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Marijuana Policy And Presidential Leadership: How To Avoid A Federal-State Train Wreck


Federal Medical Marijuana CanBy Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director

As previewed last week on NORML’s blog, the Brookings Institute is convening a cannabis policy forum on Monday, April 15.

In advance of the symposium, Brookings has released a comprehensive legal review and critical analysis of the current national and state laws that prohibit cannabis use, cultivation and sales.

Excerpts from the Brookings’ press release and description of the issues tackled by Brookings scholar and noted legal writer and commentator Stuart Taylor, Jr. are found below.

Mr. Taylor’s thoughtful and dynamic analysis and policy recommendations are here.

Of equal value and incredibly informative are two accompanying appendixes:

Appendix One: The Obama Administration’s Approach To Medical Marijuana: A Study In Chaos

Appendix Two: Conflicts Of Laws: A Quick Orientation to Marijuana Laws At The Federal Level and CO and WA

Stuart Taylor, Jr. examines how the federal government and the eighteen states (plus the District of Columbia) that have partially legalized medical or recreational marijuana or both since 1996 can be true to their respective laws, and can agree on how to enforce them wisely while avoiding federal-state clashes that would increase confusion and harm communities and consumers.

* * *

This paper seeks to persuade even people who think legalization is a bad idea that the best way to serve the federal interest in protecting public health and safety is not for the federal government to seek an end to state legalization. To the contrary, Taylor asserts, a federal crackdown would backfire by producing an atomized, anarchic, state-legalized but unregulated marijuana market that federal drug enforcers could neither contain nor force the states to contain.

In this broad-ranging primer on the legal challenges surrounding marijuana legalization, Taylor makes the following points:

  • The best way to serve the federal interest in protecting public health and safety is for the federal government to stand aside when it comes to legalization at the state-level.
  • The federal government should nonetheless use its considerable leverage to ensure that state regulators protect the federal government’s interests in minimizing exports across state lines, sales outside the state-regulated system, sales of unduly large quantities, sales of adulterated products, sales to minors, organized crime involvement, and other abuses.
  • Legalizing states, for their part, must provide adequate funding for their regulators as well as clear rules to show that they will be energetic in protecting federal as well as state interests. If that sort of balance is struck, a win-win can be achieved.
  • The Obama Administration and legalizing states should take advantage of a provision of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to hammer out clear, contractual cooperation agreements so that state-regulated marijuana businesses will know what they can and cannot safely do.
  • The time for presidential leadership on marijuana policy is now. The CSA also gives the administration ample leverage to insist that the legalizing states take care to protect the federal interests noted above.

Stuart also surveys (1) what legalizing states can and cannot do without violating federal law; (2) the Obama’s administration’s approach to medical marijuana and; (3) current marijuana law at the federal level and in Colorado and Washington State.

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Johnny Green


  1. And when it is legal, don’t forget the prisoners of the war on plants. There are many non-violent marijuana offenders who are serving sentences of Life without Parole in the federal system for selling marijuana.

  2. To see socially-regressive, sanctimonious neanderthals denigrate, bully, threaten, and murder the ill and dying for choosing to exercise their God-given right to self-medicate with one of Earth’s most medically efficacious plants.

    To see our prisons filled to budget-busting capacity on the false pretense of protecting people from themselves.

    To see the selective targeting and destruction of African-American families and African-American communities.

    To see the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of Americans destroyed or severely disrupted.

    To see our Federal government’s role in the international drug trade, funding their despicable black-operations throughout the entire globe.

    To see the huge market in narcotics gifted to ruthless criminals, foreign terrorists, and corrupt law enforcement.

    To see our society spiral downwards into a dark abyss, while shady corporate entities exponentially enrich themselves.

    These are the dimensions of prohibition; which are terrifying and unconscionable; which are morally repugnant.

    Prohibition is about violence.

    Prohibition is about suffering.

    Prohibition is a nasty business.

  3. What about Ky ? Our gov. could not even sign the hemp bill into law that the people wanted. It did pass without his signature So I don’t have much faith of him signing the medical marijuana bill as long as he is in office.

  4. Robert Folse on

    The Feds grow pot and provide it to a chosen few in the cans shown in your picture.

  5. carl longdick on

    All they need to do on a federal level is count the tax monies they would /could collect…..,but they are too scared of a plant….and of people either relaxing enough to think critically or to have a good time, with out killing one self….awe the population controll angel we are not takling about……

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