Owning Marijuana

36 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2018

See all articles by John G. Sprankling

John G. Sprankling

University of the Pacific - McGeorge School of Law

Date Written: October 10, 2018


Legal marijuana is the fastest-growing industry in the United States. Tens of thousands of new businesses have arisen to meet the demand created by over 34 million Americans who use marijuana. And the millions of pounds of marijuana grown, processed, and sold this year will generate more than $11 billion in revenue. This industry is premised on the assumption that marijuana ownership will be protected by law. But can marijuana be owned? This Article is the first scholarship to explore the issue.

Federal law classifies marijuana as contraband per se in which property rights cannot exist. Yet the Article demonstrates that marijuana can now be owned under the law of most states, even though no state statute or decision expressly addresses the issue. This conflict presents a fundamental question of federalism: Can property rights exist under state law if they are forbidden by federal law? The Article explains why federal law does not preempt state law on marijuana ownership.

This creates a paradox: state courts and other state authorities will protect property rights in marijuana, but their federal counterparts will not. The Article analyzes the challenges that this hybrid approach to marijuana ownership poses for businesses and individuals. It also examines the fragmented status of marijuana ownership in the interstate context, where business transactions involve states with conflicting approaches to the issue.

Keywords: cannabis, marijuana, choice-of-law, contract, comity, Takings Clause, Due Process Clause, Tenth Amendment, Supremacy Clause, contraband, preemption, federalism, property, ownership, property law, property rights, courts

Suggested Citation

Sprankling, John G., Owning Marijuana (October 10, 2018). Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3264385

John G. Sprankling (Contact Author)

University of the Pacific - McGeorge School of Law ( email )

3200 Fifth Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95817
United States

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