By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Health Law
Marijuana policy has increasing developed through the years. Today, twenty-three states have legalized medical marijuana and four states have approved recreational marijuana, including DC. Below is a summary of The Brookings Institution article “Marijuana Policy in 2015: Eight Big Things to Watch.” During 2015, the country and foreign nations will see big changes involving marijuana policies.
1. New States are Planning and Preparing for Legal Marijuana
In November 2014, recreational marijuana was legalized in Oregon and Alaska. During 2015, state legislatures in their respective state and alcohol regulatory bodies will work side by side to design regulations governing legal marijuana. It is important to watch what these states decide because it may determine whether the states marijuana policy will succeed or fail.
Oregon is making history by becoming the first state to border another who has already legalized marijuana. The border between Oregon and Washington will bring insight into what extent states will go for marijuana market advantages regarding bordering states.
2. Which States will be the next to Legalize Marijuana?
This year will show which states are taking steps to initiate ballots in 2016 to legalize marijuana. California and Florida are two of the states expected to advance an initiative, and other states are likely to follow their lead. Ballot initiatives are expensive, thus, to determine who is pushing follow the money.
3. State Legislatures and Marijuana
During the legalization of recreational or medical marijuana the difficult part of the process is getting it past the state legislature. Throughout 2015 it is important to determine which state legislatures have proposals involving marijuana policy and to keep track of their progress during legislative sessions. Some states, like Tennessee, may propose relaxing bans on hemp production, while others may seek to reaffirm legal bans on marijuana.
4. Marijuana in the Courts
During 2015, numerous high-profile lawsuits centered around marijuana policy are likely to be settled. The most recent decision is Coats v. Dish Network, a Colorado case in which a licensed medical marijuana user was let go after testing positive for the substance during a drug test at Dish Network. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled against Mr. Coats. The court held that employees who engage in medical marijuana use that is allowed by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by Colorado’s “lawful activities statute.” To read a past blog we published on the case Coats v. Dish Network, click here. To view Coats v. Dish Network in its entirety, click here.
Another case to look out for is Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Colorado, in which the states claim that Colorado’s legalization of marijuana is violating federal law and causing problems in bordering states. The Supreme Court’s decision on the case will clarify the federal courts’ willingness to engage in this area of policy.
5. Clarifying DC’s Marijuana Policy
The future of Washington, DC’s marijuana policy will be determined by the federal courts. The court will need to clarify the policy’s future if there is congressional inaction on Initiative 71.
6. Continuation of Marijuana Policies in Colorado, Washington and Uruguay
Both Washington and Colorado are continuing to work on their recreational marijuana policies. Colorado is working through the issues of edibles, product testing, and home-grows. An important issue to watch is the challenge Washington faces in luring consumers away from the black market cost effectively. Overseas, Uruguay will continue to steadily work on a bureaucracy and consumer base for legal marijuana.
7. Current Marijuana Data is Imperfect and Incomplete
It is too early to make conclusive claims about recreational marijuana since there is not enough data. During 2015, and subsequent years, steady flows of data from Colorado and Washington will surface. This data will provide a better idea about the impact of legal recreational marijuana on society.
8. Marijuana as a Topic During the Presidential Campaign
Marijuana will definitely be a topic during the 2015 presidential campaign. Unlike most political issues, marijuana policy is not determined by political party. Thus, it will be interesting to hear the presidential candidates opinions during 2015 since it will be a big part of the campaign.
What are your thoughts on the eight big things to watch in 2015? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns
The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Hudak, John. “Marijuana Policy in 2015: Eight Big Things to Watch.” Brookings Institute. (January 8, 2015). From:
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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