In Michigan and around the nation, marijuana-related activity is becoming mainstream. The evidence includes broad legalization occurring in various places in the US, and the continued growth in favorable public opinion for the repeal of marijuana prohibition. Joining many other advocates for change, lawyers will play a role in this evolution and improve the end result. Many Michigan attorneys are at the forefront.
Michigan Sets the Stage:
The State Bar of Michigan (which licenses and regulates all lawyers who practice in Michigan) has recently created a new section called the Marijuana Law Section “to improve and expand the knowledge of lawyers who engage in the practice of marijuana law.” This Section will facilitate the development of marijuana law expertise and provide a forum for attorneys to share information and ideas. Membership is open to all Michigan lawyers interested in this area of the law. While less than two months old, the MLS already has over 300 members.
It takes all types of Lawyers
The lawyers who will help develop this area of the law care about the legal system within which they serve and strive to make the system fairer, more transparent and more just. Their numbers are not limited to the criminal defense attorneys who defend their clients charged with violations of the state and federal drug laws. Business and tax lawyers, municipal attorneys, employment lawyers, and many other specialists have a role to play in the transition of marijuana into a legalized industry.
A Step In the Right Direction
Michigan has not led the way in the marijuana legalization process, and it has been criticized for allowing a half-completed legalization regime to languish unfinished. Nonetheless, the action of the State Bar of Michigan in creating the Marijuana Law Section is a great example of what can be done to help assure that the legalization process in our state results in good and workable laws for the use and regulation of marijuana.
400 years ago, Shakespeare had one of his ruffian criminal characters propose that “the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Henry VI, Part 2. This ironic statement has been widely interpreted to mean that if the lawyers are eliminated, that can help the bad guys have their way. The other side of that coin is that to establish a good and fair system of law and order, lawyers can help.
Change IS Needed
Many advocates for marijuana reform want to repeal the laws which make marijuana-related activity a crime and provide instead a system of new laws that regulate and control who may use marijuana and how that use occurs. When it comes to the creation of laws and regulations, lawyers have great experience and expertise based on centuries of practice. For example, lawyers made up almost two-thirds of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention that created the United States Constitution.
And Michigan Leads the Way
The Marijuana Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan is the first stand-alone marijuana section of any bar association in the nation. As a lawyer who favors the rational repeal of marijuana prohibition, and as a member of the Marijuana Law Section, I am proud of our state bar association leading the way in this important step in the mainstreaming of marijuana into the business fabric of our state.