What Gambling Can Tell Us About Legalizing Marijuana
ATTN: - Keith Stroup - 08/19/16
I am old enough to remember when Nevada was the only state where gambling was legal. In 1931, during the Great Depression, the state legislature had legalized casino gambling as a way to stimulate their economy, create new jobs, and entice more people to the state.
For decades Nevada had a monopoly on casino gambling — that, along with legalizing “no fault” divorces, and later legalizing prostitution — when most states did not offer those options. These factors combined to give Nevada a reputation as a maverick state where people could visit to engage in naughty behavior without legal consequences. “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.”
The state is expected to legalize the recreational use of marijuana via voter initiative (Question 2) this November, which will further enhance that reputation.
Other states obviously knew that legal gambling was an alternative that might provide an economic boost to their states as well, but the prevailing morality at the time was far too negative towards gambling for elected officials in other states to pursue. It was a time when the religious communities had successfully convinced most Americans that a life of virtue, not vices, was the path to happiness.
But social mores change over time, and as gambling began to be seen as a legitimate form of entertainment, instead of a moral sin, the tax revenue and economic benefits from legal gambling were more attractive. In 1977, by voter initiative, New Jersey legalized casino gambling in Atlantic City, offering an east coast version of Nevada, where gambling hedonists could legally do what they could not yet do in their own states.
And gradually the barriers banning legal gambling began to crumble nationwide, leading to a situation today in which every state has some form of legal gambling, such as state-run lotteries, albeit with strange limitations in some states (e.g., in Missouri it is illegal to gamble on land, but perfectly legal to have casinos on riverboats on the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers, although the boats never leave the shore).
Which leads to the question of why behavior thought by many to be inappropriate (or even morally offensive), can nonetheless sometimes be legalized? Or put another way, when is conduct with the tinge of sinfulness out-weighted by the potential for economic benefits to the states?
I raise that question because of the increasingly profitable side of legal marijuana in the states that have elected to regulate and tax marijuana. As the latest revenue data make clear, legalizing marijuana has been an enormous benefit for the few states that have taken that step, and that fact will be more and more difficult for neighboring states to ignore over the coming years. As we saw with gambling, once the economic benefits of legal marijuana are obvious, the moral opposition will fade and the economic arguments will prevail.
The Latest Data from Colorado and Washington.
In Colorado, the first state to get their legal retail outlets up and running on January 1, 2014, the gross sales of marijuana, and the tax revenue to the state, have continued to rise each year. For 2015, licensed marijuana stores in the state totaled an astounding $996,184,788 – just shy of $1 billion dollars, up from $669 million in sales in 2014.
Colorado collected more than $135 million in taxes and fees last year (including $35 million dedicated to school construction), up from $76 million in 2014 (when $13.3 million was raised for schools).
In Washington state, marijuana retail sales reached $322,823,639 in 2015, up from only $30,783,880 in 2014, when retail outlets were open for only a portion of the year. That 2015 sales figure has already been eclipsed in the first seven months of 2016.
The state retail tax revenue for fiscal year 2016 from recreational marijuana sales totaled $30,017,823, while state retail sales taxes from the sale of medical marijuana totaled $5,236,536. Local retail sales tax totaled $11,228,861 from recreational sales, and local retail tax totaled $2,084,323 for medical sales.
These, as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump might say, are “yugee” numbers, and they are continuing to increase each year, making them more and more difficult to ignore by other states.
Which brings me to my main point. At a time when several national polls confirm that between 55 and 61 percent of the entire country now favor full legalization, it is difficult to argue that marijuana smoking is, any longer, considered immoral behavior. Sure, there are pockets of fundamental moralists to whom anything pleasurable will always be suspect behavior, including sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. But this puritanical perspective is finding less and less support each year, and when balanced with the economic windfall that results when a state legalizes marijuana, it simply cannot prevail.
Today a majority of Americans under 65 support marijuana legalization, particularly younger adults: 71 percent of adults under 35 think marijuana use should be legal, a jump of 10 points since last year. The demographics are clear and unstoppable, as younger voters replace those over 65.
Just as all states now have some form of legal gambling, within a few short years, all states will offer some form of legal marijuana. It’s the smart thing to do; it’s the right thing to do; and it’s inevitable in a democracy, when most people want it.
Keith Stroup is a Washington, D.C. public-interest attorney who founded NORML in 1970.
The legislation would approve medical marijuana to treat PTSD, only if conventional therapy isn't successful
By The Associated Press
TRENTON, N.J. — The Assembly on Thursday passed legislation to allow qualified New Jersey residents with post-traumatic stress disorder to get medical marijuana for treatment.
The Democrat-led Assembly voted 55-14, with seven abstentions, sending the bill to the Senate for consideration.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has been critical of marijuana legalization in other states, ignored advocates of the bill who asked him to sign the measure as he walked into the statehouse Thursday.
Jim Miller, the co-founder of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey and an organizer of a weekly pro-marijuana podcast on the statehouse steps, said he has asked the governor at least four times previously to support the measure, but Christie has never answered him.
Miller says he supports the bill to help veterans who are increasingly using cannabis even though it remains illegal in most states and isn’t approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs because major studies have yet to show it is effective against PTSD.
“They shouldn’t have to fight their government for the inherent right to health,” Miller said.
The legislation approves the disorder for treatment with marijuana only if it’s not treatable with conventional therapy.
Marijuana is currently approved in New Jersey to treat multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer and muscular dystrophy, among other medical diseases. It’s also approved for seizures and glaucoma if those conditions are resistant to conventional treatment.
The U.S. Senate passed an amendment in November that would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it’s legal. The proposal failed to pass the House.
May 2, 2016
But, but...weed is for the people, it's the people's weed.
On Friday, longtime weed enthusiast Woody Harrelson lost a Hawaii-wide bid for licensing a medical marijuana dispensary through his company Simple Organic Living LLC. The State of Hawaii Department of Health opened applications for "a total of eight dispensary licenses: three for the City & County of Honolulu, two for Hawaii County, two for Maui County and one for Kauai County." According to Reuters, the state "did not specifically say why the actor's application was denied." Sure, he's not too upset, though. He'll find something else to do with all that would-be dispensary money.
Chris Arreola's win changed to no-decision over pot in drug test
Former two-time heavyweight world title challenger Chris Arreola's tight 12-round split decision victory over Travis Kauffman on Dec. 12 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio was quietly changed to a no-decision on Jan. 5, after Arreola tested positive for marijuana, ESPN.com learned Monday.
It was the second time Arreola has tested positive for marijuana and had a victory changed to a no-decision. In July 2011, Arreola won a near-shutout decision against Friday Ahunanya at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on the undercard of the Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara fight, but he tested positive, and the result was changed.
Susan Stanford, the public information officer for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, which oversees boxing in the state, confirmed Arreola's positive test.
"He tested positive in the postfight drug test, and we changed it to a no-decision," she told ESPN.com.
She also said Arreola was issued a 90-day suspension by Texas, and he did not request that his "B" sample be tested, nor did he request a hearing. He simply accepted the suspension.
But the suspension was toothless, as it was retroactive to Dec. 12, and Arreola would not have fought during those 90 days anyway. He is not expected back in the ring until at least April, a month after the suspension is over.
Also, Arreola, 34, of Riverside, California, was fined $750 from his $125,000 purse.
With the change in result, Arreola's record reverted to 36-4-1 with 31 knockouts.
Kauffman, 30, of Reading, Pennsylvania, whom many thought won fight, which was the co-feature of a Premier Boxing Champions card televised in primetime on NBC, saw his record scrubbed of the loss. Kauffman's record now stands at 30-1 with 22 knockouts.
"I found out about this [Monday], and I'm very disappointed," Henry Ramirez, Arreola's longtime trainer, told ESPN.com. "It's extremely frustrating. The fight with Kauffman was a good win for Chris. It was a close fight, an entertaining fight, and now to have the win changed to a no-decision -- the second time this has happened -- is a big disappointment."
Arreola could not be reached for comment.
Two judges scored the fight 114-113 in Arreola's favor, and one had it 114-113 for Kauffman, a longtime friend and sparring partner of Arreola's.
Despite their friendship, they turned in an action-packed fight in which Kauffman knocked Arreola down in the third round but also suffered a cut over his right eye.
It was the first thing bought and sold on the Internet. Bill Murray likes it. Veterans like it. Your grandma maybe likes-slash-needs it. Carl Sagan really (really) liked it. Hell, we even took a trip to Colorado to learn about the so-called "green rush" cropping up around it. And now both medicinal and recreational cannabis are legal, taxed economies in parts of the US, there's bound to be television commercials highlighting it.
That time has come. The first weed commercial is slated to air on major networks, including A&E, Fox, CNN, Comedy Central, Food Network, and the History Channel. The minute-long spot is for MarijuanaDoctors, a company that connects medical marijuana patients with local doctors. The company does not “promote the casual or recreational use of marijuana or any other prescription medication,” though, according to their website.
The ad is airing in New Jersey, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2010. "Securing the airtime for our commercial on a major network was extremely difficult and at the same time, extremely satisfying," Jason Draizin, the founder and CEO of MarijuanaDoctors, said in a press release.
It's only slightly hokey. The ad compares buying weed from your run-of-the-mill dealer to buying sushi from a street dealer ("I got that sashimi"), which is clearly the most obvious correlation you could draw (black market tuna, anyone?). The idea seems to be to encourage people to go the legal route, as opposed to breaking the law to obtain weed.
At any rate, New Jersey is a prime test market to air the commercial. You can currently get a medical marijuana card in New Jersey for “cancer, glaucoma, positive HIV/AIDS status, or the treatment of these conditions; a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms; and other medical conditions that may administratively be added by the department," according to this state senate report.
But the Garden State has been talking about completely legalizing weed for a while now. State senator Nick Scutari recently said—wait for it—it's “high time” the state addresses the issue. If New Jersey does legalize weed, it would of course become the third state to do so, along with Colorado and Washington.
Which is all to say we’ve come a long way, now that pot is making its way onto the television in commercial form. Just in time for your nightly couch lock.
Via Motherboard Vice
By Mariano Castillo, CNN
There appears to be a shift in the United States in favor of relaxing marijuana laws. Making pot legal, supporters say, can simultaneously provide relief for the sick and poke a hole in the operations of drug cartels. But the federal government has not acted to remove marijuana's label as a controlled substance and has reaffirmed its anti-pot policy.
Morgan Spurlock's new program, "Inside Man," premieres on CNN this weekend with an in-depth look at the medical marijuana business in California. Here are five things to know about the current debate over the drug:
There is evidence of changing attitudes in America
Public perceptions about pot have come a long way in the past decades, from the dire warnings of "Reefer Madness" to growing acceptance of medical marijuana use.
Laws in several states decriminalizing marijuana or allowing for medical marijuana use are one indicator of how voters feel.
Two states -- Colorado and Washington -- have completely legalized pot for recreational use.
Illinois, Ohio take up medical marijuana laws
Adrien Grenier, best known for his role in the HBO hit "Entourage," produced a documentary film that examines who the people swept up in the war on drugs really are.
He made the film, "How to Make Money Selling Drugs," as a way to "examine the hypocrisy of the war on drugs,"he wrote recently.
Grenier's views reflect those of an increasing number of Americans who, polls show, see the prohibition of marijuana as a waste of billions of dollars.
"I want to make clear that I am not looking to glamorize the drug trade," Grenier wrote. "But it is important to understand that little is to be gained from stigma and demonization."
Cheryl Shuman, who calls herself the Martha Stewart of marijuana, argues that marijuana can make you a better parent and provide economic opportunities for others.
"The bottom line is cannabis is here to stay, the toothpaste is out of the tube," Shulman told CNN's Piers Morgan.
But not all are convinced.
Last year, John Walters, who directed the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2001 to 2009, told CNN that decriminalization is "utterly self-defeating" and would cause more crime.
Melissa Etheridge: Pot got me through
The cost of prohibition remains high
It is estimated that $7.6 billion is spent annually by state and local justice systems on marijuana arrests, according to advocacy group NORML.
Advocates of reforms say instead of spending this money on enforcement, the government could spend it elsewhere and tax marijuana to reap even more for its coffers.
Indeed, taxing pot could raise hundreds of millions of dollars, but there is no guarantee that it would be a moneymaker for states.
The financial gains in Washington and Colorado, the two states that have legalized marijuana, have not been as great as some expected.
Washington had projected up to $450 million in added annual tax revenue, but the state's new pot consultant figures it could be little more than half that.
In Colorado, the Colorado Futures Center think tank forecasts $130 million in new tax revenue but thinks that won't even cover the cost of regulating the new industry.
Still, some say the legalization of pot would bring down the black markets that have left a murderous trail, drawing parallels with what happened during and after the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and '30s.
Estimates vary widely on how big a hit drug cartels would take if marijuana were legalized. While U.S. officials said in 2009 that 60% of cartel revenue came from weed, the RAND Corp. said the following year that "15-26 percent is a more credible range."
A report this month by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute predicted Mexican drug organizations, specifically the Sinaloa Cartel, could lose almost $2.8 billion just from the legalization votes in Colorado and Washington.
Marijuana: The next diabetes drug?
Studies cite medicinal benefits of marijuana
The wall of prohibition began to show cracks when it became accepted that marijuana has medicinal uses.
Medical marijuana dispensaries have clients who suffer ills ranging from cancer to AIDS to chronic pain. Proponents say the drug's pain-relieving properties offer an alternative for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
Opponents, however, say that science has yet to prove that marijuana is safe.
A series of trials published by the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research last year showed cannabis can help patients suffering from neuropathic pain, commonly caused by degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia. Neuropathic pain is also a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation.
Study participants on cannabis reported a 34% to 40% decrease in pain, compared with the 17% to 20% decrease seen in patients on a placebo drug.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, meanwhile, says that marijuana causes an increase in heart rate, which could put users at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Marijuana smoke also contains carcinogens similar to those in tobacco smoke.
Jason David, whose son Jayden suffers from seizures, turned to the drug and calls it "miracle marijuana."
Jayden has Dravet syndrome, a rare and catastrophic form of childhood epilepsy. The boy started taking a liquid, nonpsychoactive form of marijuana, which his father says controls his violent seizures. This form ensures that Jayden does not get high from the drug, his father says, but has allowed him to enjoy the things other boys do.
Seattle's budding economy: Pot tourism
Medical marijuana dispensaries are not what you imagine
Spurlock said he imagined that marijuana dispensaries -- the places where patients can purchase medical pot -- would be shady places.What he found at Harborside Health Center, the largest dispensary in the country, surprised him.
The space was large and clean, nicer than many health clinics he has been to, Spurlock said. Tight security regulated who could enter the business, which sells various strains of marijuana and lotions, pills and other products derived from the drug.
Some strains of marijuana are known to be more cerebral and energizing, while others are more sedative in nature and have greater pain-relieving properties. Dispensaries such as Harborside categorize their products accordingly and have specific strains for different ailments.
Marijuana laws put state and federal statutes at odds
Eighteen states have either decriminalized or allowed medical marijuana in some fashion. While the state laws have allowed dispensaries to open, they remain illegal under federal law. The gap between state and federal laws is widening when it comes to marijuana enforcement.
For instance, state law makes it legal to possess marijuana in Washington state, but selling drugs is still a federal crime. There is a similar situation in California, where medical marijuana is allowed, but again, growers don't have the same legal protections that users have.
Pot smokers in Washington celebrated in Seattle's Space Needle by toking up as the law legalizing weed went into effect, but growing and selling it remain felonies.
"So I'm not sure where you're supposed to get it," King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said when the law went into effect. "If you stumble across some on the street or it falls from the sky, then you can have it. Otherwise, you are part of a criminal chain of distribution."
In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215 to exempt doctors and seriously ill patients from marijuana laws and allow them to grow and use it in treatment. But government crackdowns on growers since then have led to multiple lawsuits.
Harborside, the dispensary that Spurlock visited, is fighting to remain open amid efforts by the feds to shut it down.
CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet, Alan Duke, Jose Pagliery, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Jacque Wilson and Kyung Lah contributed to this report.