Cannabis and the Drug Epidemic

What is truly “unwise” is Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ has vendetta against pot and his deliberate unwillingness to see the evidence legalization can help in taking down the drug organizations and drug traffickers of which he speaks. What is further unwise is how Sessions lumps those organizations and traffickers in with medical and recreational cannabis businesses that comply  with state law, while at the same time acting as though he supports states’ rights. And what is even more unwise is how Sessions lumps cannabis in with “an historic drug epidemic,” also known as the opioid epidemic, when science has shown multiple times that cannabis actually assists in quelling that very same epidemic.

Maybe we need to come to the simple conclusion that Sessions is perhaps just deeply unwise, at least when it comes to cannabis.

Do you agree?

Legalize cannabis

Of course Jesse Ventura is right. Cannabis is both an invaluable resource medicinally and a boost for the economy. Cannabis generates huge tax revenue (which will only continue to increase), and creates a vast number of jobs. It has been projected that by 2020, the cannabis industry will have created a quarter of a million jobs, and that’s with only eight states having legalized recreational cannabis. If we, as Jesse Ventura suggests, legalize cannabis in all fifty states, we would create millions of new jobs.

The other thing Ventura gets right here is the need to destigmatize cannabis. Even in places with state-legal cannabis, the stigma remains — the product of decades of Reefer Madness-esque propaganda and the inane drug policies of the War on Drugs. We need to make sure the Trump Administration’s anti-cannabis bias from perpetuating and adding to the stigma. Ending the stigma and legalizing the plant go hand and hand and we need to work at both.

You agree, right?


This statement from President Reagan is obviously absurd, but what’s significant about it is that opinions very much like this one continue to proliferate and continue to have real life consequences. The mass incarceration for drug crimes ushered in by the Nixon administration and reinforced and even enhanced by the Clinton and Reagan administrations still exists in much of the United States.

Though we don’t know where Reagan got his “absolute proof” of cannabis’ alleged brain damage, what we do know is that cannabis is medicinally useful for a variety of ailments, has the potential to slow or reverse the aging process, and can be used in alleviating opiate cravings. And though few people today (probably not even Jeff Sessions) would claim to prefer getting hit by fall-out from an H-bomb to smoking one “marijuana cigarette,” plenty of people (like Jeff Sessions) still make absurd and completely unsubstantiated comments about cannabis.

Can we please start basing our cannabis decisions on such things as science, logic, evidence and truth? Cannabis has never killed anyone. Cannabis does good for many (obviously not all) people. Let’s use these things to formulate our cannabis policies and infuse our cannabis laws and regulations.

Is this asking for too much?

Cannabis lawyers on social media
Please check out our cannabis posts

Our cannabis business lawyers are always getting emails from blog readers asking them where they can be found on social media. This blog is our attempt to respond to those emails and to let all of our readers know about the full extent of our social media presence. If you cannot get enough of Canna Law Blog, you can find more of us in the following places:

Facebook. We have an exceedingly popular and perpetually growing Facebook page here. We are nearing 175,000 likes/followers there and we regularly get more than a million visitors weekly there. Our goal with that page is to widely disseminate and initiate discussion on a wide swath of uber-topical cannabis issues. That site is meant to be a less serious than this one and the range of cannabis topics we address there is considerably wider than on here, which is much more focused on legal issues. We allow for a wide range of views on our Facebook page and we delete only those comments hateful of others, but we do not delete comments that are anti-cannabis. We also delete comments that involve the selling of anything.

Twitter/Publications.  Our blog and a number of our cannabis lawyers have the following twitter accounts, with posting frequencies all over the map:

  1. @cannalawblog We use this account to tweet 2-4 times a day, mostly on important cannabis issues of general interest.
  2. @cannabizlawyer. This is Hilary Bricken’s account. Hilary tweets pretty regularly and as head of our Los Angeles cannabis practice, many of her tweets have a California/Los Angeles flavor. Hilary also authors a once-a-week column for Above the Law on all things cannabis law and policy across the United States. And Hilary writes the occasional piece for Culture Magazine, too.
  3. @vince-sliwoski. This is Vince Sliwoski’s account. Vince heads up our Portland cannabis business practice and he tweets pretty regularly on general interest and Oregon cannabis issues. Vince also writes a bi-weekly column for the Portland Mercury called Ask a Pot Lawyer.
  4. @alison-malsbury. This is Alison Malsbury’s account. Alison focuses on cannabis intellectual property law and she splits her time between our Seattle and our San Francisco offices (with a bit of Los Angeles also). Her tweets reflect this, as they usually are on California or Washington or IP issues.
  5. @dshortt90. This is Daniel Shortt’s account. Daniel is based in Seattle and he tweets regularly about general interest and Washington State cannabis issues. Daniel Shortt also frequently contributes to The Fresh Toast, writing about cannabis legal issues.
  6. @jghunthb. This is Jim Hunt’s account. Jim focuses on federal and state taxation as they relate to cannabis businesses and his posts often relate to cannabis taxation issues.
  7. Will Patterson, an attorney in our Portland office and he too writes bi-weekly for the Portland Mercury’s Ask a Pot Lawyer column.

The rest of our cannabis lawyers either do not post on cannabis for social media, or post so seldom as to not be worthy of mention above, at least not yet.

Please follow us and enjoy!


Trial_by_Jury_UsherWe are business and corporate lawyers, not criminal lawyers. This means we know enough about the law to tell someone when he or she may need criminal defense services, but we do not provide those services. Still, the specter of federal criminal charges is ever-present in the cannabis industry. When cannabis clients ask us about theoretical legal risks, we advise them that both civil and criminal liability exposure exist, on a spectrum from asset forfeiture to actual imprisonment. And we advise them that if they were charged for a violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), we would help them find them a criminal lawyer.

In Oregon, Washington and California, we represent large cannabis businesses and vanguard industry players. For this reason, ever since Donald Trump was elected—and especially once Jeff Sessions was appointed attorney general—the question of whether our clients could eventually need criminal lawyers became more likely than before. The theory among many lawyers and policy-makers, after all, is that if the federal government takes action, it would not start with state programs or even with individual users, but with marquee industry players.

It is well established under Supreme Court jurisprudence that the federal government can enforce the CSA against state-legal operators. It is also worth noting that the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer amendment only safeguards medical marijuana programs and participants. Therefore, if the feds sue an adult-use (“recreational”) operator and drag it into court, a jury would likely be instructed that if the operator traded in marijuana it had violated the CSA. And that is where things could get interesting.

Most people—and even many lawyers—are surprised to learn that juries are not required to follow the law. When a jury’s conscience takes over and tells it that someone does not deserve criminal punishment for his or her actions, regardless of the law, the jury can choose to acquit. In legal terms, this is known as “jury nullification“: a systemic public safeguard from government run amok. To the chagrin of prosecutors, when jury nullification occurs, the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause also prevents the acquitted person from being re-tried for the same charge.

Jury nullification has been a thorn in the side of state and federal prosecutors from our country’s early days. It became common in trials under the immensely unpopular Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which criminalized any action that interfered with the recovery of fugitive slaves by slave owners. It again became common in the 1920s, when the immensely unpopular Volstead Act criminalized alcohol possession, on the heels of the 18th Amendment. These examples beg a timely question: what other federal law has become immensely unpopular of late?

The possibility of jury nullification in a CSA case against a cannabis business is both fascinating and realistic. It is realistic not just because of the favorable polling for cannabis nationwide, but also because these juries would be empaneled in jurisdictions that voted to legalize pot in the first place. Imagine a hapless U.S. attorney being ordered to charge a popular cannabis farm in Humbolt County, California, which is America’s largest cannabis labor market. It would make for an interesting show, to say the least.

We tend to write more about law than policy on this blog, but the 29 states with medical marijuana programs, the 8 states with adult use programs, and the overlapping 46 states that allow some form of cannabis possession, are all acting at the direction of their citizens when it comes to marijuana, ignoring federal law. The Cole Memorandum, which has helped facilitate state-level legalization since 2013, likewise discounts federal law.

What’s to say a jury wouldn’t do the same? If you were on a jury would you convict for cannabis?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article stems from a paper titled “Jury Nullification Risks for Federal Cannabis Enforcement: How History and Common Sense Protect the Recreational Marijuana Market.” The paper was written by Emily Baker, a third year student at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.

California cannabisJeff Sessions has said “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Has he considered who actually uses cannabis? Are grandmas (or anyone else for that matter that use cannabis for pain or other conditions automatically bad people? Do they deserve to have their medicine taken away? Is this what the people want?

WHO uses cannabis shouldn’t matter, and using cannabis does not make one a bad person. But since Sessions cannot see beyond his hatred for the substance and those who use it, here we are.

Grandmas, among many other demographics, are tossing out their pharmaceuticals and replacing them with cannabis. Why? Because it works, it doesn’t make them feel disoriented and woozy, and because it’s legal where they are. Senator Harris is right: leave grandma’s medicine alone. That medicine is doing so much good.

Does it make economic sense to bother with cannabis? What about government not intruding in our lives? And if you, Mr. Sessions, are truly as concerned about crime as you purport to me, do you not realize that legalizing cannabis reduces the power of the drug cartels? Why do you not care about any of this?


Cannabis Marijuana legalization

Imagine that. An American politician speaking clearly and reasonably and sensibly about cannabis, or about anything for that matter.

Representative Curbelo makes a very good point. From both a business and a legal standpoint, it makes no sense to prohibit legal marijuana businesses from doing business properly and at the same time denying them the same tax deductions as other businesses.

It is unfair and wrong and it must and will change.


I recently had the pleasure of attending the Cultivation Classic 2017, the “world’s only cannabis competition exclusively for ethically-grown product free of pesticides, defining craft and celebrating community.” Producers from around Oregon, including several of our clients, came together in a friendly competition to celebrate Oregon’s unique cannabis culture and ethos. Alongside the competition, the organizers put together a series of panels discussing a range of social, political, and legal issues facing the Oregon cannabis industry. The first panel featured the launch of a new industry group devoted to defining and supporting Oregon’s craft cannabis community.

This Craft Cannabis Alliance is an association of cannabis and cannabis-related businesses dedicated to creating an Oregon craft cannabis industry to rival Oregon’s renowned craft beer industry. Alliance Executive Director Adam Smith, a founder of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, took the stage to explain what “craft” means to these industry leaders:

Pictured left to right: Adam Smith, Cannabis Craft Alliance; Ashley Preece, Ethical Cannabis Alliance; Jodi Haines, Alter Farms
Pictured left to right: Adam Smith, Craft Cannabis Alliance; Ashley Preece, Ethical Cannabis Alliance; Jodi Haines, Alter Farms

These industry leaders are working to ensure that sustainable, ethical craft cannabis growers retain a seat at the table as Oregon’s cannabis industry matures. Gabriel Cross, CEO of Odyssey Distribution, LLC, expressed a sentiment shared by many of his fellow founding members.

“As a values-driven company, how we do things is as important to us as the bottom line. The CCA shares many of our values, and more importantly will bring together values-driven cannabis companies under one roof. We have a rare opportunity right now to define how an entire industry operates.”

One of the thorniest issues the CCA will face is the task of defining what “local control” means within the context of Oregon’s craft cannabis culture. Long-time readers of this blog will recall that Oregon originally implemented strict and confusing control and ownership residency requirements on recreational cannabis businesses. This created a host of problems, and the Oregon legislature responded by swinging the pendulum in the other direction, opening Oregon’s cannabis industry to unrestricted foreign investment and control. Over the coming months, the CCA will be working to find a balance its members believe will allow Oregonians to share in the profits of the state’s newest state-sanctioned “crop” without choking off the supply of vital capital that residents from other states can bring.


Montel Williams provides a good reminder here. The cannabis industry is taking off in a big way and that includes both medical and recreational cannabis. But in the midst of the excitement so many of us feel about the positive changes we are seeing, we should not forget those who have been fighting this fight for decades, and as Williams states, many of these cannabis leaders have been patients who need medicine. Though we are of the strong view that recreational needs make no apologies, we believe with equal strength that it is important to give patients access to medical-grade cannabis at accessible costs.

In addition to building a cannabis industry that maintains accessibility for patients, we also need to keep pushing until medical cannabis is federally legal. As of April 2017, twenty-nine of the United States have legalized some form of medical marijuana, and many states have medical programs in the works. Though this means more than half the country has some sort of medical program, many of those programs are quite limited in terms of access and reach and it also means there are still many with no legal access at all. What kind of country denies medicine to someone based on the crazy notion that the government should be able to deny access to something as harmless as cannabis?

What more can we all do to open up the cannabis industry even further? Please tell us.

Cannabis politicians

We are indeed in the midst of an opiate-related public health crisis, but aside from that, Chris Christie is full of “baloney.” First those in favor of cannabis legalization are not exclusively liberals by any means. And the liberals who favor legalization are not crazy, and their reasons for supporting cannabis have nothing to do with “wanting “to say everything’s OK.” They simply see the benefits, such as increased tax revenue, decreased unemployment, disempowering of the drug cartels, and — most importantly — the end of people (far too often the disenfranchised) being arrested for consuming something that has never killed anyone.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: cannabis is NOT a partisan issue. It’s an everyone issue and those like Chris Christie who state otherwise are simply throwing around empty rhetoric to serve their own means. It’s classic divide and conquer. We need our authorities and our politicians to look at the evidence because regardless of whether you personally want to use cannabis and regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, cannabis legalization makes sense. There’s just no way around it.

What do you think?