Let’s discuss federalism. It’s the most important concept affecting the cannabis industry’s emergence from the shadows of illegal activity into a recognized medicine and recreational substance. Federalism? What’s that?
For those of you who forgot your high school civics, and those of you who never took it, federalism is the system of government where we have one central government, the United States government, and 50 (51 with DC) state governments. The US government has certain powers and so do the states.
The United States, government is also called the federal government, and despite its immense powers it is actually a government of limited power. The Constitution reserves all governmental powers not specifically granted to the federal government by the Constitution “to the states and the people respectively”.
Ok, what does this have to do with cannabis? Everything! You see, the United States has a law, the Controlled Substances Act which says that there is no evidence that cannabis in any form has any medically beneficial purpose and thus the possession, growing, sale or use of cannabis is a crime. Meanwhile, some of the states, under their separate governmental powers that they get to exercise inside their boundaries, are saying that they can control and regulate cannabis as medicine and for recreation. Who wins? Often the feds win under something called the Supremacy Clause. Other times both the United States and the separate states get to have a say. Now it gets tricky. The United States has no control over strictly state matters, so if you’re growing or selling cannabis only within state boundaries, the feds are left out – except where did your delivery vehicle come from and do you use the U. S. Mail or an electronic service to pay your electric bill – oops, these things cross state lines so they are part of Interstate Commerce and the feds have a lot to say about that.
So for now, let’s just understand that the feds don’t like cannabis and many of the states do. You can be legal under state law while illegal under federal law and that dilemma is a real problem for the emerging industry.
Often enough, throughout American history, the stated have led social change and that’s happening again now, but remember, even if you are engaged in a state lawful cannabis activity, by doing so you might very may be violating a federal law.