by Sam Wood, Staff Writer @samwoodiii | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawyers going into the marijuana business face potential arrest, disbarment, and even imprisonment. But they’re gambling that the smoke will clear, and the federal government will eventually legalize cannabis.
“We saw it as a growth opportunity,” said Joseph C. Bedwick, a partner at Cozen O’Connor. But the continuing disconnect between state and federal laws, and the Trump administration’s antipathy toward marijuana , has created what Bedwick calls “a big ball of uncertainty.”
“At any moment, theoretically, they can say, ‘We’re going to crack down on this,’ ” Bedwick said. And with so many attorneys getting into the cannabis game, some doubt there will be enough work to sustain those practices.
Marijuana has been legalized in some form by legislatures in 26 states — Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware among them — and the District of Columbia. But federal law, under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, supersedes all state laws. And the U.S. government continues to view marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance; it considers cannabis to have “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” It remains a federal crime to possess, grow, distribute, or prescribe marijuana in any form.
Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Justice took a hands-off approach to enforcement. A 2013 memorandum advised U.S. attorneys not to prosecute businesses that comply with state laws. A congressional rider to an appropriations bill, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, forbids the justice department from spending money to prosecute medical cannabis patients and state-compliant programs. But neither the memo nor the amendment grants immunity, and both could be revoked without warning.
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