USA – Obstacles to Cannabis Legalization 2016

Julie Godard writes……

Hello again, boys and girls — and those transitioning from one to the other; may your public bathrooms be ever available. We’re here today to discuss roadblocks to legalization in 2016.

Although we’ve come a long way since medicinal marijuana was first approved for use in California in 1996 with the passing of historical Proposition 215, we still have a long way to go.

There are several state governments who would love to halt our momentum and the trend of cannabis legalization altogether. This is not to say that everyone in these states, or even the majority of the populations in these states, do not favor medical marijuana or recreational marijuana legalization – but many of them are politically conservative historically.

There are also certain companies, businesses, and industries who are waging their own wars against cannabis legalization, most of them for monetary reasons.

Industries Fighting Marijuana Legalization in the United States

It’s not news that certain industries have been fighting the legalization of cannabis across the country; among them the pharmaceutical industry which stands to lose considerable revenues from current medications that could be replaced by natural cannabis solutions.

According to the National Sun Times Network, liquor companies also don’t want the competition of cannabis for American leisure activities, although I’m not sure the same can be said for all breweries – a fantastic microbrew and a joint actually go together quite well, in my experience.

Private prison industries, which house inmates convicted of marijuana possession, sales, or cultivation charges may also feel the revenues pinch if the laws surrounding marijuana legality change. Included in this industry are the union correctional officers who work in the private prison industry; they don’t want to lose their jobs, either – but the prisons themselves, as well as the laws that support them are mainly at fault.

Other people who may stand to lose their jobs if marijuana becomes illegal everywhere in the country are police officers, who fear their talents may not be needed without marijuana prosecution and arrests. Finally, the monstrous tobacco industry fears it may lose out on revenue as people turn to cannabis instead of tobacco for their smoking or eating pleasure.

Adapting to Cannabis Legalization

If the people in these industries are smart (and they certainly are), they will position themselves in a way that allows them to benefit from cannabis legalization – for instance, police can now be more concerned with the harmful and devastating effects of drunk driving, heroin and other opiates abuse, and methamphetamine consumption in our society.

Driving while intoxicated is still an issue for the law with cannabis consumption, and I have a feeling that’s not going away any time soon. The private prison industrial complex is the source of many problems in American society, as are harmful and unfair laws surrounding cannabis – these businesses need to be carefully examined and restructured if they are to continue in our society. Alcohol and tobacco have enjoyed a long reign as the sovereignty of the entertainment industry, but let’s be honest – they’ve always had competition – it just hasn’t been legal until now. People are not going to stop drinking alcohol or enjoying craft beer entirely, and maybe legalization of cannabis will force big tobacco to either get involved or become more transparent and honest about the products they sell. Where’s the harm in that? Both of these industries have the cash on hand to allow another competitor into the field.

The most concerning part of legalization is probably the possible loss of jobs for police officers and other workers across all of these industries, since these losses are most likely to hit home with our families and our personal incomes in some cases. (research the loss of jobs due to cannabis legal and put here)

Obstacles to Legalization in Various States

On Monday, March 21, 2016, the Supreme Court refused to consider the “cross-border impact of marijuana legalization” in a case brought against Colorado by the states of Oklahoma and Nebraska. While it’s clear that non-legalized states hold resentment for states such as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., it seems ridiculous to hold them accountable for the crimes of Oklahoma and Nebraska residents.

After all – if it wasn’t legal in the United States, it would still be coming from other places. In this case, all the Supreme Court really did was disallow the case from skipping lower court proceedings and going straight to the top. To me, the solution to marijuana trafficking in states where it is not legal is to legalize it. Then no one would have to cross state lines in order to get their medicine or recreational cannabis products. The state of Colorado’s main argument was that it can’t be held responsible for what people do with cannabis once they purchase it legally. The main argument, as Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority stated, is that Oklahoma and Nebraska are having to allocate their resources for many more marijuana cases – and recommends that, you guessed it, the states legalize marijuana to solve their problems.

Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (ironically called CALM for short) is all-volunteer and “dedicated to defeating any effort to legalize marijuana” according to their website. Essentially, the group vows to uphold federal laws – but I’m not sure what will happen when and if the federal government removes marijuana from the Schedule 1 list. The website features a letter from Michael D. Privitera MD, president of the American Epilepsy Society which calls CBD oil “the snake oil that is coming out of Colorado.” The letter was written in March of 2016 and is against Pennsylvania’s SB-3 which would legalize medical cannabis – the portions on the CALM website are taken out of context even of the original letter, however. The letter truly only states that the good doctor is against the use of CBD oil for epilepsy patients until it can be thoroughly scientifically investigated. This is a common sense stance, and a very cautious one – the letter also states that the non-existent regulation of “artisanal” CBD oils may be having dangerous effects on children with epilepsy. The answer seems to be to regulate CBD oil, which will come with time.

Organizations like CALM are not the only ones fighting against cannabis legalization – High Times reported that the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) oppose legalization 62% in a recent survey. The reason that AIM opposes a proposed ballot initiative to make up to one ounce of marijuana legal for those 21 years and over is because it “would create considerable uncertainty for employers relative to their legal rights and obligations, particularly with workplace drug policies.” These workplaces are worried about those operating heavy machinery, jobs which prohibit marijuana use under federal law; and then there are insurance worries. While these are legitimate worries, all of these same issues have to be addressed within the cannabis industry individually – there is no magic bullet answer.

Overall, both sides of the legalization argument are pitted against each other, and that argument often grows bitter, as each side assumes that they know best. Interestingly, both sides claim some of the same reasons for being for or against legalization – both have stated that youth will use marijuana less, driving fatalities will go down, and that fewer people will engage in drug treatment programs or be incarcerated for drug use. The results of legalization have yet to be completely tabulated – legalization is very new for the United States, and there are likely to be both positive effects and negative effects. It remains to be seen which will be in the majority – regardless of what the results show, demonizing a plant that could have such a positive effect on so many human maladies and adverse conditions will not help the calculations, the research, or the decision-making process.

Authored By: Julie Godard


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Julie Godard
Carl L Rowley -Thompson Coburn LLP

Jerry Chesler – Chesler Consulting

Ian Stewart – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Otis Felder – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Lance Rogers – Greenspoon Marder – San Diego
Jessica McElfresh -McElfresh Law – San Diego
Tracy Gallegos – Partner – Fox Rothschild

Adam Detsky – Knight Nicastro
Dave Rodman – Dave Rodman Law Group
Peter Fendel – CMR Real Estate Network
Nate Reed – CMR Real Estate Network

Matthew Ginder – Greenspoon Marder
David C. Kotler – Cohen Kotler

William Bogot – Fox Rothschild

Valerio Romano, Attorney – VGR Law Firm, PC

Neal Gidvani – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder
Phillip Silvestri – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder

Tracy Gallegos – Associate Fox Rothschild

New Jersey

Matthew G. Miller – MG Miller Intellectual Property Law LLC
Daniel T. McKillop – Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC

New York
Gregory J. Ryan, Esq. Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Tim Nolen Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

Paul Loney & Kristie Cromwell – Loney Law Group
William Stewart – Half Baked Labs

Andrew B. Sacks – Managing Partner Sacks Weston Diamond
William Roark – Principal Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin
Joshua Horn – Partner Fox Rothschild

Washington DC
Teddy Eynon – Partner Fox Rothschild