Conflicting activities related to marijuana at state and federal levels raise questions as to whether a new federal/state legal relationship concerning marijuana legalization is forthcoming.
The Network for Public Health Law has been tracking state laws concerning marijuana since its inception. In 2017, West Virginia joined twenty-eight other states and D.C. in allowing residents to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Eight states legally authorize and regulate recreational marijuana programs subject to state taxation for various public purposes. In January 2018, Vermont lawmakers approved legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, which the state’s Governor Phil Scott has promised to sign.
Despite drastic expansion of marijuana legalization throughout U.S. states in recent years, federal guidance issued in January 2018 is at odds with this movement, imparting legal uncertainty on the future of the marijuana industry. This Issue Brief reviews the current federal legal framework regarding marijuana control and explores possible options for federal, state, and local governments in the near future. As the concepts of federalism in public health law and criminal law continue to evolve, activity at the state level will play a large role in the formulation of marijuana laws and public policy. In tandem with marijuana legalization in states, social and public health impacts of these policies should be considered, especially regarding potential social determinants of health and health inequalities.
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