Pubdate: Thu, 16 Jun 2016
Source: Portland Mercury (OR)
Column: Ask a Pot Lawyer
Copyright: 2016 The Portland Mercury
Author: Vince Sliwoski


The Feds May Be Moving Slowly, But There's No Turning Back

I keep reading articles about new states with weed programs. How is 
this still illegal federally?

I KEEP READING about them too. Last month, Pennsylvania legalized 
medical marijuana. Last week, it was Louisiana. As of today, 25 
states and Washington, DC, have legalized weed for medical use. 
That's sort of more than half. By the end of this year, a true 
majority of states will have legalized something that is federally illegal.

These days, it barely makes the news when a state turns the corner on 
medical cannabis. That was even true in Louisiana, the first state in 
the Deep South to loosen up. It seems strange that the federal 
government would continue to criminalize something that a majority of 
the states have legalized to some degree. And yet, here we are.

It may get even stranger before it gets better. This fall, 
California, Nevada, Maine, Arizona, and several other states are 
considering some form of legalization for all adults. Even if some of 
those efforts fail, the federal government cannot put this genie back 
in the bottle. There are too many people involved for federal action 
to rein in the industry. So we are in a detente where some federal 
agencies, like the US Department of Justice, are not enforcing 
federal law, while others, like the Federal Trade Commission, US Food 
and Drug Administration, and US Environmental Protection Agency 
(which should all be regulating cannabis) pretend like it does not exist.

Ultimately, Congress and the president need to act if we want to see 
the end of federal prohibition. At that point, private actors like 
big banks, big investment firms, credit card companies, and others 
will certainly fall in line. Pot entrepreneurs will no longer have to 
deal with oppressive taxation and the many other issues arising from 
federal prohibition. Even this fine gazette will be free from the 
theoretical possibility of conspiracy charges.

The end of federal prohibition is not the niche issue it was even 
five years ago. Voters in states where weed is still verboten can 
look at their neighbors and see that legalization has gone swimmingly 
well. And the marijuana programs continue to improve. Oregon's 
Measure 91 and subsequent laws are superior in many ways to what 
Washington and Colorado pioneered. To that end, former US Supreme 
Court Justice Louis Brandeis once called the states "laboratories of 
democracy," and that certainly seems apt when it comes to weed. 
(Brandeis was discussing a hapless fellow named Liebmann who was sued 
for selling ice in Oklahoma in the 1930s. Apparently, that required a license.)

Anyway, to your question, legalized cannabis has arrived and there is 
no turning back. The federal government is doddering along and should 
get there soon, because ending prohibition is borderline politically 
expedient. For now, it is interesting to see each state roll out its 
unique cannabis program, like a laboratory. Be happy you live in 
Oregon, the best lab going. And don't worry too much about the feds.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom