Marijuana Law

When people think of a "marijuana attorney" most people think of a criminal defense attorney who defends a person for a marijuana-related criminal in state or federal court. As cannabis, medical marijuana, hemp, and cannabidiol ("CBD") have become legal in many jurisdictions, more attorneys have begun to focus on a wider variety of issues related to marijuana law (sometimes called pot law, cannabis law, or hemp law).

Attorneys focused on the heavily regulated cannabis and hemp industry have practices that also focus on related practice areas including state and local government regulation and compliance, administrative law, corporate law, business litigation, banking law, products liability, insurance, real estate, environmental law, and tax law. Even employment law and family law attorneys are dealing with more issues related to the regulation of cannabis, hemp, and medical marijuana.

As the various states have passed measures to legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, attorneys are also becoming involved in the formation, regulation, and defense of businesses that provide marijuana, cannabis, hemp, and cannabidiol ("CBD") to the public.


Legal Organizations involved in Reforming Marijuana Laws

Many legal organizations in the United States are fighting for the reform of marijuana laws. The leading organization is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Leading the way are attorneys on NORML's National Legal Committee (often called the "NLC"). Although many of these attorneys focus on criminal defense, attorneys on the NORML Legal Committee also practice a wider variety of cases touching all facets of the emerging marijuana, cannabis, hemp, and CBD industry.

Click here to find a marijuana defense attorney using NORML's popular membership directory.


Is Marijuana Legal or Illegal?

Marijuana is a natural product derived from a plant, also known as the cannabis plant, that has been used by people for millennia, mostly for smoking. It has many well-documented medicinal uses for relieving pain in patients suffering from glaucoma and other illnesses. Some studies have indicated that smoking marijuana may have some of the same effects of tar in tobacco, but it is generally regarded in the scientific community as safe. Marijuana does contain several psychoactive compounds, mainly THC.

The federal government and most states have made the possession, sale, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana, often called pot or weed, illegal. While a growing number of states have made the sale and possession of marijuana legal for medicinal purposes, and some for recreational purposes, most states still have criminal penalties for the mere possession of even a small amount of marijuana.

Penalties may be the same as for any other types of controlled substances, or maybe less serious, depending on the state. Federal law holds that marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no medicinal or useful purpose. Generally, punishment for sale, distribution or cultivation will be worse than for possession, and even worse for trafficking.

Marijuana defense lawyers are criminal defense lawyers who defend people against marijuana charges. These attorneys often examine the constitutional issues surrounding how police acquired evidence. If an officer finds marijuana during any detention or while conducting a search, the seizure of the evidence often crosses constitutional lines. Evidence found in an unconstitutional search could be thrown out, leaving prosecutors with little or no proof that the offense occurred.

As the possession of marijuana has become legal for recreational purposes across the country, a wider variety of attorneys have begun to focus on these issues in the business law, employment law, and family law arena.


The Intersection of Marijuana Law and Other Practice Areas

More and more attorneys are beginning to focus issues unique to the marijuana industry including:

  • Tax issues related to selling and growing cannabis, a Schedule 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, including complications under IRS Code § 280E, for dispensaries, medicinal marijuana manufacturers, and cultivation facilities;
  • The lack of access to the banking industry because of fears of violating federal law, including money laundering laws;
  • Employment law issues related to the legalization of marijuana and cannabis and its use by at-will employees;
  • Finding insurance options for businesses involved in the cannabis industry that help to manage the risks that a business owner might encounter.

Additional Resources

2019 TIPS Cannabis Conference - The conference was entitled "FROM REGS TO RICHES: NAVIGATING THE RAPIDLY EMERGING FIELDS OF CANNABIS & HEMP LAW." Sponsored by the Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section (TIPS) of the American Bar Association, the conference was held on September 19-20, 2019, at the InterContinental Chicago Hotel in Chicago. The conference included panel discussions on ethical considerations, legislative and regulatory issues, and starting and expanding cannabis and hemp businesses, and navigating federal intellectual property laws in light of state legalization. The chair of the TIPS's Cannabis Law and Policy Committee is Michael Drumke in Chicago, IL. The co-chairs of the conference include Lisa L. Pittman in Austin, TX, and Christopher D. Strunk in San Francisco, CA.

Website Design for Marijuana Attorneys - Visit the website of Internet Lava, LLC, the parent company of Lawyer Legion, to find out more website design and internet marketing for attorneys across the country. From criminal defense to other more diverse practice areas, attorneys focused on the marijuana / cannabis / hemp / CBD industry face unique challenges when it comes to advertising and marketing their practice online.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, February 4, 2020.