is saying, while also keeping in mind what data is not here assembled.
Advocacy groups urge House leaders not to move forward with banking bill that "does not solve the underlying problems of marijuana prohibition"
As noted in this prior post, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is reportedly planning to put a marijuana banking bill on the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote in the coming weeks. But yesterday a set of advocacy groups sent this short and significant letter to House leaders urging a postponement of the floor vote because the SAFE Banking Act fails to address any criminal justice reform issues. Here are excerpts from the letter:
The Congress has a unique opportunity to address the myriad injustices created by this nation’s marijuana laws. For decades, people of color have suffered under harsh and racially-biased marijuana laws. Although marijuana use is equal between whites and Blacks, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses. Despite many states legalizing marijuana, arrests have increased, with one arrest every 48 seconds. Against this backdrop, we urge Congress to address the issue of marijuana prohibition holistically and inclusively, with timely Committee and Floor consideration of H.R.3884 – the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019. Marijuana legislation must first address the equity and criminal justice reform consequences of prohibition.
The banking bill does not address marijuana reform holistically. Instead, it narrowly addresses the issues of banking and improved access to financial services, measures that would benefit the marijuana industry, not communities who have felt the brunt of prohibition. To be clear, we recognize the challenges facing marijuana businesses that lack access to financial services. However, we believe it is a mistake to move this issue forward while many of the other consequences of marijuana prohibition remain unresolved. The banking bill does not solve the underlying problems of marijuana prohibition – namely, that many people of color have been saddled with criminal records for a substance that is now legal in many states, and that communities have been shut out of the emerging and booming marijuana industry....
Since the start of the 116th Congress, we have expressed concern to House Leadership, the House Financial Services Committee, and member offices, that if the banking bill moved to the Floor before broader reform, it would jeopardize comprehensive marijuana reform. Therefore, we have pushed for a conversation among advocates, Committee leadership, and House Leadership to formulate a plan for moving marijuana legislation in a way that is comprehensive and does not result in carve-outs for the industry and leave behind impacted communities.
We ask that you delay any vote on the banking bill until agreement has been reached around broader marijuana reform.
September 18, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
"Keeping up with the times: how national public health and governmental organizations communicate about cannabis on Twitter"
The title of this post is the title of this new "Short Report" authored by Jenna van Draanen, Tanvi Krishna, Christie Tsang and Sam Liu for the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. Recognizing the partial M.C. Escher-like quality of blogging (and automatically tweeting) this piece, here is its abstract:
Public health and governmental organizations are expected to provide guidance to the public on emerging health issues in accessible formats. It is, therefore, important to examine how such organizations are discussing cannabis online and the information that is being provided to the public about this increasingly legal and available substance.
This paper presents a concise thematic analysis of both the volume and content of cannabis-related health information from selected (n = 13) national-level public health and governmental organizations in Canada and the U.S. on Twitter.
There were eight themes identified in Tweets including 1) health-related topics; 2) legalization and legislation; 3) research on cannabis; 4) special populations; 5) driving and cannabis; 6) population issues; 7) medical cannabis, and 8) public health issues. The majority of cannabis-related Tweets from the organizations studied came from relatively few organizations and there were substantial differences between the topics covered by U.S. and Canadian organizations. The organizations studied provided limited information regarding how to use cannabis in ways that will minimize health-related harms.
Authoritative organizations that deal with public health may consider designing timely social media communications with emerging cannabis-related information, to benefit a general public otherwise exposed to primarily pro-cannabis content on Twitter.
Monday, September 16, 2019
This past week bought two notable news pieces on the ever-important and ever-dynamic intersection of policing and marijuana. Here are headlines, links and small excerpts:
From the AP, "In era of legal pot, can police search cars based on odor?":
Sniff and search is no longer the default for police in some of the 33 states that have legalized marijuana. Traditionally, an officer could use the merest whiff of weed to justify a warrantless vehicle search, and whatever turned up — pot, other kinds of illegal drugs, something else the motorist wasn’t allowed to have — could be used as evidence in court.
That’s still true in the minority of states where marijuana remains verboten. But the legal analysis is more complicated in places where pot has been approved for medical or adult use, and courts are beginning to weigh in. The result is that, in some states, a police officer who sniffs out pot isn’t necessarily allowed to go through someone’s automobile — because the odor by itself is no longer considered evidence of a crime.
From the New York Times, "Officers Said They Smelled Pot. The Judge Called Them Liars.":
Police officers can often justify a search with six words: “I smelled an odor of marijuana.” Courts in New York have long ruled if a car smells like marijuana smoke, the police can search it — and, according to some judges, even the occupants — without a warrant.
But in late July, a judge in the Bronx said in a scathing opinion that officers claim to smell marijuana so often that it strains credulity, and she called on judges across the state to stop letting police officers get away with lying about it. “The time has come to reject the canard of marijuana emanating from nearly every vehicle subject to a traffic stop,” Judge April Newbauer wrote in a decision in a case involving a gun the police discovered in car they had searched after claiming to have smelled marijuana.
This new Politico piece, headlined "Hoyer plans cannabis banking vote this month," reports that there is new momentum behind a small but very important federal marijuana reform bill. Here are the details:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer intends to put cannabis banking legislation on the floor this month, a historic step toward legitimizing the marijuana industry nationwide.
A Hoyer spokesperson said the Maryland Democrat was discussing the matter with members but hasn't scheduled the vote just yet. He shared his plans at a whip meeting yesterday. Other House Democratic aides said they expected the bill to be on the floor during the week of Sept. 23.
The bipartisan legislation would shield banks from federal penalties if they serve cannabis-related businesses in states where the drug has been legalized. Banks have been lobbying for the bill because cannabis remains banned at the federal level.
The new movement in the House comes as the legislation appears to be getting unexpected traction in the Senate, where Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) is planning to hold a vote on a cannabis banking bill this year.
This piece at Marijuana Moment, headlined "Marijuana Banking Bill Will Get A Full House Floor Vote This Month," provides more context and quotes concerning these developments. It also has this account why matters are now moving forward:
While sources told Marijuana Moment that Hoyer made his decision to allow cannabis banking vote following an earlier Wednesday meeting on the issue, it is likely that building momentum in the GOP-controlled Senate added to pressure on the House to act so that Democrats wouldn’t be seen as lagging behind Republicans on cannabis reform, an issue the party has sought to take political ownership of.
I have generally been pessimistic about the prospects for any form of federal marijuana reform primarily because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has seemed disinclined to allow any reforms to get to the Senate floor. I fear that this remains a reality that will thwart passage of even a modest reform bill that might have considerable support on both sides of the aisle. But, as proved true with the sentencing reform legislation last year, it seems possible that Senator McConnell would be willing to move the bill if President Trump and a significant number of GOP Senators expressed support for it. Stay tuned.
September 16, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 13, 2019
The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Dustin Marlan now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:
Psychedelics are powerful psychoactive substances which alter consciousness and brain function. Like cannabis, psychedelics have long been considered prohibited Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. However, via the powerful psychological experiences they induce, psychedelics are now being shown to be viable therapeutic alternatives in treating depression, substance use disorders, and other mental illnesses, and even to enhance the well-being of healthy individuals.
In May 2019, Denver, Colorado became the first city in the country to decriminalize psilocybin (the active compound in “magic mushrooms”) — a potential major shift in the War on Drugs. Ballot initiatives for the decriminalization of psilocybin and similar substances are now reaching voters in other cities and states. What principles might justify this decriminalization — eliminating criminal penalties for, at a minimum, the use and possession — of psilocybin and other psychedelics?
This Article provides background on psychedelics and a historic overview of the laws surrounding them. It then considers several potential justifications for decriminalizing psychedelics: (1) medical value; (2) religious freedom; (3) cognitive liberty; and (4) identity politics. Lastly, the Article proposes a reframed justification rooted in principles of social justice.
Monday, September 9, 2019
Old folks like me remember when one had to track down a hard copy of an issue of High Times in order to read about marijuana and policy reform. But times sure have changed, and the latest media marker of modern high times may be the new newsletter that was rolled out today by Politico, a highly respected inside-the-beltway media outlet covering politics and policy. This newsletter is described this way:
This newsletter launches at a historic moment for marijuana and cannabis policy. Marijuana is legal on some level in 33 states but illegal at the federal level, creating a bewildering and complex web of legal, regulatory and business questions that even the most expert policy makers and lawyers struggle to answer.
This newsletter offers a sneak preview of what we will do for our Pro subscribers starting next month. Our mission for Pro readers is to cover these policy issues with passion and expertise, to deliver exclusive news and analysis, and to report on cannabis from a neutral, unbiased point of view. We come to this issue with no pre-cooked narrative about what should happen on cannabis policy. Our stories will focus on what POLITICO Pro does best: explaining policy issues and the politics behind them and delivering the news in an easy to digest format so that you can use our content to make business decisions.
And here are two new stories from the Politico team about happenings inside and outside the Beltway:
This could be a big moment for marijuana and Congress. But Democrats are fighting Democrats over whether to focus on social justice issues or industry priorities like banking. Marijuana advocates are divided among themselves over whether to push for full legalization or settle for less far-reaching legislation. And many Republicans — some of whom are seeing the benefits of cannabis legalization in their home states — are still decidedly against any legalization on the national level, even for medicinal uses.
At the same time that Congress is in gridlock, there is growing national support for cannabis, which is illegal at the federal level but at least partially legal in 33 states. In addition, public opinion is shifting rapidly, with nearly two-thirds of Americans supporting legalization according to Gallup — double the level of support two decades ago. That’s led to a steadily growing number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who represent states with legal cannabis markets, making them more sympathetic toward legislation aimed at helping the burgeoning industry — which brought in roughly $10 billion in sales last year.
These conflicts between state and federal law have created a rash of problems for cannabis companies, including lack of access to banking services, sky-high federal tax rates and bewildering questions about exactly what business practices are legal.
The United States is feeling some North American peer pressure to get in on the cannabis boom. Producers in Canada, where marijuana is legal for medicinal and recreational uses, are already planning for a future where pot is a globally traded commodity, and some are setting themselves up to profit if it is legalized in the U.S.
In Mexico cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes, and the landscape could shift further: The country's new president, whose party controls a majority in the national legislature, sent a proposal to the Mexican Senate late last year to legalize recreational use.
September 9, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)