Marijuana and the States: How Should Federalism Principles Inform the Federal Government'’s Response to State Marijuana Initiatives?

Sponsored by the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and the Practice Groups of the Federalist Society

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In 2013 voters in Colorado and Washington legalized the possession of marijuana under state law. Several other states allow the possession and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Yet marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The Justice Department has not sought to preempt these decisions, and has outlined a new enforcement policy that largely defers to state law enforcement on the assumption that states will effectively regulate the sale and possession of marijuana. Are the Justice Department’s efforts to accommodate state decisions about marijuana policy prudent or irresponsible? Could it do more? Should the federal government defer to state voters on the desirability of marijuana prohibition? How should principles of federalism inform the federal government’s response to state initiatives on marijuana? Can the federal government allow states to decriminalize marijuana possession and sale without undermining the rule of law?


  • Mr. Robert D. Alt, President, The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions
  • Dr. John C. Eastman , Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service, Chapman University School of Law
  • Mr. Michael Francisco , Assistant Solicitor General, Colorado
  • Hon. George J. Terwilliger III , Partner, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP
  • Moderator: Prof. Jonathan H. Adler, Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law