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Cannabis Conundrum

August 02, 2018

Earlier this year, the Leo Model Foundation Government Service and Public Affair Initiative and the Penn Program on Regulation hosted a panel of law and policy experts to discuss the practical and ethical dilemmas lawyers and other professionals face due to the divergent approaches taken by the federal and state governments on marijuana. 

The panel was organized and moderated by Nancy Nord, a former Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and a 2017-2018 Distinguished Policy Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Nord sat down with Penn Law to continue the discussion about federal and state level legislation around cannabis and how current policies present uncertainties for professionals in law, business, and medicine.




Nancy Nord: You’ve got the federal government prohibiting the use of cannabis across the board. They have said that it’s highly addictive and there are no therapeutic values to it. On the state level, the states are taking quite a different approach in the vast majority of states now have either decriminalized it or allow it for medical use or for recreational use as well.

I hope that the people that attended this conference thought about this. That is how do you counsel your clients to operate a legitimate business on the state level when that business is viewed as illegal on the federal level. And as a law student thinking about the fact that you’re going to have to take an oath to uphold the law when you become a member of the bar, what conflicts does that present to you? The panel that we presented included Professor Peter Conti-Brown from the Wharton School, he’s an expert on the history of the financial markets in this country, when you think about issues that are raised by the cannabis conundrum the financial issues come to mind first and foremost. If you need access to the federal banking system but you’re going to need if you want to write checks or make loans or get loans you’re out of luck because that access isn’t available. That presents a real interesting issue for people that want to get into this business and run legitimate businesses. My challenge to the Penn Law students is to use this as an example to think about how law can be made, how it can be changed. There is an opportunity here to shape the law and unless people think about it aggressively and creatively change will come perhaps not in the way that we all would like to see it come it may be influenced by the people with the power and the money now.


To learn more about the panel discussion on the Cannabis Conundrum, read The Regulatory Review’s recap here: