1. TITLE: Marijuana Law & Policy.
  2. CREDITS: 2 credits.
  3. CLASSROOM HOURS & FORMAT: 28 classroom hours, in seminar format.
  4. DESCRIPTION: Marijuana has been a part of the human experience for centuries. But only within this last century has marijuana use become mostly The majority of polls, however, show a consensus of public opinion: continued enforcement of marijuana prohibition is just not worth it. More and more, our citizenry is demanding that the government focus resources previously allocated to marijuana prohibition on other issues.

    The Course begins with exploration of how marijuana use became illegal. Then, the course will explore significant legal issues and events that have occurred since the illegality of marijuana. The course materials will educate the student about the controversial topic of marijuana legalization occurring throughout the country. Because marijuana law is changing daily, the course materials and syllabus may change during the semester, and each class will contain a small portion of dedicated time for news updates regarding marijuana-related legal issues

    Despite the interesting topics marijuana law provides, a major goal of the course is to develop practical lawyering skills, specifically analytical skills. Following participation in this course, each student should be able to extract the principles and general arguments made in various marijuana related legal matters for use in the debate of other legal issues. Underlying each assignment is the goal of being able to develop skills to write well for the bar exam and develop skills necessary to be a good lawyer.

  5. ASSIGNMENTS & MATERIALS: Following the mini-syllabus below, students will be assigned materials to review before class. Besides the materials, the assignments come with a brief introduction and description of the topics along with questions which should help the student focus on issues that may be discussed in class. All the course materials will be posted on a course website. Students may download the materials freely from website. The website will not only contain the essential course materials but also supplemental materials such as links and other media relating to the assignments.
  6. EVALUATION: Students must attend 80% of classroom hours, no exception. Students will be evaluated based on a take home exam that may not exceed 11,000 words.
  7. MINI-SYLLABUS. 14 Assignments:
  1. Introduction to Course. What is marijuana, and how is it used? After gaining practical knowledge of marijuana and how it is used, we will explore the current legal status of marijuana, both at the federal and state levels. We will survey all the states but focus on Colorado, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. This assignment will serve as an introduction to three major legal stances in America: legalization, medical marijuana, and d These three topics will be explored further in future assignments. We will also examine the international status of marijuana by looking at treaties and how other nations treat marijuana. Students should understand how marijuana is used and have a broad understanding of the legality of marijuana in local, state, federal, and international jurisdictions.
  2. Making Marijuana Illegal. Beginning in the early 1900s and continuing through the 1970s, campaigns to ban marijuana possession and distribution were in high gear. Eventually, marijuana was designated a schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (“CSA”), and was effectively illegal under Federal Law. Many states followed suit and enacted their own marijuana prohibition laws. We will examine the events leading up to the CSA, such as the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, Leary v. United States, and policy debates and propaganda in the 1940s through 1970s. Students will see how public policy, political agenda, and political process work together to create legislation and policy.
  3. Alcohol, Cigarettes & Opiates. Other drugs, some arguably worse than marijuana, have been treated differently by our legislators and courts. We will look at the failed alcohol prohibition, the success of anti-tobacco campaigns, and the opiate epidemic currently haunting America. By examining these topics, students will be able to make arguments about the pros and cons of current marijuana laws.
  4. Medical Marijuana. Marijuana is hypothesized to have medicinal qualities, despite its classification as a schedule I substance. Before looking at legal issues, we will look at the claimed medical qualities of marijuana. Then, we will discuss various state laws regarding the medical use of marijuana and also discuss the medical necessity defense. This is the first look at federalism issues, specifically, conflict of law, states rights, The Commerce Clause, and federal p These federalism issues will become common themes in the next several classes. The student should conceptualize that various states laws allow for medicinal use of marijuana despite federal illegalities, and students should understand the principles and arguments behind the medical marijuana necessity defense.
  5. Federal Marijuana Laws & Schedule I Removal. Currently, the federal government has a relaxed stance regarding enforcement of marijuana laws. We will look at the federal government’s recent position on marijuana regulation using Eric Holder’s memorandum as an example of current thought and compare this approach with past federal enforcement efforts. Also, we will examine the attempts to reclassify marijuana under The Controlled Substances Act from a Schedule I substance to a more appropriate category reflecting its potential medical uses. With the government’s lax attitude towards enforcement despite a lack of legislative change, students should attempt to outline their best guess as to what actions of possession and distribution of marijuana will be prosecuted.
  6. Privacy, 9th Amendment, and Religious Uses. There are many schools of thought regarding what a government may or may not either prohibit or make criminal. Because many courts have a libertarian slant in their reasonings, we will examine the constitutionality of marijuana prohibition with many of the common, libertarian-minded arguments. The student should be able to use arguments from this assignment to argue for or against the constitutionality of marijuana laws.
  7. Search and Seizure. Continuing the discussion of privacy, we will look at the practical effects that changes in marijuana laws have upon search and seizure. The permissible limits of government intrusion upon a citizen’s life, liberty and property must conform to any new changes in the law. We will examine a string of cases in Massachusetts, starting at a time of absolute marijuana prohibition, then during decriminalization, and lastly after the legalization of medical marijuana, where the Supreme Judicial Court changes the requirements to establish probable cause based on the changes of law. The student should be able to explain how changes in law unintentionally affects other fields of law.
  8. Racial Issues, Discrimination, Sentencing, Probation, Parole, Housing, and Employment. Enforcement of marijuana laws disproportionately affects African- We will discuss disproportionate prosecution of racial minorities and decriminalization laws by comparing states that have decriminalized marijuana with those that have not. We will analyze the three issues of race, stigma, and sentencing. We will also explore how marijuana has affected issues such as probation, parole, housing, and employment. The student should understand the reasoning behind decriminalization and whether this ultimately affects the disproportionate prosecution of racial minorities.
  9. Other Constitutional Challenges of Marijuana Prohibition Laws. The illegality of marijuana use has been challenged many times as constitutionally invalid. Several of these arguments have already been discussed in this course such as the appeal to the ninth This class will explore other constitutional challenges that have been made to marijuana prohibition including the rational basis test, and health welfare and morals argument. Following this session the student should be able to apply these rules and analyses in contexts aside from marijuana laws.
  10. Legalization of Marijuana. Already, four states have legalized recreational marijuana. Within the next decade, many other states are expected to follow suit. In this class, we will look at different modes of state legalization including referendums and ballot initiatives, and discuss which one works best. We will also look things that cannot be changed by state legalization (i.e. banks operating under federal law). The student should be able to describe the processes by which marijuana may be legalized.
  11. Representing Marijuana Clients. Because marijuana is still illegal federally, legal representation of clients taking advantage of state specific legalization, for example opening a dispensary, may arguably violate state rules of conduct. This debate has taken on several forms in various states. We will explore ethical and other professional conduct issues that arise when representing marijuana clients. The student should be able to articulate ABA’s model rules of professional conduct and whether the rules allow for lawyers to assist marijuana clients.
  12. International Law. Aside from our state and federal laws, there are webs of international laws that affect the legal status of marijuana. We will explore the major treaties that the U.S. is a signatory to, specifically the effect these laws have upon our laws. Also, we will examine the laws in other nations which have taken a completely different approach to marijuana. Specifically, we will look at Canada, Uruguay, Portugal, Holland, and Swaziland. The student should understand the restrictions the international community has placed upon itself, and how other nations treat marijuana use.
  13. Public Protection. The basis of marijuana prohibition is to protect the public against its harms. We will look at the alleged harms that marijuana use has upon the community at large. The student should understand the arguments on both sides of the aisles and be able articulate arguments for or against marijuana prohibition.
  14. Wrap Up. The course will end with a discussion of where marijuana law is heading. We will also review some other topics from prior classes that could use further discussion. The materials for this final assignment will be provided a couple weeks before it is due