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Pot Laws Facing High Court Scrutiny?

Nothing is on the U.S. Supreme Court docket yet but with recent passage of liberal marijuana-use laws, a case could fire up justices.

December 18, 2012

With the U.S. Supreme Court now poised to consider the future of same-sex marriage on a federal level, smoking marijuana could be the next socially charged issue to enter its chambers.

Employment lawyers Jim Shore of Stoel Rives in Seattle and Nancy Delogu of Littler Mendelson's Washington, D.C., office agree that liberalization of marijuana laws is sweeping the country. Now, with more than a third of the states having medical and/or recreational marijuana laws on the books, a re-examination of federal law may be in the cards.

Connecticut even took the bold step of reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance. Shore says that if the federal government followed suit, that would allow marijuana to be the subject of medical research to determine its safety.

Delogu says there is a lawsuit pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit trying to force the federal government to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substance, for that same reason. In any case, it would take an act of Congress to change the law.

"I'm not advocating pro-marijuana or anti-marijuana," Shore says, "but it would be nice if the federal government were to look closely at the issue." Meanwhile, he says, "HR should keep their ears to the ground," because like marijuana smoke, change is in the air.

Susan G. Hauser is a writer based in Portland, Oregon. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.