Nevada Law Journal








Part I will provide a historical overview of the cannabis plant and our country’s experience with it prior to the election of President Richard Nixon. It is at that point, the early 1970s, that the current federal cannabis scheme began to take shape. Sections I.A though I.C will discuss the inception of the War on Drugs during the Nixon Administration and examine the subsequent social movement that led President Reagan to revamp and expand the War on Drugs throughout the 1980s.

The legal framework for federal cannabis regulation has largely remained stagnant since the Reagan Administration. Nevertheless, the federal stance on cannabis, influenced in recent years by fluctuation in Executive Branch law enforcement polies, has shifted significantly. Part II will set out the current system of federal regulation and discuss the variable enforcement policies that have allowed the cannabis industry to explode despite the continuing federal prohibition.

Due to political variation among the states and the protracted process of reform, the cutting edge of cannabis regulation is in an incredible state of flux, and the nation-wide regulatory scheme is a jumble of policy choices; many of which are directly opposite to those of neighboring states. In attempt to impose some order on the complexities of state cannabis regulation, Part III will canvas the current legal status of the substance in the United States, including a state survey and an in-depth exploration of the various policy decisions facing states that are considering reform. This portion will also examine some recent, incremental shifts in the federal laws that overlay what is primarily a state level regulatory scheme.

Even after looking to the past and the present, the future remains uncertain. Many significant impediments to the reform movement remain in place. For example, even in states where cannabis has been recreationally legalized, local governments have retained (and exercised) the power to prohibit the substance within their jurisdictions. Part IV will contain a discussion of this and similar roadblocks to reform that lurk in the background of the dynamic environment surrounding cannabis regulation in the United States.

Through understanding the complex history of cannabis regulation and legalization, the current legal landscape, and the existing roadblocks to reform, Part V will discuss how the legal and regulatory landscape causes so many cannabis companies to fail. Cannabis reform needs to happen in order for cannabis companies to become profitable. For now, the cannabis legal regime creates significant hurdles that result in failing companies with little chance of success.

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