Thursday, January 15, 2015

Is there now (or should there be) a "cannabis canon" as more law schools teach marijuana reform?

The question in the title of this post is the question I am asking myself as I gear up for second year of teaching my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform Seminar.  As the National Law Journal highlighted in this lengthy article, headlined "Law Schools Firing Up Marijuana Law Classes," a law school course devoted specifically to marijuana laws and policies was novel back in Fall 2013 when I first taught my seminar, but not it is becoming all the rage.  Specifically, I am aware of marijuana-focused courses this Spring being offered at:

Conversations with some of the professors teaching these courses, and even the diverse course titles themselves, strongly suggest that various (and perhaps very distinct) themes and materials will be at the center of these various courses. But I am wondering now whether all the different students in all these different courses will (or should) get exposed to certain essential marijuana law materials.

To this end, I know that Vanderbilt's Rob Mikos is working on a casebook tentatively titled Marijuana Law and Policy, and I surmise his (somewhat traditional?) law school course is focused a good bit on the substance of federal and state marijuana laws and the (ever-evolving) doctrinal implications of these laws. In contrast, I have found myself inclined to focused my seminar on the social and political history of intoxicant prohibitions in the United States and the (ever-evolving) prospects for and potential consequences of continued marijuana law reforms. Consequently, I am not going to expect my students to delve too deeply into the doctrinal intricacies of particular state and federal laws.

Ironically, one reason I have been encouraging more and more folks to consider developing new courses around marijuana law, policy and reform is because I see so many distinct and distinctly valuable ways to present recent legal developments to students and to encourage them to think critically about the modern marijuana reform movement. And yet, as the title of this post indicates, I am finding myself growing ever more concerned that law professors working in this space should perhaps be working toward identifying a core cannabis canon.

Assembled readings on specific topics, Current Affairs, Who decides | Permalink


Here is a draft of a syllabus I started some time ago, hoping to be able to teach a marijuana law class:


Tentative draft syllabus for 13 classes:

Federal vs. State law - Federal Controlled Substances act, Preemption and 21 USC § 903
City of Wyoming v. Ter Beek case

Official sanction of cannabis - by Veterans Administration, and U.S. Gov't Patents on cannabinoids
Interplay of FDA, DEA, NIDA, Congress

Constitutional issues; Medical necessity - Raich v. Gonzales and the commerce clause

Scheduling, Physicians, Medical use and the Board of Pharmacy

Michigan Medical Marihuana Act - history, enactment and jurisdiction

Criminal cases decided under the MMMA by the appellate courts in Michigan and criminal issues in marijuana cases including searches based on odor, helicopter flyovers, and other 4th Am. Issues.

Real Estate and zoning and licensing issues - Compassionate Apothecary nuisance case

Labor and employment issues - Cassius v. Walmart, collective bargaining, at will employment

Domestic relations - Custody, visitation, parenting time; Baby Bree case

Religious issues in jurisprudence - Peo. v. Roger Christie et al., Ayhuasca cases

Representing clients - patients, caregivers, and entrepreneurs (including ethics issues and retainer agreement issues)

Public policy implications - federal, state and local (lawsuits, lobbying and civil protest)

Taxation issues – CHAMP and Olive - US Tax Court Cases and Tax Code §280E
Banking issues

Matthew Abel
Cannabis Counsel
2930 E. Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, MI 48207
[email protected]

Posted by: Matthew Abel | Jan 17, 2015 1:17:43 PM

There is another law prof (and Princeton alumnus) who was very interested in the "social and political history of intoxicant prohibtions"--the late Charles Whitebread II. In 1974 he and Richard Bonnie wrote "The Marijuana Conviction", which delved into the early history of prohibition laws in the US. Later he wrote about the strange case of gin prohibition in 19th century England--strange because no other form of alcohol was banned. He said it was because gin was perceived as the drink of lower class people who were not able to hold their liquor.

(BTW, Prof. Bonnie, who is still at the UVA law school, was the keynote speaker at Virginia NORML's 2013 conference, and commented in an email that "It's hard to believe that it has taken 40 years to move the ball six inches down the field".)

Posted by: Richard Kennedy | Jan 18, 2015 11:28:20 AM

Your questions about a marijuana law canon reminded me of the late 90's discussion of the "law of the horse doctrine" and its applicability to cyberlaw. Not that I think marijuana law is a horse, marijuana law brings together many strands of general law but also combines civil and criminal law in a unique way.

Posted by: Rebecca Pressman | Jan 19, 2015 1:48:31 PM

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