When State and Federal Laws Clash: The Possible Showdown Over Marijuana Laws

Source: Heather Trela, Rockefeller Institute of Government blog, April 2017

The 2016 election was memorable for many reasons, but lost in the shadow of the presidential outcome was the big night marijuana legislation had in the states. Three states (Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota) passed initiatives legalizing medicinal marijuana, marking the first time that more than half of the states have permitted the use of medicinal marijuana. Voters in Montana rolled back some restrictions on their existing medical marijuana law. Meanwhile, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all passed legislation to allow for recreational marijuana use. The only loss for marijuana at the voting booth in 2016 was in Arizona, where voters rejected Proposition 205, which would have legalized recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and older (medicinal marijuana laws passed in Arizona in 2010). In the aftermath of the election, the entire West Coast now permits some type of marijuana use and recreational use gained a foothold in the Northeast. One in five people in the United States now live in a state where marijuana is legal.

While this could be seen as a victory for proponents of such measures, it may be setting states up for a showdown with the federal government….