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On Demand Audio

Cannabis: Understanding the Cole Memorandum and the Interplay of Federal and State Law

(436 reviews)

Produced on October 11, 2015

Taught by
$ 89 Business, Corporate, & Securities, Food, Beverage, & Agriculture, and Cannabis In Stock

Course Information

Time 1h 35m
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

Twenty three states and the District of Columbia now have laws making the use of medical cannabis lawful, under certain circumstances. Four states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing recreational use of cannabis. In addition, anticipated ballot initiatives in Ohio, California, and anticipated legislation in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island may result in legalized adult use of cannabis in several other states. 


Despite this activity at the state level, the Federal Controlled Substances Act (the “CSA”) applies nationwide, and, under the CSA, the cultivation, processing, distribution, and sale of cannabis is unlawful, regardless of applicable state law. In recent years, the U.S. Department Of Justice (“DOJ”) has issued a number of memoranda addressing the enforcement of the CSA of those operating in compliance with state cannabis laws. Attorneys who represent those in the cannabis industry, or those seeking to participate in that industry, must be familiar with the ideas governing the interplay of Federal and state law and those DOJ memoranda, and this course will address those topics. 


Join Hanan Kolko for a discussion of these issues. Mr. Kolko, a New York City-based shareholder at Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein and a co-chair of that firm’s Cannabis Practice, is also a member of the National Cannabis Bar Association.       


Learning Objectives:  

I.     Grasp the basics of the Controlled Substances Act (”CSA”) and its applicability to cannabis

II.    Appreciate the relationship between the CSA and state cannabis laws and the applicability of the doctrines of Federal supremacy, Federal preemption, and the bar on commandeering

III.   Become familiar with the DOJ memoranda, including the “Cole Memorandum”

IV.   Understand offshoots of the Cole Memorandum such as memoranda on banking and the applicability of the CSA to cannabis businesses operating on reservations   

V.    Recognize the risks presented by the current system

VI.   Gain familiarity with pending legislation that might change the interplay between Federal and state laws

This course originally appeared as a part of our October 2015 Bridge the Gap Event.


Hanan Kolko

Cohen Weiss & Simon LLP

Hanan B. Kolko joined the firm in March 2019.

Mr. Kolko practices in the area of labor and employment law.  He represents labor unions in federal and state court litigation, arbitration proceedings, administrative proceedings before various regulatory agencies, and in collective bargaining.  Mr. Kolko also advises unions and their leaders on internal union governance, the investigation and handling of sexual harassment claims, and internal union elections.  He has represented unions in a wide variety of industries including publishing, media, education, health care, law enforcement, transportation, and manufacturing.

Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Mr. Kolko was a partner at two major union-side firms in New York City, and began his career as a lawyer as an associate at union-side firms in Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan.  While in law school, Mr. Kolko was a law clerk for the United Auto Workers.  His first experience working with unions was while he was in college, where he was an intern for the Rochester, New York PATCO local.  He is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, where he received the Book Award for the highest grade in his labor law class.

Mr. Kolko is a former co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Section on Labor and Employment Law Committee on Technology in the Workplace, and is an Advisory Board Member of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.  He has given continuing legal education presentations on a wide variety of labor law topics to groups including the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee, the American Bar Association’s Section on Labor and Employment Law Committee on Technology in the Workplace, and the Practicing Law Institute.  He has been named a Super Lawyer for Employment and Labor Law on the New York Metro Annual Lists of Super Lawyers from 2015-2018.

Mr. Kolko also represents clients in the cannabis industry.  He advises these clients in areas including licensing applications, regulatory compliance, internal investigations, and in litigations. He has lectured extensively on cannabis law issues, giving presentations on issues including legal ethics and the representation of cannabis clients, bankruptcy and the cannabis industry, the current state of legal affairs in the cannabis industry, RICO claims against cannabis industry participants, and the New York State Compassionate Care Act.


Jean H.

Best presentation I’ve attended! Fascinating topic and wonderful, engaging lecturer.

Vera M.

Very good at explaining the law in a non-boring fashion. Engaged throughout the entire process.

Ronald H.

Excellent material and presenter.

Josh N.

Excellent Course

Karla O.

Very informative.

Michael L.

Excellent presentation of valuable information.

Ansley W.

The presenter was EXCELLENT! Really knew the subject matter and kept it interesting.

kenneth r.

Mr. Kolko does an outstanding job of showing the conflict between cannabis-legal states and the CSA. It will be especially interesting to see how this plays out in the Trump administration.

Kristine R.

Fave course thus far - speaker was excellent and highly valuable info!

Charles C.

cut and dry, and I liked it

Adam F.

Top Notch

Melanie S.


David J.

This was a very interesting and informative course. A must with new law that is developing in this area of practice.

Mickie B.

excellent course

Valerie M.

This was very interesting.

Jody L.

Great speaker. Very interesting course.

Julie A. B.

Timely topic with content skillfully delivered.

Jeanette taylor J.


John H.

This is an excellent presentation

Susana F.

Great presentation.

Christian B.

It will be very interesting how this progresses. Seems to me that all state officials issuing licenses have the most to risk. Very interesting.

Michael L.

Great instructor, with mastery of the topic.

Matthew D.

Thoughtful material and presentation.

Patrick D.

Bravo Mr. Kolkata; superb presentation; who would have thought there would be a canabis practice group in a law firm? I particularly liked his introduction.

sosi v.

Very interesting. Good presentation

Jeffrey S.

Very interesting topic and information

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