Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Unintended Consequences of Marijuana Legalization Discussed in National Forum

Image of Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and forum panelists David Blake, Douglas Berman, and Dan Riffle

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor moderated a discussion about marijuana laws with panelists (left to right) David Blake, Douglas Berman, and Dan Riffle.

Image of Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and forum panelists David Blake, Douglas Berman, and Dan Riffle

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor moderated a discussion about marijuana laws with panelists (left to right) David Blake, Douglas Berman, and Dan Riffle.

National experts gathered in Columbus Tuesday agreed that after Colorado became the first state in the world to legalize marijuana, they entered into an experiment that has led to a myriad of complex legal questions.

“We overnight created a commodity that was on Monday illegal and on Wednesday legal,” said David Blake, Colorado’s deputy attorney general for public policy and government affairs. “It’s been a true challenge to get the regulatory scheme correct.” As a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Implementation, Blake played an instrumental role in the consideration and adoption of the state’s new regulations.

Blake spoke Tuesday at the Ohio Supreme Court’s Forum on the Law Lecture Series on the topic “Marijuana Legalization and the Law of Unintended Consequences.”

He was one of three leading experts who discussed the developing area of law surrounding the regulation of marijuana. Led by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the discussion focused on the challenges in such places as Colorado where a product and business is now legal under state law but illegal under federal law.

The other two panelists were Douglas Berman, professor at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, and Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, Washington, D.C. and a graduate of Capital University Law School. Berman leads a seminar titled “Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform. Riffle is a former assistant prosecutor in Vinton County.

The complete program can be viewed online.

Among the unintended consequences the panelists discussed:

  • Some marijuana businesses in Colorado have taken to spraying their cash with air freshener and shopping from bank to bank because federal banking regulations prohibit banks from serving customers engaged in the drug trade as defined by federal statutes and regulations.
  • Patients legally using medical-marijuana in Colorado encounter federal legal problems trying to buy firearms, use federal public housing, and engage in certain other activities that under federal law are prohibited if he or she is an illegal drug user.

The Forum on the Law was established in 2009 by the late Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer as an ongoing lecture series. Events feature regional or national speakers who address contemporary or historic legal topics. Chief Justice O’Connor continued the program after taking office in 2011 to engage the public, with the aim of enhancing an appreciation for our legal system.

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