Federal illegality doesn’t stop states from selling marijuana

When I was the only lawyer working on the RAND report on marijuana legalization for Vermont, my non-lawyer colleagues told me that state sales were unrealistic, since they would be federally illegal.  A recent report out of Virginia echoed that notion.  “If a state government became involved in marijuana distribution or retail, it would become an active participant in a federally illegal enterprise, instead of just acting as a regulator.” http://jlarc.virginia.gov/pdfs/reports/Rpt542-6.pdf

But subnational governments are already “active participants” in American marijuana sales.

The State of Louisiana is possessing medical marijuana for eventual sale.  “As of July 29, 2019, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) is in receipt of medical marijuana final product from Louisiana State University’s (LSU’s) sub-contractor GB Sciences of Louisiana, LLC (LSU-GBSL).”  https://www.ldaf.state.la.us/medical-marijuana/

Here is some lore about what happened in Louisiana:  The Legislature provided that LSU and state land-grant Southern U. would be the sole growers of medical cannabis.  There were worries that LSU and Southern, as publicly funded institutions would be entering a legal gray area that could risk their federal research funding.  https://www.nola.com/article_2f71f884-569e-552e-aa70-293fba75820a.html

Now, here they are as owners and possessors of the illegal drug.  Those universities decided to contract out the actual growing to private parties, reportedly (I heard this 3d-hand) because federal agencies that fund the universities big time were uncomfortable with the universities growing directly themselves – though the universities “touch the plant” by having title to the marijuana and profiting from its sale.  In any event, government marijuana sales in Louisiana are rolling merrily along.

Meanwhile, municipal government sales have been ongoing in Washington State since early 2015.  The Washington municipality that led the way in federally illegal marijuana sales, North Bonneville, transferred its operations to a neighboring locality, Stevenson, WA.  The retail store, advertised on twitter as “America’s 1st municipally owned pot shop,” https://twitter.com/420EvergreenDr, was reportedly expecting sales of over $1 million in 2019. I couldn’t find a website, but I called 509 427 4393, a number I found for 420 Evergreen, and spoke to a person identifying himself as Jason, who assured me that indeed the municipality of Stevenson owns it.  

So about that Virginia report: I’m intrigued by this statement, in light of Louisiana’s state production monopoly of medical cannabis:  “Unless marijuana is legalized federally, any state that attempts this approach takes on additional risks of federal intervention and new legal challenges from residents and neighboring states.”  And this: “More information about government-controlled distribution and retail is included in Appendix J

There is no Appendix J. Maybe there’s a separate document hiding somewhere?

There are good arguments against government marijuana sales (and for them), but federal illegality is an argument that can be handled. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/marijuana-under-president_b_8207864


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