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Welcome to Tracking Cannabis, a legal blog by Thompson Coburn

Joan Lebow May 18, 2015

Welcome to Tracking Cannabis, Thompson Coburn’s newly launched cannabis blog. Our interdisciplinary cannabis practice group will use this blog to provide updates and insights on the latest developments in the cannabis industry.

There is a maze of laws and regulations that impacts clients in the industry. My area of interest is compliance with regulatory requirements related to health and safety. Within this area, there are a number of interesting websites. One site that I often consult and you may find interesting is an overview of state medical marijuana laws by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Another that addresses the concerns of the public health sector is the Recreational Marijuana Laws Map by LawAtlas.

States that permit  the sale of medical cannabis sale generally follow a pattern of permitting physicians to recommend cannabis for a limited number of clinical diagnoses.  Further, many such states require specific physician conduct in relation to patients receiving the product.

Federal law addressing cannabis includes the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. §812(c), Sch.I(c)(10)),  which is clarified by a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Conant v. Walters, 309 F.3d 629 (9th Cir. 2002).  The CSA lists marijuana as a controlled substance with no acceptable medical use. The language of the CSA was construed in the Conant case to permit Dr. Conant, a California physician, to advise and speak with patients about the benefits of marijuana. This allowed him to recommend marijuana, but he could not prescribe it or otherwise intend to help the patient acquire it.

As a result of this distinction between recommending medical cannabis and helping patients acquire it, we see the statute and regulations in Illinois and similar jurisdictions permit recommendations about medical cannabis to be made by physicians. They cannot, however, assist patients to acquire medical cannabis in a manner that avoids the actions that would otherwise violate the CSA.

In our offices in Illinois and other states, including California, Thompson Coburn provides state-wide advice to clients concerning land use and zoning. Our partner Katriina McGuire addressed zoning issues for Illinois cannabis industry participants in a day-long seminar in Chicago on April 24.  Her remarks and observations will be the subject a blog entry forthcoming shortly.

As state and federal regulatory positions on cannabis evolve, our industry practice group will report those developments and we welcome your contribution on this subject. We plan to track every meaningful development in this area, so stay tuned. I look forward to continuing the conversation soon.

Joan Lebow is a partner in Thompson Coburn's Health Law Practice Group. She can be reached at (312) 580-2212 or jlebow@thompsoncoburn.com.


Thompson Coburn advises clients on state laws governing the business of cannabis to facilitate compliance with those state laws. Federal laws concerning cannabis currently conflict with state laws in states that have legalized cannabis or possession of cannabis. Although federal enforcement policy may at times defer to these states’ laws and not enforce conflicting federal laws, interested businesses and individuals should be aware that compliance with state law in no way assures compliance with federal law, and there is a risk that conflicting federal laws may be enforced in the future. In addition to this Cannabis-specific note, readers should review Thompson Coburn’s Conditions of Use / Disclaimers page containing other important information.