top of page

Welcome to Crime and Justice News

An Emerging Role For Courts In State Marijuana Markets

Tight federal restrictions on how states decide to rule the multibillion-dollar U.S. cannabis industry show no signs of loosening. Courts may ultimately force the issue that undermines efforts to diversify the industry and protect public health, according to Politico. Some 37 states have legalized medical marijuana and 19 allow anyone whose at least 21 to obtain the drug. States, citing federal laws, continue to bar sales across their borders. Some states prioritize licenses for entrepreneurs of color and those hurt by the war on drugs. These programs often rely on residency requirements — a condition a federal court ruled unconstitutional. The 2-1 opinion by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals was focused on Maine’s medical marijuana program, but many experts believe the same legal justification could open up interstate commerce nationwide. Two previousl federal court rulings also struck down residency requirements as unconstitutional. The prospect of courts ruling on state markets has many advocates arguing that it’s past time for Congress to step in and overhaul federal cannabis policies to reflect the current legalization landscape.“ Consumer safety is in jeopardy if [those rules] are struck down,” said Andrew Kline, a former policy director for the National Cannabis Industry Association. The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate and international commerce.

Because Maine’s medical marijuana law requires that all “officers or directors” of a dispensary are residents of the state, multi-state marijuana operator Acreage Holdings, sued the state after the planned acquisition of a Maine medical marijuana dispensary involved complications due to the residency rule. As both progressive marijuana advocates and anti-legalization activists raise alarms about increasing corporate dominance in the market, the prospect of interstate commerce has advocates of all stripes debating the issue. Every state has set up its regulated market differently, from taxes to lab testing to advertising. If federal courts declare that states can’t ban the import and export of weed over state lines, companies are likely to start challenging state regulations on things like labeling and packaging. Legal experts are concerned about courts opening up a national market, where companies can just pick up and move to states with the most lenient regulations when it comes to public health, environmental laws, and labor regulations. “As hard as it is to comply with 38 different state rules, at least you know what the rules are,” said Kline. “If we start unwinding them and there’s uncertainty in the marketplace, that’s not good for business either.”


Recent Posts

See All

In Trump, System Meets a Challenge Unlike Any Other

As former President Donald Trump prepares to go on trial next week in the first of his criminal prosecutions to reach that stage, Trump's complaints about two-tiered justice and his supporters' claims

L.A. County Saves Juvenile Halls, But Skepticism Remains

Facing a deadline to improve dire conditions inside its two juvenile halls or shut them down, Los Angeles County won a reprieve from the Board of State and Community Corrections by beefing up staffing


A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

bottom of page