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1 year ago

Will State-Based Changes to Marijuana Laws Soon Impact Entire Country?

Though illegal for nearly 50 years under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the possession and sale of marijuana seems to be losing its negative stigma. Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, and the recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and the nation’s capital. Despite many states loosening their marijuana laws, the drug remains federally prohibited under the CSA. This means marijuana is legal and illegal at the same time. The tension between the federal prohibition of the drug and its legality in some states has the potential to cause significant problems for state officials and newly legal marijuana corporations.

It is somewhat unclear what the legalization of marijuana means for the states that have legalized the recreational use of the drug. In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Colorado is consistently at the forefront of drug policy reform; the state also legalized syringe exchange programs and has the most comprehensive medical marijuana regulatory scheme in the country. After legalizing recreational marijuana, Colorado made over $135 million in tax revenue in 2015, and opened the door to a billion-dollar industry that has created thousands of new jobs in the state. So far, there do not seem to be many negative effects of recreational legalization in Colorado. However, it is possible that Colorado’s changing drug laws are outpacing government enforcement. There is still much confusion surrounding marijuana related DUIs, and a problem has emerged with children mistakenly eating THC infused edibles. Like the alcohol and tobacco industries, it’s possible that the marijuana industry might exploit its profitability to avoid much government regulation. Because of uncertainties like these, it won’t be clear for 5-10 years whether the long-term effects of marijuana legalization are negative or positive.

California is one of the most recent states to legalize recreational marijuana, along with Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada. However, in 1996, CA was the first state to legalize medical marijuana use. Because the legalization of recreational marijuana in California is so recent, the framework for regulating and selling the drug will probably not be well-established until at least 2018. It is therefore unclear exactly what effects this change in the law will have on the state. It’s likely that CA will try to improve in areas where Colorado struggled; Californa will attempt to more strictly regulate edibles, for example, so that they are not mistakenly eaten by small children. Although California can look to the states that legalized before it, because recreational marijuana legalization is still such a new development there is no definitely correct regulation framework.

While California and Colorado are among the states at the forefront of marijuana legalization, Alabama and Georgia are among the states least likely to legalize recreational marijuana. Alabama has some of the strictest drug laws in the country. The marijuana usage rate in Alabama is extremely low, only 9.7%, because of high fines and serious penalties for possession, although Alabama does offer pre-trial diversion for most people who are charged with possession of marijuana. The Alabama senate recently killed a bill on medical marijuana legalization, and no form of legalization seems likely in the near future. GA has overall very strict drug

Georgia has overall very strict drug laws, and makes more marijuana related arrests per 100,000 people than the national average. However, Georgia does offer alternative sentencing for marijuana related crimes, to avoid jail time, and recently passed a law allowing eligible medical patients to possess cannabis oil that has high CBD but very low THC; these patients get the beneficial medical effects of the drug but no “high.”  However, the problem is that Georgia does not produce this oil in-state, and going across state lines to acquire it violates federal law. This federalism conflict thus renders the medical CBD exception somewhat useless.

The situation in Georgia highlights a major problem in state-by-state marijuana legalization- the drug is still illegal at the federal level, and marijuana may be completely legal in one state and completely illegal in the state next-door. This conflict creates several problems. Federal employees are still drug tested, even where the drug is legal. Smoking marijuana is still illegal in federally subsidized housing even where it has been legalized. Banks worry about financing marijuana corporations, as they may be penalized for money laundering or tied into the illegal transport of the drug over state lines. Attorneys are hesitant to work for marijuana corporations, as attorneys remain bound by federal law. Additionally, marijuana corporations cannot write-off expenses like rent or utilities when filing their federal taxes.

As more states legalize, it’s possible that federal law will change, but so far, the CSA remains in effect. The issue with federal law changing to legalize marijuana is that some states may not want to legalize the drug, and many argue that legalization should be for state citizens to decide. Some legal scholars have suggested a system of cooperative federalism. Under such a system, if states meet certain federal criteria for marijuana legalization they may be exempt from the CSA. This would give states the opportunity to experiment with legalization, but allow other states to keep marijuana illegal. Under a system of cooperative federalism, there would still be concerns of state-to-state spillover effects. However, if the federal government is still able to play a strong role in regulation this should not be a problem. Under the conservative Trump administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is staunchly against marijuana legalization, it seems unlikely that the federal-state conflict will be resolved in the near future. However, the country has remained stable after several changes in marijuana law over the last 20 years, and will likely still remain stable as states continue to debate the issue.

Editor’s Note: The views of Guest Contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellowhammer, and Yellowhammer’s Editors do not support the legalization of marijuana. 


About the Author: Katherine Pickle is a Clerk at Reid Law Firm. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in English and Political Science in 2016 and will be beginning her second year at Emory University School of Law in August.
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7 hours ago

Port of Mobile welcomes home a Harley-Davidson used during World War I

A true piece of history arrived at the Port of Mobile yesterday.

The 1918 Harley-Davidson Model J motorcycle was brought over from France to drive on American soil for the first time since it was manufactured some 100 years ago.

Its current stage of life began about 10 years ago when a wealthy Frenchman named Christophe de Goulaine, of the notorious Château de Goulaine in Nantes, purchased the Model J and had it refurbished, with the intentions of bringing it home to its land of birth.

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Last month, the Harley was put on a ship docked at Port Saint-Nazaire in France and sailed to Alabama’s Port City.

Until Monday, the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum in Mobile will be displaying the Model J for visitors to see though on Saturday morning, those who want to see it will have to visit the Mobile Bay Harley-Davidson.

“We thought it was a rare opportunity for us to showcase a piece of military history that transited seaports 100 years ago, assisted the war effort, and found its way back home through the Port of Mobile,” Brent Beall, Interim Executive Director for the museum, said in a press release.

After that, de Goulaine and the bike’s restorer, Pierre Lauvergeat, will drive it all around the country: first stop, Jacksonville, Florida.

The two also intend to stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the Harley-Davidson Headquarters.

“In all, we plan to complete 9000 kilometers (5600 miles) on a 1918 motorcycle without any special technical assistance,” de Goulaine said.

8 hours ago

Are we making the opioid problem worse?

Opioid abuse is taking a tremendous toll on America, with 42,000 opioid-related deaths in 2016 and 343 in Alabama.  The problem involves both prescription opioid-based painkillers and illegal heroin and fentanyl.  Might our public policy response be worsening this terrible problem?

Economists have analyzed prohibition, both alcohol in the 1920s and illegal drugs more recently.  We evaluate prohibition, or any other government policy, by comparing the world with and without the policy in question.  This necessarily involves a state of the world which does not exist.  We will never see the toll opioids would have taken in 2018 if we had significantly different policies in place.  We must construct an alternative.

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Rules govern the construction of alternatives to produce meaningful comparisons. One key is allowing only the policy to vary, not other factors, so differences can be attributed to alternative policy.  For example, prohibition does not automatically stop people from taking a substance.  Some potential users will be deterred because of illegality, but others won’t, as we saw with alcohol in the 1920s.

Economic analysis distinguishes harm from the substance itself and those due to prohibition.  Drug violence, for example, is almost entirely due to prohibition.  Dealers’ cash and drugs are vulnerable to theft, and these thefts will not be reported to the police.  Dealers will use violence to protect, steal or retrieve drugs and money. Walgreens and CVS do not have gun battles to control the OxyContin market.

Prescription painkillers provide a distinctive twist to the opioid crisis.  Introduction of opioid painkillers in the 1990s opened new options for millions of American pain sufferers.  Prescription drugs occupy a middle ground in prohibition, legal under government-approved conditions and illegal otherwise.

Perhaps the major controversy for policy and lawsuits brought by dozens of states and cities against drug companies is the addictiveness of opioid painkillers. Studies in leading medical journals show that perhaps one or two percent of patients using the drugs as prescribed become dependent.  Many of the Americans addicted to painkillers obtained them on the black market or through a bogus prescription.

In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration reformulated OxyContin to make the pills harder to crush and make into more potent opioids.  Other restrictions on prescribing followed, and pill mills have been shut down.  In Alabama, opioid prescriptions declined 17 percent between 2013 and 2015.  Yet the crisis has become much deadlier since 2010, with heroin- and fentanyl-related deaths increasing by factors of five and six respectively, with only a slight decline in prescription-related deaths. (Overdose victims often used more than one narcotic, so deaths are described only as related to a drug.)

Heroin, especially when laced with fentanyl, is far deadlier than prescription opioids.  It is tragic when people fall into substance abuse, which often happens after traumatic life events.  Rehab is often not effective until people decide to change their lives.  Unfortunately, public policy may only be able to limit the harm during a dark period in people’s lives, and ensure the availability of help when requested.  Forcing people to turn to heroin by restricting access to painkillers increases harm.

Restricting access to prescription opioids is costly.  Many people can no longer successfully manage their chronic pain, with tragic consequences.  In some documented cases, patients have committed suicide after being denied painkillers.  Any policy limiting access for people who do not “need” painkillers will deny some patients in pain needed help because pain is subjective; no doctor or nurse can know if it is tolerable.  And a strong argument exists that American adults should be able to decide how to treat their pain without the government’s approval.  Libertarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz argued that free people have a right to drugs.

The concentration of the opioid deaths in regions with dwindling manufacturing and mining jobs suggests a significant economic element to the crisis. And this, to me, is the crisis’ most disturbing element.  America today boasts tremendous prosperity and opportunity.  Given the high overall quality of life today, why is the economy seemingly leading so many Americans to addiction?

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University.

9 hours ago

Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers says Mueller probe should be ended by ‘Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’

The numbers do not lie: America is clearly starting to turn on the Special Counsel investigation by Robert Mueller. The IG report on the FBI cast more doubt on some of the players involved and the non-stop media coverage has Americans growing weary. U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) told WVNN and Yellowhammer News that this investigation needs to stop now:

“I want it stopped now. I called for that about two weeks ago,” Rogers said. “We’ve passed the one year mark, we have spent $25 million dollars. This town leaks like a sieve on anything and particularly with this group of folks if they had anything it would of been leaked out months ago. Even if they have something, they need to tell us, it has been a year and $25 million dollars. I am a recovering attorney, I know exactly how lawyers work, these people are going to keep running the clock as long as we are willing to keep writing checks every month and paying them.”

Why this matters:

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Congressional Republicans who were inclined to “let this play out” are now openly calling for this to end. They are sighting the lack of results, the length of the investigation, the costs, and even the cloud it is casting over the country.

When asked who should be the one to end the investigation Rogers did not miss a beat, he put that task on one of Alabama’s favorite sons “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.”

Listen to the interview here:

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

Why Mike Kemp’s withdrawal from BCA is highly significant

As reported earlier today, BCA Progress PAC Chairman Mike Kemp has resigned his position and withdrawn his membership from the group. Kemp was also set for installation as Chairman of BCA later this year.

The Yellowhammer Multimedia Executive Board has obtained a copy of Kemp’s letter of resignation to BCA Chairman Perry Hand. The letter is dated June 20, 2018.

Based upon Kemp’s position in the organization and the reasons he states for his withdrawal, his leaving BCA is a highly significant development in this ongoing saga.

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Kemp served as Progress PAC Chairman and was next in line for the BCA chairmanship.

The funds in Progress PAC, the BCA’s campaign finance apparatus, typically swell above $2 million during any given state election cycle. As this year’s Progress PAC chairman during a busy state election cycle, Kemp was right in the middle of choosing on whom those dollars got spent. Overseeing the distribution of that kind of money brings with it a tremendous amount of power and influence.

Kemp was also set to take over as the next chairman at BCA. The list of people who have held that position reads like a who’s who in the Alabama business community the last 30 plus years. Kemp was set to join an elite group of business leaders.

No one gives all this up lightly.

And so one can imagine that it took grave concerns about the organization’s direction and actions for him to forego the opportunities that lay in front of him.

Kemp’s stated reasons for withdrawal reveal that deeper problems may exist within BCA.

One passage, in particular, jumps out in Kemp’s letter:

“We must also demonstrate unwavering integrity in communicating with and managing the resources of our membership, to whom we are ultimately accountable. This is particularly true in a time of crisis, like the one before us. I am disappointed that the BCA leadership’s actions to date have failed to meet these standards, and as such, are antithetical to my views in all respects.”

Without elaborating in more detail, Kemp clearly identifies internal communications and financial management as contributing factors to his withdrawal. The organization recorded annual expenses of $4.7 million, according to IRS documents filed in 2016. With so many large members having left already, BCA will likely encounter an even greater budget shortfall. Time will reveal the severity of these shortfalls given that any proposal to dip into organizational reserves requires adoption by the full 132 member board. Additionally, according to multiple sources, a full financial audit of the organization is being pursued.

Attempts at communication within BCA were poor. We have been told repeatedly by current members of the Executive Committee that no one was updated with any regularity. The details surrounding transition were murky. Members feel as if they are being kept at arms-length.

Kemp was a trusted mediator.

Kemp worked diligently to find a solution to the problems that have contributed to this crisis. Other members trusted Kemp based upon his prudent and measured approach. He was making a genuine, good-faith effort to preserve the mission of the organization and improve our state’s economy.

The fact that he has withdrawn completely from BCA would indicate that the group’s leadership has strayed too far from its mission and the problems are beyond repair.

The Yellowhammer Multimedia Executive Board is comprised of the owners of the company.

11 hours ago

Birmingham doesn’t make the cut for 2020 DNC Convention

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says Houston, Milwaukee and the Miami area are the finalists to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

The mayor says Denver also made the party’s short list but has withdrawn its bid.

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A Denver city spokeswoman, Amber Miller, tells the Houston Chronicle that scheduling conflicts forced Denver to bow out.

Turner, a Democrat, told City Council members Wednesday the trimmed field makes Houston’s chances for hosting Democrats “exponentially better.”

The city last hosted a Democratic National Convention in 1928. Republicans gathered in Houston in 1992.

Toyota Center, home to pro basketball’s Houston Rockets, would be the main convention site.

Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco and Birmingham, Alabama, also were seeking the convention.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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