What’s The Real Deal?

I recently had a pretty interesting debate with my roommate about the legality of marijuana across the US. We’re both graduating seniors in our penultimate semester. I’ll be graduating with a degree in sociology, and he’s getting his degree in justice studies.


He was arguing how risky it is right now for entrepreneurs because of the incumbent presidential administration. I was explaining that the same latent risk was always lurking behind the scenes. The only difference in my mind is that new Attorney General Jeff Sessions has publicly decried the substance, whereas his predecessors remained rather silent.


In strict legal terms, is it truly riskier now for entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry than before? And is the medical industry more insulated than the recreational one?


You’re definitely not alone when it comes to wading through the clutter and confusion. The highly controversial topic has taken center stage and remains the focus of significant social, political, and economic discussions. Editors at Vox explain the stratospheric rise of the marijuana legalization movement and its history very accurately. One standout feature is the fact that while a majority of Americans now support legalization or decriminalization efforts, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug according to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).


That singular, polarizing definition is the crux of your roommate’s argument. It’s the reason experts at Politico are saying “people would be forgiven for thinking that state-legal medical marijuana was a settled issue.” The reason people would be forgiven for their mistaken thinking is that medicinal marijuana is legally regulated at the state-level in over 25 states. In other words, the Attorney General would be standing in face of America voters and state sovereignty.


It’s often tempting for citizens to simply assume that state law prevails when at odds with federal regulation, but that’s a false interpretation. A blogger at the Huffington Post summarized the contentious debate nicely for those unfamiliar with our nuanced Constitution. That means from a strictly legal perspective, the Supremacy Clause contained the US Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) essentially validates your roommate’s core argument. Entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry continue to incur the same level of risk despite state legal jurisdictions.


Unfortunately, the medicinal industry is as susceptible as the rapidly growing recreational one. That probably shouldn’t be the case, especially when you begin taking into consideration the different patient benefits. One promising trend is the expanded research on CBD oil, which has vast treatment potential, but isn’t psychoactive like THC. While it’s too early to predict, if CBD-based treatments prove significantly more effective than existing medical approaches, one could foresee real motivation behind reclassifying cannabis.


Make no mistake: millions of Americans might possibly stand to gain from a federal reclassification under the CSA. Patients with serious medical conditions could live anywhere with the peaceful reassurance that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and wouldn’t unexpectedly raid them. Responsible parents wouldn’t sometimes be forced to public areas while their children occupy the private household. And casual enthusiasts wouldn’t necessarily be compelled to explore vaporizing or other discrete methods solely because of public stigma.


“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” — Eleanor Roosevelt