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The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center solicits research papers from students in all areas of drug law and policy. Given the new and relatively unexamined area of academic writing on the subject of cannabis law, these student research papers often offer first takes on important issues of growing interest.
Accepted student papers are then uploaded and made available for download on SSRN.
Cannabis and Coronavirus: Impact on Medical Cannabis Industries in Three States
The COVID-19 pandemic, while detrimental to the American economy as a whole, positively impacted the cannabis industry in many ways. This paper examines how the pandemic changed the medical cannabis industries in three states where medical cannabis programs were recently implemented -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. In all three states, cannabis dispensaries were declared essential businesses and have remained in operation throughout the pandemic. Due to the necessities of social distancing and minimizing contact, the medical cannabis programs in these states implemented new, innovative measures such curbside pickup, online ordering technology, drive-thru windows, delivery systems, and telehealth consultations. Additionally, some states loosened restrictions on supply limits and caregiver registration, making medical cannabis more accessible to patients. This paper suggests that many of these changes should remain permanent after the pandemic ends because they have modernized and, in some cases, legitimized, the cannabis industries in these states.
Building a Better Marijuana Tax
Eleven states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation legalizing adult possession and use of marijuana. Of those twelve jurisdictions, only eight of those jurisdictions have active markets where the substance can be legally bought and sold, and each imposes a different taxation scheme on the flow of marijuana goods in the marketplace. This paper analyzes each tax base and then proposes a bifurcated recreational marijuana tax scheme for states that are currently thinking about legalization: (i) tax flower, bud, and trim based on weight; and (ii) tax concentrates, edibles, oils, and other “distilled” marijuana products based on potency, currently measured by THC content. The idea behind taxing by potency is two-fold: first, the state may pursue public health goals by nudging consumers away from high-potency forms of marijuana – and prevent producers from gravitating even more strongly toward high-potency goods; second, taxing by potency may help normalize the recreational use of marijuana by encouraging society to treat marijuana more like other legal drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes. While no tax scheme is perfect, a hybrid weight/potency base combined with a sunset provision to allow further research on the area appears to be the ideal way to regulate marijuana at this moment in time.
Better Branding on the Big Screen: How the Marijuana Industry Could Use Product Placement to Increase Public Support
Reefer Madness is often credited for spreading anti-marijuana sentiment across the country. Could modern movies depicting marijuana have the opposite effect? This paper asks whether film can influence our opinions on marijuana use and legalization. If movies do have a persuasive effect, the marijuana industry may seek to utilize film as a way to build public support. One method for doing so would be product placement. This paper discusses potential strategies the industry could use to implement product placement, as well as the legal and industry barriers that could prevent or minimize the industry’s ability to engage in the practice. However, a measured approach to product placement could be a viable persuasive tool for the industry.
Marijuana and Its Movement: Issues with Transporting a Legally Ambiguous Substance
Regardless of whether you are a commercial truck driver performing a job, a patient driving to get her medicine, or a citizen who just recreationally enjoys marijuana, the rules surrounding the transportation of marijuana are important. California became the first state to legalize the medical use of marijuana in 1996, and the prevalence of medical and recreational marijuana legalization has only expanded since then. At this point, some product or chemical compound from the cannabis plant is virtually everywhere in the United States, yet the transportation of these products has not been comprehensively debated by the public, let alone legislated. This article is focused on exploring the unique legal landscape surrounding the transportation of marijuana, hemp, and cannabidiol (CBD) from both a business and individual perspective. By showcasing examples of how businesses and individuals have been impacted by the unclarity in this area, the goal is to convey that nothing about transporting these products is risk-free and that there is unnecessary conflict between state and federal law.
Boxed Into a Corner: The Fight to Ban Employers from Boxing out Deserving Job Applicants on the Basis of Criminal Record
Mariah L. Daly
Between 70 and 100 million adults have a criminal record of some kind that are revealed by criminal background checks. One of the most severe and pervasive collateral consequences is difficulty securing gainful employment. Ban-the-Box reform is crucial as a starting point for fair chance hiring, especially in the age of rapidly developing technology and the largely unfettered ability to get information. The availability of criminal records has functioned less as a “public safety” precaution and more like a scarlet letter branded on the chest of millions Americans. Demanding unnecessary disclose of criminal records before a conditional job offer hinders reintegration, increases recidivism, jeopardizes public safety, sabotages the economy, affronts human dignity, and causes devastating harm to society overall. This paper argues that Ban-the-Box laws should be expanded and made uniform across jurisdictions to help prevent against unjust discrimination based on criminal record. The vast differences in the levels of protection provided across Ban-the-Box jurisdictions and their shortcomings are analyzed and model Ban-the-Box legislation that incorporates concepts from the most protective existing laws is proposed.
Decentralizing Clemency: Decentralizing the Commutation Power to Invigorate Sentence Reduction
Reforming sentencing and reducing prison overcrowding requires a focus on the future to ensure just punishments and the past to re-evaluate harsh punishments from the ‘tough on crime’ era. This paper focuses on ending those past wrongs. Executive clemency is sometimes discussed as a method for addressing harsh punishments, but there are only so many governors and Presidents. This paper proposes amending the Ohio Constitution to grant the elected county prosecutors a commutation power subject to veto by the governor. This would decentralize clemency and create a new, potentially system-reshaping tool to address harsh sentences and empower reform-minded prosecutors. The paper additionally discusses other methods to expand clemency and favors adopting the novel constitutional amendment in addition to other reforms for maximum impact.
Decreasing Ambiguity in Ohio: A Value Based Sentencing Structure for Possession of a Controlled Substance
Patrick J. Cleary
Theft and possession of a controlled substance are similar in that both fall into the narrow category of crimes which can be quantified through an objective monetary metric. The value of the goods or services stolen for theft and the value of the controlled substance possessed for possession. Ohio uses the value metric to define their theft sentencing structure but ignores it for purposes of their possession structure. The possession structure instead utilizes a complicated system comprised of controlled substance categorization followed by a weight and unit dose metric to output punishment severity. This complicated structure inherently leads to decreased consistency which is unnecessary given the availability of a value metric, like the one used for the analogous crime of theft. This paper argues that Ohio should take an Occam’s razor approach to possession by utilizing the value-based structure of theft to create a similar structure for possession in order to decrease ambiguity and promote greater consistency in sentencing.
Excessive to Whom?: Why Courts Should Adopt a Means-Based Proportionality Framework under the Excessive Fines Clause
The Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment has long been ignored relative to other criminal sentencing protections provided by the Constitution. But the Excessive Fines Clause finally enjoyed renewed attention after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Timbs v. Indiana, where the Court unanimously incorporated the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause protections against the states. Timbs was celebrated as a watershed victory for criminal defendants, but in reality the Court’s decision leaves much to be desired in combatting abusive fines and forfeitures. Timbs fails to provide any clarity on how exactly lower courts should determine whether a fine is “excessive,” continuing to leave that question for lower courts to puzzle over with mixed results. This Essay examines the Supreme Court’s line of Excessive Fines Clause cases leading up to Timbs, the various approaches federal and state appellate courts have adopted to determine “excessiveness,” and ultimately advocates for an approach that links “excessiveness” to an individualized consideration of the means of a criminal defendant at sentencing. This individualized approach best squares with both basic rationales of punishment theory and the original understanding of the Excessive Fines Clause.
The Complicated Relationship Between Marijuana Use and Parenting
The intersection between marijuana and parenting is both highly controversial and largely unexplored. Despite the trend of legalization (medicinal and recreational) across the country, there is a widening discrepancy between criminal laws and child welfare policies. Even in states where marijuana is recreationally legal, a parent might still be charged with child abuse or neglect as a result of his or her marijuana use. Although second-hand marijuana smoke has proven to be a relatively low risk of harm to children, other areas of concern have not been adequately studied, such as the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. Despite the lack of reliable scientific studies on the impact of ingestion by children, some initial studies have shown a marked increase in frequency of accidental ingestions and resulting hospital treatment in states that have legalized marijuana. The palatability and attractiveness of “edibles” is likely the cause of this measurable and dramatic increase. Overall, parental marijuana use has been inadequately studied by science, but some reliable data is available which could be used overhaul existing children’s services policies.
Going Green in American Professional Sports: Why Marijuana Usage Should Be Allowed and What Policy Changes Should Ensue
In America, professional sports carry significant importance. This billion-dollar industry is largely controlled by four professional leagues - the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL) - together known as “the big four.” Currently, each league has player conduct rules aimed at preventing the use of marijuana. This paper analyzes the marijuana-related policies of each league and goes on to suggest that these regulations must be revised to allow for marijuana usage. I argue that the historical misconceptions of marijuana; the outdated, illogical reasons for its initial and continued prohibition in sports; the prevalence and positive public sentiment of marijuana in society today; the ineffectiveness of the leagues’ current policies; and the widespread use of life-threatening, team-prescribed drugs in every league require that these policies be updated. Subsequently, I discuss the potential medical benefits of marijuana for athletes. Lastly, based on my analysis, this paper predicts the immediate future of marijuana in the big four and details what I believe should happen in the future.
Pop Culture's Influence on Recreational Marijuana Use & Legislation: A Case Study on Snoop Dogg
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.
Cannabis Legalization: Dealing with the Black Market
William J. Meadows
This paper discusses how states that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis are struggling to subdue the black market. One of the goals of legalization was to defeat the black market and create a safer legal market for cannabis products. However, the black market still persists today, and in many states, it is actually dominating the legal market. This paper analyzes several reasons why consumers choose the black market, and it discusses several advantages black-market producers have over the legal market. Finally, this paper offers several possible solutions to this problem, such as working with the black market and decreasing barriers to entry in the legal market.
Achieving Diversity in the Marijuana Industry: Should States Implement Social Equity into Their Regimes?
Jared Kriwinsky, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
As states across the country continue to legalize marijuana, in medical or recreational form, a new legal market is forming. As more and more companies begin to profit off the legalization of marijuana it begs the question: who is reaping the economic benefits of legalization? Following decades of the War of Drugs, minority communities have been particularly devastated. Consequently, states who have legalized marijuana both recreationally and medically have a duty to ensure equal access for the minority communities who were disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. This paper examines social equity regimes throughout the country and how states have attempted to induce minority participation in the marijuana industry. It analyzes the arguments for and against social equity regimes. The primary goal of this article is to address the arguments against social equity regimes in the marijuana industry, and induce states to implement common sense, economical regimes that give equal and just opportunities to those in the minority community.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Why IRC § 280E Is Not the Industry Killer It Is Portrayed to Be
Patrick Cleary, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
Taxes implicate nearly every area of business. The recent marijuana boom has thrust one tax code provision into the spotlight. IRC § 280E prohibits tax deductions and credits for expenses paid or incurred in the trafficking of Schedule I or II controlled substances. This increases tax liability for marijuana businesses who commonly refer to the provision as an “industry killer.” This paper intentionally goes against the grain to show how IRC § 280E is not the “industry killer” it is portrayed to be and explores ways in which slow growth may be marijuana’s best path forward. The argument in favor of IRC § 280E is made by explaining the provisions’ development and legal framework before applying it to the marijuana industry. Next, IRC § 280E must be contextualized within the marijuana industry’s rapid growth and the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Lastly, the Oregon example is used to exemplify how IRC § 280E is helping the industry by providing a check on cash flow and preventing prices from being driven down further through saturation.
Cannabidiol (CBD) in the Therapeutics Industry
Sara Goots Blair, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
Use of Cannabidiol (CBD) in the therapeutics industry has become increasingly popular in the last few years. CBD rode into public consciousness on the coattails of three booming consumer trends: the herbal supplement industry, the anxiety economy, and the growing legitimate cannabis industry. However, many uncertainties remain about the legality, safety, and quality of CBD. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp production throughout the US, thereby removing hemp-derived CBD from Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-regulation. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still stakes a claim on regulating dietary supplements and food additives containing CBD. The sudden legality of CBD, coupled with uncertainty as to its safety, quality, and effectiveness, means it is imperative for states to support research and impose sufficient regulatory oversight over CBD-infused products.
Land of the Free, Home of the (Disgruntled) Brave: The Case for Allowing Veterans Access to Medical Marijuana
David Haba, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
Approximately 30 percent of post-9/11 veterans have been diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Over half of U.S. veterans struggle with chronic pain, and approximately 22 veterans commit suicide every day in America. For veterans currently seeking medical treatment through Veteran Affairs (VA), 50 percent of PTSD patients cannot tolerate or do not adequately respond to existing treatments of opioids, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant medications. While an overwhelming majority of veterans, about 83%, support the use medical marijuana, they remain unable to obtain their preferred course of treatment (or financial assistance for it) through the VA because the federal government prohibits VA health care providers from recommending MMJ.
This paper argues that veterans, especially those with PTSD, should be able to obtain a recommendation, and financial assistance, for medical marijuana from the VA. This is especially true in states with legal medical marijuana programs. Veterans have recently been calling on lawmakers to help them in their time of need as they battle hosts of ailments such as PTSD, chronic pain, and opioid addiction. The government's current policy, which has allowed thirty-three states to enact legal medical marijuana programs, yet does not allow veterans to obtain a MMJ recommendation from the VA, nor obtain financial assistance for this medication, is unacceptable. This paper calls on researchers to continue to enhance our understanding of MMJ's effects on PTSD, and for lawmakers to step up and do the right thing — to give the veterans the medicinal treatment that they want, need, and deserve for laying it all out on the line for our freedoms.
Tribal Cannabis: Balancing Tribal Sovereignty and Cooperative Enforcement
Patricia Danielle Cortez, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
The cannabis industry remains a difficult space to navigate for Native Americans both because of the continued federal ban on cannabis and the extra layer of laws and regulations on tribal land, as well as the potential for continued stigma arising from their involvement in an industry that was until recently considered illegal at all levels of government. Because of the complex jurisdictional circumstances which arise within tribal land, tribes are left with pioneering strategies on implementing a successful cannabis business alone – whether that be growing, wholesaling, selling on tribal land, or all three. At the same time, Native American tribes have many competitive advantages – they have water rights and access to power, they own land, and they have a historical and cultural tie to cannabis and natural healing. This article discusses several short term and long term steps that Native American tribes should undertake once a state in which a tribe is located legalizes medical marijuana in order to ready themselves to take advantage of an economic opportunity in the form of a cannabis industry should it arise including gaining community support and amending tribal codes, establishing a compact and setting up protections from outside investors, and seek long term legislative fixes such as opt-out provisions in the CSA.
Race Based Statutes at Play with Cannabis: Cultivating a Process for Weeding Out the Competition
Tyrus D. Hudson, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
The ongoing battle between federal and state cannabis laws have created a perplexing realm of ambiguity for legislatures tasked with establishing drug policy. In the midst of this intricate conflict lies another issue that is wreaking havoc throughout the legalized cannabis marketplace. With federal and state governments failing to administer concrete guidance by virtue of lacking to establish policies which govern concurrently and in a harmonious manner, laws have been enforced on both the federal and state levels, that are negatively impacting various minority groups and their potential to capitalize on the multibillion-dollar cannabis industry. This article will examine the arguments for, and against, current and proposed legislation that impacts licensure for minority groups trying to enter the legalized cannabis marketplace. Particularly, this article will address the primary obstacles that most negatively affect minorities and the specific role that each barrier has played in preventing minority entrepreneurs from becoming business owners and seizing the opportunity to cash in on this new lucratively flourishing agricultural business that is taking the nation by storm. While not much research has been conducted on the topic of minority business owners obtaining licenses to operate in the legalized cannabis market, the primary goal of this article is to stimulate dialogue and encourage further research into the impact that legalizing cannabis is having on minority business owners trying to establish themselves as legitimate participants in this up-and-coming industry.
Social Equity Assessment Tool for Cannabis Industry
Starting in 1996 with the state of California legalizing the use of medical cannabis, the wave of cannabis legalization has continued at a rapid pace. But with the growth comes increased acknowledgment that the benefits and financial profits of the legal cannabis industry are not flowing to the communities that have been disproportionately harmed by past drug policies as enacted during the War on Drugs. The industry and government officials are increasingly facing calls to create social equity programs to address the past harms. But while the number of these programs is growing, very little has been written about what makes a given program effective. This report aims to fill this gap by introducing the Social Equity Assessment Tool, which localities can use not only to assess the effectiveness of their existing efforts but also to design a better functioning program for the future. The Social Equity Assessment Tool is a formula that accounts for ten components that are critical for successful social equity programs. The ten components are grouped into two categories – Accessibility (Eligibility, Application Process, Expungements, Preferential Licenses and Shareholder/Ownership Requirements) and Environment (Educational Services, Incubator Program, Zoning Regulations and License Caps, Government Responsiveness and Community Reinvestment). Accessibility encompasses components that affect the ease with which applicants can learn about and access a given program. Environment, on the other hand, encompasses factors that form a support structure for SEP applicants and their communities.
The State of Marijuana in The Buckeye State and Fiscal Policy Considerations of Legalized Recreational Marijuana
In 1975, Ohio’s 63rd Governor James A. Rhodes joined the growing trend of marijuana decriminalization by signing a bill passed by the legislature that supported amending the Ohio Revised Code to remove criminal penalties for use of marijuana. This was the first big change to marijuana laws in Ohio. Despite Ohio being one of the most conservative states in the country at the time, Rhodes brought Ohio to become the 6th state to relax punishments on marijuana use.
Since that time, a lot has changed regarding the status of cannabis in the Buckeye State. This paper will first describe the past legal framework for marijuana along with current developments and proposed changes in the future, including a citizen’s ballot initiative that will appear on the November 2019 ballot that could potentially make sweeping changes to Ohio’s Constitution and marijuana law in Ohio. This is then followed by an analysis of the potential benefits that recreational marijuana could have in respect to key fiscal budgetary issues facing the state of Ohio.
An Argument Against Regulating Cannabis Like Alcohol
Jonathan R. Elsner
As cannabis prohibition comes to an end in the United States, federal and state governments must decide how to regulate its cultivation, distribution, and sales. One option, supported by some alcohol wholesalers and distributors, is a regulatory system based on that of the alcohol industry, whereby the government mandates a distribution system consisting of three mutually exclusive tiers: manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. This paper argues against creating a regulatory framework for the nascent adult-use cannabis industry modeled after the government-mandated, three-tier distribution system established for alcohol post-Prohibition as it inherently stifles innovation and quality. Essentially, the three-tier distribution system creates an unnatural layer of government-mandated middlemen, distributors and wholesalers, who perpetuate market inefficiencies that benefit them and large corporations to the detriment of consumers and small-to-medium-sized businesses. The beer industry, now dominated by two breweries offering largely undifferentiated products, provides a cautionary tale regarding the effects of the three-tier distribution system to those developing the regulatory structure for the adult-use cannabis industry.
Marijuana in the Workplace: Distinguishing Between On-Duty and Off-Duty Consumption
Tyler G. Aust, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
The proliferation of legal marijuana foretells an uncertain future for businesses that implement zero-tolerance drug policies. In states where recreational marijuana is legal, businesses still have the power to enforce drug policies through employment contracts. That changed in Maine, where state law prohibits employers from making adverse employment decisions based solely on an employee’s off-duty use of marijuana. As legalization efforts sweep across the Midwest, it is unclear whether other states will follow Maine’s model. Some businesses have already relaxed pre employment marijuana testing amid labor shortages. To prepare for the future, employers should revise their drug policies to distinguish between on-duty and off-duty marijuana consumption and allow employees to use marijuana outside of the workplace.
Intellectual Property Survey: Cannabis Plant Types, Methods of Extraction, IP Protection, and One Patent That Could Ruin It All
Amanda Maxfield, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
Intellectual property is one of a company’s most valuable assets, at times deserving rigorous time and effort for proper protection. Companies rely on patent, trade secret, trademark and copyright laws to protect their intellectual property. For most businesses, this process is routine and a standard part of their ordinary course of business. Cannabis companies, unfortunately, have many obstacles to overcome to use some of these same protections, as cannabis is considered federally illegal, yet legalized in many states to varying degrees. Cannabis companies must, therefore, be innovative and nuanced in their strategies for protecting their proprietary business information such as patentable subject matter through the use of patents and trade secrets. The method of intellectual property protection is driven by the subject matter. Cannabis growers target specific plant types based on cannabidiol (“CBD”) and delta-9-tetrohydrocannabinol (“THC”) ratios and desired characteristics using specific method of extraction, all of which are patentable if legal elements are met. Unfortunately, while the cannabis industry is an emerging market with plenty of growth ahead of it, an ongoing Colorado court case involving liquids containing cannabinoids that could result in major negative ramifications for all involved in the cannabis industry.
Marijuana Banking in New York and Around the US: "Swim at Your Own Risk"
Jordan Hoffman, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
Today, banking in any way relating to marijuana is a violation of federal law. Conflicting laws and guidance from the federal and state governments threatens the welfare and success of a billion-dollar industry. Analyzing the current marijuana banking laws, regulations, and practices in New York and around the US provides a glimpse into an industry suffocating from public pressures and overpowering economic tides. To protect and uphold the integrity of our government and the agencies it deems controlling, the federal government must reform marijuana banking.
The Canna(business) of Higher Education
Shelby Slavin, MPA, MSL, 2019
While the idea of legalizing cannabis for adult use is gaining on acceptance among the public, the past and current policies on both, the state and federal level, have resulted in dearth of research on the efficacy of cannabis for therapeutic purposes as well as possible societal and health consequences of recreational use. Institutes of higher education are best positioned to not only reform research on the substance, but to train a generation of cultivators, distributors, and healthcare professionals, and while doing so address some of the historical harms perpetrated by the policies of the War on Drugs. Students are seeking out ways to capitalize on a growing market and remedying past discrimination should be a top priority. This paper first provides an overview of cannabis legalization as it stands today, the political efforts that got it here, and those that will move it forward. It then discusses institutes of higher education and the efforts to bring cannabis into the classroom. Lastly, this paper argues that Historically Black Colleges and Universities can provide education, training, and a foot in the door for Black individuals who have suffered harsher criminal penalties in the name of the war on crime