Saturday, September 16, 2017
Conflict over cannabis law is often framed in terms of the "federal vs. State" paradigm. That is accurate, but there is more to it. The conflict over cannabis arises within governments as much as between them. There is plenty of internal strife at the state level, even between those who support, or at least tolerate, legal cannabis. Consider Nevada, where the push for "cannabis lounges" has raised some differences in perspective. From Leafly.com:
Gov. Brian Sandoval is raising concerns about a new opinion by lawyers for the state legislature that says nothing in state law prohibits local governments from allowing marijuana consumption in businesses such as cannabis lounges and cafes.
“I did not support them previously,” Sandoval told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Tuesday. “I don’t support them now.”
Sandoval said in an email to the Reno Gazette-Journal he’s concerned that such establishments could pop up “piecemeal throughout the state” with different rules and regulatory structures.
He also questions why Sen. Tick Segerblom proposed legislation this spring to legalize consumption in some public places if the legal authority already existed.
We can categorize states as "pro" or "anti" cannabis, but it is a little more nuanced that than. The legislature, the governor, the various agencies, et al. have their own stances on how to approach cannabis. And this is just at the state-level. There is real complexity in mapping out these conflicts across all levels of U.S. government. Eventually it begins to look like three-dimensional chess.
All of this said, perhaps conflict between branches is a good thing; a sign of a robust and successful tripartite system of government. But for better or for worse, this kind of intrastate conflict has handicapped the legal status of marijuana. Take Nevada for example: cannabis is legal, but it is illegal to use it in public establishments (at least depending on who you ask). This presents a quandary for tourists who wish to consume it legally. A proposed solution is allowing the cannabis lounges. At the state level, it there is no unified vision of marijuana policy. Some support the lounges and some don't—the governor is cautious, the Legislative Counsel Bureau says it's fine, the Gaming Commission just wants to ensure that marijuana and gambling remain far apart. The end result is that for now, the term "legal marijuana" still has plenty of qualifications attached to it. So practically speaking, while marijuana is currently legal in some states, it is really quasi-legal at best.