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What Is 'Cannabis Justice' and Can You Get Some?

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

"Cannabis justice," for the record, is not a practice area.

The term describes the state of disconnect between federal and state laws on marijuana use. The feds have criminalized it; most states have legalized it.

In the breach, many lawyers have capitalized on it. "Cannabis justice" is a different kind of opportunity waiting to happen.


The STATES Act recognizes that 46 states have laws permitting or decriminalizing marijuana use. It would allow financial institutions to enter the cannabis market, and is one of a handful of 420-friendly laws moving through Congress.

It almost got through last month as an attachment to the FIRST STEP Act, a criminal justice reform law that reduces prison time for certain offenses. It also gives judges more discretion when sentencing drug offenders.

Advocates say the FIRST STEP is the "most significant criminal justice reform bill in nearly a decade." But Mark Holden, general counsel for an industry leader, says there's a lot more to do.

"There's going to be a second step and a third step," he told the Marshall Project.

Next Step?

As for marijuana, Congress appears reluctant to legalize it across the board -- especially under the current administration. The next attorney general will decide whether to follow Jeff Sessions' lead on enforcing federal cannabis laws.

In the meantime, marijuana businesses and users will continue to straddle the line between federal and state laws. At some point, "cannabis justice" may be a legal reality for those who face prosecution.

With the FIRST STEP, it is still part of the general movement to reform criminal justice.

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