Category Archives: Legalization

Beware Fraud in Cannabis Investment

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


State-legal cannabis is a booming business and further state-level moves toward legalization and regulation are likely on the way. Though legalization has most famously resulted in economic growth and increased state and local tax revenues, it has also come with its fair share of problems. As Seattle-based cannabis business attorney Hilary Bricken wrote earlier this month: “[L]ike any new and high growth industry with complicated and constantly changing rules and regulations, the marijuana industry is chalk full of scammers and con artists.” A recently reported, ongoing cannabis fraud investigation in Oregon – the first of its kind in the state – illustrates one way that less-than-scrupulous investment in the cannabis space can potentially present significant pitfalls for investors and entrepreneurs alike.

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Cannabis Legislation Round-Up: States That May Vote on Cannabis This November

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

Used under the Creative Commons License

This November, at least 12 states may have cannabis legislation on the ballot. Although a limited number of states allow use of cannabis such as Colorado or Washington, this number may increase this year. Importantly, these may be trends of higher public acceptance towards cannabis. Furthermore, the increase in state legalized systems will place pressure on Congress to review the federal DEA laws listing cannabis as Schedule 1.  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

Hotel California: Movement for the Initiative for Legalized Cannabis

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

Used under the Creative Commons License.

This week in California, a ballot measure legalizing recreational cannabis met the signature requirement to get on the Nov. 8th ballot. As California qualifies as the 8th largest economy in the world, there would be tremendous effects if recreational cannabis was legalized. This blog post looks at the regulatory structure of the initiative. 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.

Will the DEA Reschedule Marijuana This Year?

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

Probably not. Why? Because it would be a momentous change, and it is unprecedented. Many attitudes have changed towards marijuana, including those in power, but has the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) changed it’s tune?

Photo is in public domain.

Photo is in public domain.

But it is possible, and the very fact that the DEA said it would consider the question in a memo to lawmakers is significant. Furthermore, the political climate of 2016 might be the time for change. The DEA has not considered a petition to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) since 2011, when it denied a petition filed by medical marijuana advocates nine years prior. The DEA also considered petitions in 2001 and 2006, which were also denied.

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Comments on Mexico’s National Debate on Marijuana Legalization, Part 2

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

A protester carries a sign saying "Make a joint, not war." Photo: AFP

A protester carries a sign saying “Make a joint, not war.” Photo: AFP

The following reflects the views of the author and not necessarily that of the Cannabis Law & Policy Project or the University of Washington.

On Tuesday, March 8th, I was honored to take part in Mexico’s Third Forum of the National Debate on the use of Cannabis in Saltillo, Coahuila. The prior two Forums concerned public health, prevention, ethics, and human rights, while this Forum’s covered topics of economics and regulation. My presentation was largely similar to the one given at Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights (see last week’s blog post), but shorter and without the discussion on cannabis’ dangers and human rights issues. Due to time constraints, I presented mostly on Washington’s marijuana regulatory system and its effect on the economy. Also, I spoke little in terms of advocacy, though some debate arose after presentations. Continue reading

Comments on Mexico’s National Debate on Marijuana Legalization, Part 1

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


The following reflects the views of the author and not necessarily that of the Cannabis Law & Policy Project or the University of Washington.

Last Friday I had the privilege of presenting to the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR), an office of the Mexican government in Mexico City, to provide a Washington perspective to their debate on marijuana legalization. As you may have heard, late last year the Mexican Supreme Court ruled in favor of four plaintiffs asserting the right to consume marijuana. What struck me the most about that case was that the plaintiffs weren’t asserting any medical necessity arguments. Instead, the plaintiffs argued that marijuana contributed to who they were as a person and thus had the right to consume it. While in their favor, the ruling was restricted to those four plaintiffs, and thus nothing changed for the rest of the country. Still, the Court seemed intent on sparking a national debate, which is exactly what it did. Continue reading

Canadian Federal Court Rules Medical Marijuana Program Unconstitutional

By Daniel Shortt

A landmark decision in Canada has drastically altered the country’s medical marijuana laws. A Canadian federal court ruled that Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives medical marijuana patients the right to grow their own cannabis. The opinion strikes down the previous Conservative government’s ban on patient’s growing marijuana and gives the current liberal government six months to establish a new medical marijuana program.


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Washington State Cannabis News

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


Here are some recent events happening in Washington State:

Increased Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board Pesticide Investigations

As the Stranger reported, two of Washington’s largest cannabis producers were barred from all sales pending a Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) investigation.  The article details the investigation of New Leaf Enterprises and BMF Washington, LLC for the illegal use of pesticides.

The Stranger requested WSLCB documents through public records requests. The following documents published were:

As the Department of Health is gearing up to release the proposed rules for cannabis products this July, these investigations are signals to Washington State producers that the WSLCB makes pesticide compliance a priority.

New Bill that Proposes Home Cultivation of Cannabis 

House Bill 2629, was introduced in Washington’s House of Representatives to legalize the cultivation of a maximum of six cannabis plants for residents 21 and older. These “home” cultivators may possess up to 24 ounces from the plants.

Originally, in I-502, the bill drafter Allison Holcomb, noted that leaving out home cultivation was meant to minimize the possibility of federal intervention.

Currently, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington D.C. have laws that allow home cultivation. So far, there haven’t been prosecutorial interests by the federal government on these programs. If HB 2629 passes, it will place Washington State in line with the other home cultivation states and provide residents more options for cannabis use.

Washington State Hemp Bill Moving Forward

Senate Bill 6206 proposes the legalization of hemp.  The bill would empower the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) with authority to license hemp farmers, control seed supplies, and enforce restrictions of low levels of THC in cultivated hemp.

Currently, the bill passed the third reading in the Washington State Senate, and is being reviewed by the House committee of Commerce & Gaming.