Now is a very exciting time to be studying the field of cannabis law! As of the fall of 2019, adult use of cannabis is legal for recreational purposes in eleven states and the District of Columbia,[1] and for medicinal purposes in thirty-three states and the District of Columbia.[2] Furthermore, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized cannabis by replacing criminal penalties for possession and use of small amounts of cannabis with local fines, community service, or other penalties.[3]

Despite the rapid progress of state laws, cannabis remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as a schedule I drug. [4] Schedule I drugs are considered to be the most dangerous, and are classified as having (1) “a high potential for abuse,” (2) “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and (3) “a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.[5]” This classification of cannabis is in obvious tension with the findings of the majority of state legislatures, creating a unique and relatively unprecedented conflict between state and federal law.

Up to this point, the federal government has largely deferred to state laws in states that have legalized or decriminalized cannabis. While this policy was explicit under the Obama Administration’s infamous “Cole Memorandum,”[6] the rescinding of the Cole Memo by Attorney General Sessions has created new uncertainty.[7] While the vacuum of federal authority has had some positives – it has allowed, for instance, experimentation by the states with a broad array of legislative and regulatory structures – uncertainty has also caused many problems for producers, consumers, and lawyers involved in the cannabis industry.

This blog will focus on the unique legal problems – and their creative solutions – brought about by the continuing conflict between state and federal law. In each post, this central antagonism will be explored as it relates to diverse areas of practice: from family law to criminal law, taxing, banking and insurance, intellectual property, environmental regulation, products liability, and more.

We here at the Cannabis Law Society are very proud, and very excited to be your guides through this rapidly-evolving legal field. Check back weekly for new content from CLS authors around the country as together we explore this uncharted territory.

-Jack Shadid






[4] 21 U.S.C. § 812

[5] 21 U.S.C. § 812



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