What began as an experiment in the laboratories of Western states, adult-use and medical cannabis is now an issue of national importance. Nineteen states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have all passed laws regarding adult-use cannabis. Medical cannabis use is permitted in thirty-six states, and an additional fourteen states permit some form of medical consumption with low levels of THC. Canada’s national legalization creates cross-border business opportunities and offers a new model for legality. Furthermore, the 2018 Farm Bill represents an important federal shift but causes confusion for law enforcement and consumers. And despite unclear and conflicting federal guidance, the trend towards complete U.S. legalization is likely to continue.
State Attorneys General play a central role in enforcing cannabis laws and protecting consumers. As legalization continues to sweep the country, the interplay between state and federal law demands particular attention. Take for example, in May 2019, thirty-eight State Attorneys General, on a bi-partisan basis, called on Congress to pass legislation to create a safe harbor for the national banking system to bank legitimate cannabis businesses. More work is needed.
Creating robust state regulatory systems, however, presents a host of challenges: protecting consumers from harmful and contaminated products; preventing underage consumption; inventory tracking from seed-to-sale; preventing regulated cannabis from being diverted to the unregulated market; ensuring local and state law enforcement operate with clear guidance; and addressing barriers to entry for communities dis-proportionally impacted by the war on drugs. Within this context, the AGA Cannabis Project works towards three main objectives:
- Studying legal and policy trends to identify effective legal structures and areas for improvement;
- Educating the Attorney General community tasked with enforcing cannabis laws through training and information sharing; and
- Convening forums for discussion and collaboration within the Attorney General community and with a diverse set of external stakeholders.
The Cannabis Project produces a bi-monthly newsletter, hosts forums for attorneys and their regulatory clients, seeks information from Congress, public health officials, federal agencies, private sector and other parties interested in the development and regulatory atmosphere around the topic. Ultimately, the Cannabis Project provides interested parties an opportunity to dialogue on how changes to state and local law might preserve public health and safety, protect consumers and ensure the rule of law, while also respecting the role of states to innovate and experiment as laboratories of democracy.
Coming in the fall of 2021, the AGA and Thomson Reuters are proud to announce the publication of the Cannabis Law Deskbook!
This work is a broad, in-depth accounting of the complexities found in the ever-evolving field of cannabis law, authored by public sector attorneys and staff who are on the front lines in states implementing groundbreaking cannabis adult-use and medical programs. If a lawyer, policy maker, law enforcement official, or market participant needs to understand the complexities presented by cannabis legalization, the Cannabis Law Deskbook meets that need.
Beginning in 2020, the Attorney General Alliance saw the need not only to develop a resource that reflected the status of cannabis law, but also to create a framework adaptable to new developments — statutory or decisional. The AG Alliance is committed to presenting the complex issues of cannabis law in a manner that summarizes existing laws, finds commonality, and offers guidance to those engaged in this arena of law and policy.
Austin Bernstein and Bruce Turcott are Managing Editors. Contributing Authors are experienced public sector attorneys and regulators from over a dozen state and local jurisdictions.
If you are interested in participating in the Cannabis Project, please contact Director and Assistant Attorney General Austin Bernstein at email@example.com.