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Interstate Cannabis Compacts: The Road to a Regional Legal Cannabis Economy

By Michael J.K.M. Kinane. Full Text.

Since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, cannabis has been a Schedule I drug. Yet twenty-one states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis, and even more have legalized it for medical  use. Despite Supreme Court precedent holding the conduct of these states to be illegal, the legalization trend is undeniable. Cannabis legalization is popular coast to coast, regardless of differences in political ideology. Nevertheless, federal prohibition restricts, in theory, interstate cannabis commerce. All cannabis (in all forms) consumed in a state must be produced in the state.

Congressional cannabis legalization is the ideal response to Americans’ growing desire for cannabis. This is because the Constitution primarily conceives of the federal government as regulating interstate commerce. However, the Constitution permits interstate commerce regulation by the states via interstate compacts. Today’s Congress is inefficient and struggles to pass legislation to keep the government afloat. Despite shifting public opinion on the issue, anyone holding their breath for Congress to legalize cannabis will die waiting. Consequently, this Essay argues that interstate compacts can usher in, at the very least, regional cannabis legalization and all the advantages of interstate commerce that come with it.