Cannabis law has become a niche practice area. Although still considered a controlled substance, i.e. subject to regulatory controls and administrative, civil, and criminal penalties under the federal Controlled Substances Act, several states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes under a variety of schemes. A growing number of small and big-firm lawyers across America advise and advocate for owners and investors of marijuana growing, distributing, and retailing businesses on many issues raised by these laws and regulations. On many fronts for both client and counsel high personal, financial, and professional stakes attend the various challenges of this new practice niche.

Cannabis law involves the interplay of layers of Federal government and state laws and regulation. This includes challenging issues about licensing, growing or manufacturing, harvesting, packaging, distributing, selling, and using the products; using banks, obtaining investors or financing, creating deals; buying or renting real estate; and dealing with many other thorny issues involving criminal, employment, and intellectual property law issues.

Cannabis lawyers and their clients face hurdles at every turn when it comes to legally opening and operating a legal marijuana business. For example, one firm, The Canna Law Group (a practice group of Harris Bricken), see here, has been at it for several years. The firm’s highly acclaimed award-winning blog regularly provides information and commentary about the issues and challenges, pitfalls, and perils of counseling and advocating for clients in the rocky shoals of the ever-changing waterfront of cannabis law. A special cannabis-oriented bar association exists. Its homepage shows that members have CLE opportunities, notices about newsworthy events, and can network with others in the niche, and states “The National Cannabis Bar Association was formed in 2015 by a group of lawyers who saw a need to educate and connect with other cannabis industry lawyers for the purpose of providing excellent, ethical, and advanced legal assistance to this growing industry.” One of the world’s largest bar associations recently posted an article entitled How to Become a Cannabis Attorney. Well, this post starts a series which goes in another direction.

New Psycholawlogy Series and Purpose. An information gap exists. This post begins a series about marijuana science for lawyers with the purpose to fill that gap. Psycholawlogy will periodically publish posts with links to research and policy perspective articles from science and medicine about marijuana which should interest and inform lawyers and judges. Each post will attempt to provide references and links to articles with current and relevant information about the effects of using marijuana. The posts may include articles about marijuana use and impaired driving, brain and nervous system function, abuse or addiction, pregnancy, children, recreational and therapeutic uses, and cannabis policy and public health. Scientifically sound and reliable information benefits the people and best informs policy-making.

Public Health. Wilkinson, S. T., Yarnell, S., Radhakrishnan, R., Ball, S. A., & D’Souza, D. C. (2016). Marijuana legalization: Impact on physicians and public health. Annual Review of Medicine67, 453-466 (topics include an overview of marijuana, its routes of administration and indications, relationship between legalization and prevalence, diversion of legal marijuana to minors, impact of marijuana on driving ability, and notes a variety of adverse health effects in its review of the potential impact of marijuana’s legalization on public health as well as conditions for which marijuana or its constituents may be a legitimate treatment option) copy currently available here).

Human Behavior. Volkow, N. D., Swanson, J. M., Evins, A. E., DeLisi, L. E., Meier, M. H., Gonzalez, R., Bloomfield, M.A.P, Curran, H.V., & Baler, R. (2016). Effects of cannabis use on human behavior, including cognition, motivation, and psychosis: A review. JAMA Psychiatry73(3), 292-297 (abstract notes that as research shows that cannabis use is emerging as one among many interacting factors that can affect brain development and mental function, this literature review attempts to identify what is known and not known about the effects of cannabis use on human behavior, including cognition, motivation, and psychosis to better inform the political discourse with scientific evidence) copy currently available here).

Adolescent Brain Development. Camchong, J., Lim, K. O., & Kumra, S. (2017). Adverse effects of cannabis on adolescent brain development: A longitudinal study. Cerebral Cortex27(3), 1922-1930 (first longitudinal study current study provides important longitudinal evidence of detrimental effects of cannabis use during adolescence on brain resting functional connectivity, intelligence, and executive function study provides crucial neurobiologically based evidence that could be used in campaigns to motivate cannabis abstinence in adolescents) copy currently available here).

Marijuana, Risks, and Pregnancy. Chasnoff, I. J. (2017). Medical marijuana laws and pregnancy: Implications for public health policy. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology216(1), 27-30 (clinical opinion piece which states that the “goal of this paper is to address the public health system’s responsibility to educate physicians and the public about the impact of marijuana on pregnancy and to establish guidelines that discourage the use of medical marijuana by pregnant women or women considering pregnancy”; discusses patterns of marijuana use in pregnancy, consequences of marijuana use in pregnancy, notes several policy implications, and outlines, from a public heath perspective, several suggested “steps to educate and inform the public and professionals on the possible impact of marijuana’s use during pregnancy and to discourage such use”) copy currently available here). See also Volkow, N. D., Compton, W. M., & Wargo, E. M. (2017). The risks of marijuana use during pregnancy. Jama317(2), 129-130 (copy currently available here).

Unintended Consequences of Marijuana Exposure and Legalization. Wang, G. S. (2017). Pediatric concerns due to expanded cannabis use: Unintended consequences of legalization. Journal of Medical Toxicology13(1), 99-105 (a review and opinion piece which develops the argument that one unintended consequence of marijuana legalization is the impact on the pediatric population and cites research-based concerns about prenatal exposure, unintentional childhood exposures, and adolescent abuse) copy currently available here).

Brain-Based Harms and Marijuana Use. MacDonald, K., & Pappas, K. (2016). WHY NOT POT?: A Review of the Brain-based Risks of Cannabis. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience13(3-4), 13–22 (reviews scientific evidence of brain-based harms associated with marijuana use and discusses a mnemonic, DDUMB, i.e. five brain-based harms associated with marijuana use: dependence, driving impairment, underachievement, mental illness, and bad to worse (i.e., marijuana serving as a “gateway” function for other more dangerous drugs of abuse) after discussing several important aspects of marijuana’s history, politics, chemistry, and psychopharmacology) copy currently available here. See also Volkow, N. D., Swanson, J. M., Evins, A. E., DeLisi, L. E., Meier, M. H., Gonzalez, R., … & Baler, R. (2016). Effects of cannabis use on human behavior, including cognition, motivation, and psychosis: a review. JAMA Psychiatry73(3), 292-297 (a review of literature with stated purpose to inform the political discourse with scientific evidence, discusses what is known and not known about the effects of cannabis use on human behavior, including cognition, motivation, and psychosis and implications for vulnerable populations, need to expand research efforts, and necessity to stay abreast of ongoing changes in local policies) copy currently available here. Many resources available at National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) webpage. See NIDA. (2017, February 28). Marijuana. Retrieved from on 2017, August 15 (here).

If interested, see the following related posts on Psycholawlogy:

Statistics, Stigma, and Sanism: A Public Health Warning About the “Perfect Storm” Heading Toward America’s Legal Profession

“Last Drink” Narratives of Self-Redemption, Predicting Recovery, and [Lawyer] Sobriety

Judges [and Lawyers], Compassion Fatigue, and Tools to Respond Effectively

[Lawyer] Anxiety, Self-Protective Behavior, Ethical Sinkholes, and Professional Responsibility

Thank You.  Thank you very much. Dan DeFoe JD MS – Adlitem Solutions | Organization Development for Professional Services Firms and the Legal Profession: People. Projects. Practices |Web – | Email: | Blog – | Services – Organization Development Practitioner combining and leveraging 25+ years of diverse legal experience, 7+ years of allied health training and work experience, a Master of Science in Organizational Development Psychology, and educationally qualified or earned certifications in industry-leading normal (Myers-Briggs MBTI) and special business (Hogan Assessments) personality; ability (MSCEIT) and self-report (EQi 2.0 [derived from Bar-On model]) emotional intelligence; leadership (Certified Intentional Leadership Coach); and stress management assessment and tools (ARSENAL best practices system for stress resilient emotional intelligence) to partner with client organizations, their leaders, and member to discover needs and opportunities for growth and to design, develop, deliver, and evaluate custom interventions for individual, team, project, or organizational solutions. | Mission:  “America’s leading resource for normal personality and emotional intelligence assessments, and related coaching, continuing education programs, training, and workshops for judges, lawyers, law schools, bar associations, healthcare, medical, and other professional services providers and their organizations and leaders.”  Please visit Adlitem Solutions and Psycholawlogy again soon. Thank you very much.

Complimentary Assessment: Contact me via email at to arrange a time for a no obligation discussion and assessment of your firm’s or firm members’ interests or needs regarding emotional intelligence workshops, training, continuing education, or coaching. See this related post at Psycholawlogy – Emotional Intelligence Memo to Management: EI as a Buffer of [Lawyer] Stress in the Developmental Job Experience – for more information about taking first steps.

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Dan DeFoe

Owner and Lead consultant at Adlitem Solutions
I'm an attorney with 20+ years of experience and have an MS degree in organizational development psychology. I provide normal personality and emotional intelligence assessments, assessment interpretation and feedback, and professional development planning and training activities for lawyers, judges, other legal services providers, and their organizations.

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