The legalization of adult-use and medical cannabis is an issue of national importance.Adult-use cannabis is available in eleven states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. Medical cannabis use is permitted in thirty-three 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 may cause confusion for law enforcement and consumers. And despite unclear and conflicting federal guidance, the trend towards complete U.S. legalization is likely to continue.
Attorneys General can play a central role in developing and enforcing cannabis laws.
Creating robust state regulatory systems, however, presents a myriad challenges: ensuring local and state law enforcement operate with clear guidance; preventing underage consumption; tracking from seed-to-sale to prevent regulated cannabis from being diverted to the unregulated market; protecting consumers from harmful and contaminated products; and addressing barriers to entry for communities dis-proportionally impacted by the war on drugs.
As legalization continues to sweep the country, the interplay between state and federal law demands particular attention. In May 2019, Thirty-eight 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. Anti-money laundering efforts are also needed to keep criminal enterprises from taking advantage of the regulated marketplace, and combating “grey-market” actors requires coordination between state and federal actors.
As states’ chief legal and law enforcement officers, Attorneys General are well poised to lead on an issue affecting millions of Americans. The AG Alliance’s Cannabis Project works towards three main objectives:
- Supporting Attorneys General tasked with enforcing cannabis laws through training and information sharing;
- Studying multi-jurisdictional legal and policy trends to identify effective legal structures and areas for improvement; and
- Collaborating around opportunities for uniformity in the development and enforcement of cannabis laws.
The Cannabis Project produces a bi-monthly newsletter, publishes a monthly blog, 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 will provide interested parties an opportunity to dialogue on how cannabis legalization 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.
If you are interested in participating in the Cannabis Project, please contact Director and SAAG Austin Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.