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ANNUAL MEETING PREVIEW: Experts examine legal and ethical issues related to medicinal marijuana


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ANNUAL MEETING PREVIEW: Experts examine legal and ethical issues related to medicinal marijuana

By Gabriel McIntosh

As the trend of states legalizing medical marijuana continues, the conflict between federal authority and states’ rights in this area increases. While the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has been legalized by 20 states and the District of Columbia, and four states have pending legislation to legalize it, the drug remains illegal under federal law.


“As more states permit marijuana use by adults and establish state-level regulatory regimes to control marijuana, the tension between federal and state laws in this area continues to grow,” Washington state Rep. Roger Goodman said. “The federal policy of absolute prohibition of marijuana rests on congressional authority under the Commerce Clause, yet the states arguably possess their inherent police powers to regulate marijuana for the health, welfare and safety of their people.”

A panel of legal and tax experts, including Goodman, will discuss this federal-state conflict and the legal and ethical issues surrounding medicinal marijuana during a program at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco. “Legal and Ethical Consequences of Medicinal Marijuana Representation: A Dope Niche — With State Law Changes, It’s Pot That’s Hot” will take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Moscone Center West.

Goodman, whose state of Washington has legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use, said federal law expressly pre-empts state laws in this area, yet states are refusing to be commandeered by federal authorities. They are moving to assert more rational, regulatory control over marijuana and following the will of their voters, he said.

“Nowhere in American law is there now as much confusion and uncertainty as in the federal-state conflict of laws related to marijuana,” Goodman said. “As marijuana legalization sweeps the nation, political decisions at the federal level will likely allow it to continue, acknowledging not only the cultural trend but also the abject failure of the prohibition-based policy.”

The trend of marijuana legalization will likely continue because it could potentially generate millions of dollars in tax revenue for states.

This program will also review, compare and contrast the extant laws in the various states; consider their approaches to patients, dispensers and growers; and provide references to ethics opinions associated with it.

The panel is sponsored by the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.

About the Panelists

Robert Raich is a California attorney who specializes in medical cannabis business law and regulations. He represented both of the U.S. Supreme Court cases ever to consider medical cannabis issues. Raich has appeared before dozens of tribunals throughout the country, lobbying with respect to medical cannabis legislation. His medical cannabis cases have been featured in CNN, NBC, The New York TimesThe Washington Post, Fox News, USA Today and more.

Liana Held is the founder and CEO of Liana Limited, an Oakland, Calif., consulting company that specializes in medical cannabis business development. She has more than 15 years of experience in the medical cannabis industry and is specialized in compliance and accounting issues.

Allison Margolin is a criminal defense attorney at Margolin & Lawrence in Los Angeles and was an adjunct professor of law at West Los Angeles Law School. She was profiled in the Los Angeles Times,  Los Angeles Daily Journal and Hustler Magazine for her work in medical marijuana law. She was also featured on the topic in Anderson Cooper’s blog, the California Lawyer and the Wall Street Journal blog.

Edie D. Lerman is a California lawyer who defends the rights of medical marijuana patients, caregivers, doctors and collectives. Her expertise in cannabis defense and her trial experience have made her a leader in the field.

Henry G. Wykowski is a criminal tax attorney regarded as a leading authority on tax issues in the medical cannabis industry. He is the founder of Wykowski & Associates, one of the few firms in California that specializes in representing medical cannabis dispensaries and other related businesses. Wykowski previously worked as an assistant campaign manager for President Jimmy Carter, a prosecutor in the Department of Justice and an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California.

Rep. Roger Goodman has served in the Washington state House of Representatives since 2006. He supports limiting the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement and giving states the right to decide how to regulate marijuana. He was a member of the ABA’s former Standing Committee on Substance Abuse.