Guidance Documents: The Sirens of the Cannabis Odyssey

35 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2020 Last revised: 28 Jan 2021

Date Written: November 13, 2020


The growing cannabis industry in the United States has presented both economic opportunity and legal complexity. State laws allowing medical or recreational cannabis conflict with federal regulations, and lawyers who represent cannabis businesses are caught in an ethical maze. This article discusses an often-overlooked cause of this complexity: guidance documents from the Department of Justice.

The rapid growth of the industry correlates with a series of memos issued by the Department of Justice, one of which is known as the “Cole Memorandum”, and all of which have been rescinded. The ambiguities and shortcomings of current administrative law have played a large part in creating the confusing legal status of the cannabis industry.

Resolutions to this problem must reflect this reality to adequately address the ethical, financial, and legal issues involved in representing cannabis businesses.

Keywords: cannabis, cannabis regulation, administrative law, cannabis business, business law, legal ethics

Suggested Citation

Sims, Troy, Guidance Documents: The Sirens of the Cannabis Odyssey (November 13, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Troy Sims (Contact Author)

Gonzaga University ( email )

Spokane, WA
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics