Although possession and distribution of marijuana is still a violation of international treaties and the federal Controlled Substances Act, 18 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana. On November 6th, Washington and Colorado went a step further when voters in those states passed referenda legalizing the possession and use of marijuana by adults for recreational purposes with state regulation of sales, although a similar referendum was narrowly defeated in Oregon. Washington will allow those at least 21 years old to buy as much as one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana from a licensed retailer. Colorado's measure allows possession of an ounce, and permits growing as many as six plants in private, secure areas. The Department of Justice has not publicly declared how it will respond to these developments, only stating that it is still studying the issue. From the standpoint of federalism, is this a good or a bad development? How should the federal government respond to these state initiatives? Should the federal government prosecute those who buy and sell marijuana when such activity is legal under state law? Would it be fair (and consistent with equal protection) for the federal government to prosecute those who possess and sell marijuana in states that have not passed marijuana-legalization laws, but not to do so in states that have? On this previously recorded conference, Georgetown Law Prof. Randy Barnett (who argued before the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Raich case that Congress lacked the authority to criminalize the production of home-grown marijuana for personal medical use) and McGregor “Greg” Scott (former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California and District Attorney of Shasta County California) engage in a lively debate on these issues and answer questions from callers.
- Prof. Randy Barnett, Georgetown University Law Center
- Mr. McGregor Scott, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
- Moderator: Mr. Dean A. Reuter, Vice President & Director of Practice Groups, The Federalist Society