Up in Smoke? Unintended Consequences of Retail Marijuana Laws for Partnerships

53 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2016 Last revised: 29 Apr 2017

See all articles by Lauren A. Newell

Lauren A. Newell

Ohio Northern University, Pettit College of Law

Date Written: April 27, 2017


When Colorado citizens petitioned in 2012 to legalize the retail sale of marijuana in their state, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper publicly opposed the ballot measure. He knew that state legalization of retail marijuana sales would be risky because the federal Controlled Substances Act makes selling marijuana a crime. He worried that being the first state to legalize retail marijuana sales would make Colorado the “experiment.” Governor Hickenlooper knew that this experiment would come with “unintended consequences.”

Governor Hickenlooper’s concerns were well founded. Scholars have identified a host of practical and legal problems caused by the combination of state marijuana legalization and federal prohibition, in realms ranging from banking, taxation, legal representation, employment law, family law, and others. However, the scholarly discussion has largely overlooked the ramifications of state marijuana legalization for state business entity laws. This article introduces a significant, new business law discussion: the unintended consequences of state marijuana legalization for the formation and dissolution of partnerships.

This article argues that partnerships cannot legally form to engage in the retail marijuana business, and would automatically dissolve if they were formed for that purpose, because the retail marijuana business is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. It then advocates an amendment of the state marijuana laws to remedy the problems identified. Finally, this article concludes by advising states that legalize marijuana sales in the future to proceed slowly and learn from others’ mistakes so that they may avoid unintended consequences of their own.

Keywords: Colorado, marijuana, legislation, drugs, partnerships, statute, business entities, criminal law, federal criminal law

JEL Classification: K2, K20, K42

Suggested Citation

Newell, Lauren A., Up in Smoke? Unintended Consequences of Retail Marijuana Laws for Partnerships (April 27, 2017). 38 Cardozo Law Review 1343, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2754143 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2754143

Lauren A. Newell (Contact Author)

Ohio Northern University, Pettit College of Law ( email )

525 South Main Street
Ada, OH 45810
United States

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