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The Road to Legitimizing Marijuana

April 11, 2011

The Road to Legitimizing Marijuana: What Benefit at What Price?

Sponsored by the McGeorge Law Review at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.

About the Symposium

Fifteen states have enacted laws legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder signaled that the Obama administration would take a softer approach to medical marijuana dispensaries than did the Bush administration. Encouraged by those developments, proponents of legalization have advanced legislation in the California legislature. They also qualified an initiative for the 2010 ballot but, the measure failed badly. Proponents of legalization have vowed to regroup and continue efforts to reform the law. Efforts continue in Oakland to expand the medical marijuana industry. For example, advocates associated with "Oaksterdam" University propose factory-styled growing facilities. They are moving forward despite the commitment of state and federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on the illegal marijuana trade, even if it is carried on under the guise of medical marijuana. These examples suggest the conflicting state and federal laws and tension between legitimate medical marijuana providers and those interested in a cover for illegal drug trafficking.

Video of the Symposium

Questions included

  • What has happened since passage of Proposition 215, legalizing medical marijuana? Have we had de facto legalization? Criminalizing marijuana comes with various costs. According to some scholars, the Supreme Court eroded the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures in reaction to the war on drugs. Would legalization lead to greater privacy?
  • What does a softer approach to medical marijuana signal for law enforcement? How will federal authorities balance the state's policies allowing medical marijuana with federal policies prohibiting any use of marijuana? Beyond competing federal and state policies, what about local governmental entities and their interest in allowing and taxing medical marijuana facilities?
  • What would a world look like in which states legalized marijuana? Would legalization of marijuana have any impact, for example, on Mexican drug cartels? What would the health costs of legalization be? Do they outweigh other costs associated with the aggressive enforcement of drug laws?

Panels include

  • What Might the Impact on the Criminal Justice System Be?
    What Would Be the Unintended Consequences of Legalization?
  • 1,700 Felony Probationers, 50% Reduction in Recidivism, One Judge: HOPE Probation
  • Sorting Out the Players: How Does the System Balance Federal, State and Local Governmental Interests in Drug Enforcement?

MCLE Credit

This program was approved for MCLE credit by The State Bar of California for 5.5 hours. Pacific McGeorge School of Law certifies that this activity conforms to the standards for approved educational activities prescribed by the rules and regulations of The State Bar of California governing minimum continuing legal education.