The Battle of the Bulge: The Surprising Last Stand Against State Marijuana Legalization
45(3) Publius: The Journal of Federalism 427 (summer 2015).
26 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2015
Date Written: September 11, 2015
Although marijuana possession remains a federal crime, twenty-three states now allow use of marijuana for medical purposes and four states have adopted tax-and-regulate policies permitting use and possession by those twenty-one and over. In this article, I examine recent developments regarding marijuana regulation. I show that the Obama administration, after initially sending mixed signals, has taken several steps indicating an increasingly accepting position toward marijuana law reform in states; however the current situation regarding the dual legal status of marijuana is at best an unstable equilibrium. I also focus on what might be deemed the last stand of marijuana-legalization opponents, in the form of lawsuits filed by several states, sheriffs, and private plaintiffs challenging marijuana reform in Colorado (and by extension elsewhere). This analysis offers insights for federalism scholars regarding the speed with which marijuana law reform has occurred, the positions taken by various state and federal actors, and possible collaborative federalism solutions to the current state-federal standoff.
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