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Federal Responses to State Medical Marijuana Laws

(1869 Ratings)

Produced on: March 31, 2015

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by


Course Description

Time 90 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

In 1996, California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act, making it the first state in the union to allow for the medical use of marijuana. Since then, 22 more states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have enacted similar laws.


At the federal level, however, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, where Schedule I substances are considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use, making cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana a federal offense.


Using New York’s recently enacted medical marijuana law as a backdrop, Ameer Benno, a New York City-based civil rights and criminal defense attorney, discusses the conflict of laws between the federal and state governments surrounding medical marijuana, the associated federalism issues, and the legal implications for people involved or looking to get involved in medical marijuana businesses.  


Learning Objectives:

I.     Define New York State’s Compassionate Care Act 

II.    Recognize additional state medical marijuana legislation 

III.   Understand current federal enforcement priorities under the Controlled Substances Act

IV.   Explore the federalism issues implicated by the conflict between federal and state laws on the issue of legalization of medical marijuana

V.    Gain insight on essential business considerations facing medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries, as well the effect of federal law on starting and operating those business 

VI.   Grasp the banking and financing difficulties facing marijuana businesses

VII.  Identify current proposed state and federal legislation




Ameer Benno

Ameer Benno, Attorney at Law

Mr. Benno began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney at the esteemed Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, where, under then-District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, he served in both the trial division and the appeals bureau. In the trial division, Mr. Benno investigated and prosecuted violent and white-collar crimes and tried several jury trials to verdict, all as primary chair. In the appeals bureau, Mr. Benno handled all aspects of criminal appeals, and regularly submitted arguments to the New York State Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest tribunal.

After several years as an Assistant District Attorney, Mr. Benno left government service to work for a premier civil litigation law firm where he tried civil cases and managed a caseload that focused on civil rights matters in state and federal court.

In 2009, Mr. Benno opened his own law practice, which focused on civil rights cases in state and federal court, criminal defense, and appellate litigation.

In addition to an active trial practice, Mr. Benno has briefed and argued criminal and civil appeals in the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Departments of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, the New York State Court of Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

In 2010, Mr. Benno argued People v. Mothersell in the New York State Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest tribunal. That case, which challenged the constitutionality of the City of Syracuse’s usage of “all persons present” search warrants, resulted in a unanimous reversal of the client’s criminal conviction and the dismissal of his indictment, and changed the landscape of criminal law practice in New York State. More recently, Mr. Benno was lead counsel in Bailey v. Pataki, a Section 1983 civil rights action against former New York State Governor George Pataki and several members of his administration for creating and implementing an unconstitutional civil commitment policy for a class of prisoners. Mr. Benno briefed and argued the interlocutory appeal in that case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He won that appeal, and thereafter tried the case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. After a three and a half week trial, the jury found a top member of Gov. Pataki’s administration liable for violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

From 2006 through 2012, Mr. Benno was an adjunct professor at New York Law School, where he taught Legal Reasoning and Writing and Written and Oral Advocacy.

Mr. Benno is admitted to the New York and Connecticut state bars, and is admitted to practice in the federal courts of the Southern, Eastern, Western, and Northern Districts of New York as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.

He serves on the Civil Rights and Liberties Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association, and is a member of the Civil Rights Section of the American Association of Justice. Mr. Benno is also a member of the National Police Accountability Project, the New York City Policing Roundtable, the First Amendment Lawyers Association, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the Brooklyn Bar Association. 

Mr. Benno also is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the New York State Defenders Association. He is a member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Legal Committee.

In 2012 and again in 2013, Mr. Benno was selected to the Super Lawyers Rising Stars list as one of the top up‐and‐coming attorneys in the metro-New York area in the areas of First Amendment and civil rights law. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state receive this honor.

In 2013 and 2014, Mr. Benno was also selected by the National Trial Lawyers for inclusion in the Top 100 trial attorneys in New York State in the area of criminal law. This is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state in the nation who meet stringent qualifications. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research. In 2014, Mr. Benno was also selected for inclusion in the National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40.

Mr. Benno is rated 10.0, the highest rating given, by the online lawyer rating service

Mr. Benno received his B.A. degree with honors from Johns Hopkins University, and his J.D. from Cornell Law School. While at Cornell Law School, Mr. Benno received recognition for his superior litigation abilities and was a member of the prestigious Moot Court Board.


Valerie T.

Outstanding course. I retired from DEA, and I must say this is one of the best comprehensive course that I have seen on the legal issues in this area.

Jessica K.

Really informative course. Great overview - thanks!

jon s.

More Benno!

james c.

He is a great presenter. Every video he does is very good.

Ronald H.

More educational courses need to be offered in light of the current changing of the laws and attitudes about marijuana

Hubert L.

Excellent. One of the best presentations I've seen on Lawline. Clear, to the point, succinct and full of information.

Carl R.

Excellent course on a fascinating subject.

Daniel H.

Very good presenter

Zvi S.


James W.

Excellent course. Very clear, substantive, and well presented.

William R.

Ameer Benno did a fantastic job. Very informative.

Daniel D.


Dennis G.

Great primer course for fast developing area in state and federal aw.

Retha M.

Excellent program calling attention to an area of State versus Federal authority. Strong presenter.

Cynthia M.

Really excellent and comprehensive. Thank you. The trademark thing would never have crossed my mind.

Charles C.

This guy is great again. Very Clear and on point and keeps coming with information, balanced as informative at end as begininning

Elizabeth M.

timely discussion

David E.

great speaker

Jim V.

Clear and precise

john b.

very comprehensive and useful

Thomas B. M.

He clearly knows his subject. Very engaging presenter, too.

F. Kim C.

Really good, the instructor was one of the best, interesting and knowledgeable.

J Thomas S.

Very interesting and well-written. Excellent presentation.

Wendy Y.

Excellent topic and speaker. Have waited for this CLE. Thank you

David F.

He is excellent in explaining the details and I recommend his vedio and lecture to anyone.

Tobias P.

This was informative and engaging.

Lin C.

Very well done.

Scott R.


steven r.


Matthew F.

Great speaker.

Ronald R.

Excellent speaker and presentation.

Jennifer G.

Excellent and informative presentation!

Louis D.

Excellent presentation on the state of the law in late 2016.

Nikki K.

great presentation. should do an update

Robert D.

Very helpful

Alfred D.

Have viewed this presenter before and really enjoy and appreciate his clear and concise lectures.

Nathan S.

very good

Clarence S.

Excellent course.

Lisa M.

very interesting!!

John H.

Very thorough!

Fabian G.

Its very insightful that State legalization would open so many possibilities for Federal prosecution for acting within the law.

John M.

Very specialized area in which Mr. Benno clearly has more than "done his homework", Very comprehensive review of numerous issues.

Sarah G.

Fantastic CLE.

Vincent C.


Constance H.

excellent presentation!

Tom S.


Kristina U.

There are a lot of pitfalls for the unaware lawyer representing a provider of product. Speaker did great job laying out the pitfalls.

Diane E.

very informative but also complex

Catherine D.

emerging areas of law well explained. thank you!!

Paul A.

great presentation

Eliot D.

very timely information

Jordan H.

Very informative and useful presentation.

Bruce L.


Carrie B.

Super speaker - I hope to see more from this presenter!

Jordan F.


Benjamin G.

One of the most informative CLE's I have ever taken

Kenneth W.

He was very engaging, a nice way of communicating, and obviously extremely well-informed, enjoyed the presentation

Nina Anne G.

Fascinating overview -- very thorough. Thanks!

James M.

Very knowledgeable presenter. Slides also were very good.

Maureen S.

Ameer Benno has a commanding presence and vast knowledge of subject matter.

Alan B.

to the point and very relevant

Denise F.

One of the best Lawline presenters I have watched. He is articulate, up-to-date, organized, and easy to follow.

gregory l.


Emma T.

Excellent discussion of an interesting and current issue. Thank you.

James E.

One of the best courses on identifying practical, real-world issues that can arise in the marijuana field. I am not a user, but I thought it was fascinating from a legal stand point.

Stuart T.

the inherent conflict of federal preemption v. state sovereignty - & their contradictory sequelae - was clearly identified in this informative program.

Daniel G.

Speaker was exellent

William B.

Great overview of the interplay of jurisdictions

Diana K.


Kristin C.

I finally understand how the federal and state laws are interacting on this issue!

Edward F.

Excellent presentation!

Douglas N.

Well done.

Lori O.

really interesting

Mark U.

Great course.

Andrea R.

This is an excellent coverage of a tricky subject. I expect I will petition my State Bar to give CLE credit for it. The presenter is well informed and personable. I would and will happily view and attend any future seminars he offers. Thank you!

Mark D.

Great content and presentation.

Richard R.

tremendous presenter--solid substance--a pleasure, thank you

Donna S.

The presenter was very knowledgeable and confident. I enjoy his presentations.

Susan L. W.

Excellent course to complement Mr Benno's LawLine CLE on the Ethical implications of State and Federal Marijuana Laws. Well organized and informative, with implications relevant to the Federal criminalization of Marijuana and recent moves by States to sep

Marie C.

This course was fascinating. The presenter was clear and covered many angles of the issue.

Ali E.

Best Lawline presentation I have ever seen....excellent.

Layne S.

great overview of many areas

Frederick S.

This course, together with his course on Legal Ethics and State Marijuana Laws are very valuable and informative with regard to these issues. I highly recommend both. Thank you.

Patricia C.

Thorough and excellent

Jeanette B.

The best program I have seen.

C. T. A.

He knew his stuff. Very helpful.

Terence S.

Well organized, well delivered presentation

Michael S.

VERY informative!

Darrell R. J.

Outstanding speaker & presentation!

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