Category Archives: Colorado

Colorado’s Move to Eliminate Residency Requirements Could be a Boon to Cannabis Industry

By Jeff Bess, third-year stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton School of Law. 

Image used under the Creative Commons License.

The continued growth and maturation of state-legal cannabis markets have led many to wonder just how the industry will develop going forward. Amid increasing speculation about the future of “Big Canna” and the globalization of the cannabis industry, a size limiting factor on the industry may be on its way out in Colorado. Continue reading

Mile “High” Stadium: Are We Ready for More Cannabis-Related Ads?

By Jason Liu, second-year stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton School of Law. 

Image from O.penVAPE.

As cannabis businesses become prevalent, the public is likely to see more cannabis advertisements. Recently in Colorado, following the bankruptcy of the naming-rights holder of Mile High Stadium, a cannabis business, O.penVAPE, is expressing interest in becoming the next naming-rights owner. If this goes through, one of the most prominent football stadiums in the U.S. would advertise a cannabis business. However, there continues to be a conflict between legalized state systems and federal law, where cannabis is still illegal. In light of this conflict, what are states doing regarding cannabis advertising? Continue reading

Responding to Erwin Chemerinsky’s Op-Ed on Marijuana Legalization

By Sam Mendez, Executive Director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project

There is been much recent discussion, both on this blog and around the country, about the possibility of legalizing marijuana at the federal level (or at least changing it’s current legal status). Beyond simply arguing for or against the idea, there are questions as to how exactly legalization would occur if the day came. Naturally, there is more to it than what initially meets the eye. Earlier today, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Erwin Chemerinsky that points out how legalization will not be as swift or simple as some might think.

Photo credit: Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Credit: Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Erwin Chemerinsky is one of the nation’s most respected legal scholars, particularly in constitutional law. He is currently the second-most frequently cited American legal scholar. It would be folly to attempt to pin him down as “pro-” or “anti-” legalization, though he does write in the op-ed, “Like the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, the prohibition of marijuana has been a failure.” In 2013, he wrote a very interesting piece in the L.A. Times urging the federal government to respect the laws of Washington and Colorado, which had recently legalized marijuana. In that piece, Chemerinsky argued that these state laws were not necessarily preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act, which makes possession of marijuana a punishable crime. “Preemption” is a legal doctrine that effectively means where there is a conflict between federal and state laws, the federal laws will carry the day. As Chemerinsky wrote,

The preemption doctrine is based on the supremacy clause of Article VI of the Constitution, which makes federal law “the supreme law of the land” trumping conflicting state laws. The question, then, is whether there is a conflict between the federal government prohibiting small amounts of marijuana and some states not doing so.

He then argued that there is not a conflict when one level of government has a law prohibiting conduct and another level of government does not have such a law. He stated, “a state can decide that certain conduct does not violate state law even if it offends federal law. It is then for the federal government to decide how, if at all, it wants to enforce the federal law.”

In the piece published today, Chemerinsky stated correctly that legalizing marijuana at the federal level will not necessarily make marijuana legal in the entire country, because states may still have laws prohibiting marijuana. He wrote,

Completely legalizing marijuana in the United States would require the actions of both the federal government and every state government. If the federal government repealed its criminal prohibition of marijuana or rescheduled the drug under federal law, that would not change state laws that forbid its possession or sale. Likewise, state governments can repeal their marijuana laws, in whole or in part, but that does not change federal law.

Chemerinsky is correct that a change of laws at one level of government does not necessarily affect the laws of another level of government. He also correctly pointed out the effort government has gone to arrest people for marijuana violations, particularly African Americans and Latinos.

What was not mentioned in this op-ed was the likely subsequent scenario should federal laws change: and that is the inevitability of states following and legalizing marijuana. To be sure, states and localities would be free to prohibit marijuana just as some communities still prohibit alcohol. But the majority of states and localities would probably legalize following a hypothetical federal legalization, simply because of the potential tax base gained from regulating marijuana. Colorado, merely the 22nd largest state by population, raised nearly $1 billion in 2015 in marijuana related taxes. Plenty of arguments can be made against legalizing marijuana, be they moral or health related, but what state could resist those potential taxes?

This is not to say that Chemerinsky is wrong. He is correct to state that legalization will be “much harder than you think.” Still, one must wonder how fast legalization at the state level would pick up steam if the federal government made such a change.

SCOTUS Refuses to Hear Case on Colorado’s Legal Marijuana

By Daniel Shortt

SCOTUSbuilding_1st_Street_SEThe Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)  rejected Nebraska and Oklahoma’s challenge to Colorado’s marijuana legalization. Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado for legalizing marijuana, alleging that marijuana from Colorado strained Nebraska and Oklahoma’s resources and forced them to spend time and money battling marijuana. The lawsuit did not seek to require Colorado to ban the personal use of marijuana or prosecute marijuana use as a crime. The lawsuit instead sought to shut down Colorado’s legalization program that allows for legal growing and distribution of marijuana.

The Justices’ voted 6-2 to deny Nebraska and Oklahoma’s motion for leave to file a complaint, without providing an explanation.

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Washington Department of Health’s Campaign for Educating Parents & Kids

By Sam Mendez, executive director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project

Back in mid-2014, the Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) launched an advertising campaign to provide information regarding the state’s new marijuana laws to parents. It included radio ads with expert doctors along with online advertising, both particularly geared towards families of color. A second campaign was launched in early 2015 via transit and print publications. These campaigns were similar to those done in other states, including Oregon’s recent campaign and those done in Colorado.

Ads created by WSDOH aimed to reach parents.

Ads created by WSDOH aimed to reach parents.

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