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Reconciling Federal Marijuana Laws with State Medical & Recreational Use Laws

(405 reviews)

Produced on April 20, 2018

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Course Information

Time 60 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

California passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, making it the first state in the union to allow for the medical use of marijuana. Now, as of January 2018, thirty (30) states, plus Washington, D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico have legalized medical marijuana. Additionally, recreational marijuana use is legal in eight states: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Washington D.C., Nevada and Massachusetts. In this timely updated program, attorneys Rochelle S. Berliner and Ami P. Kim, discuss the laws surrounding medical marijuana, including:

  • Conflict of laws between the federal and state governments;
  • the associated federalism issues,
  • the immigration consequences of a marijuana conviction; and
  • the legal implications for people involved or looking to get involved in medical marijuana businesses.  

At this juncture, nothing has changed under federal law: marijuana is still considered a Schedule I Substance under the Controlled Substances Act, thus making its sale and possession punishable as harshly as narcotics such as cocaine and heroin. This course explores the interesting relationship between the federal and state laws.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify federal marijuana laws and current federal enforcement priorities under the Controlled Substances Act
  2. Recognize state criminal and medical marijuana legislation and the current list of states which have medical and legal marijuana laws
  3. Explore the federalism issues implicated by the conflict between federal and state laws on the issue of legalization of medical and recreational marijuana
  4. Assess the immigration and consequences of a marijuana conviction
  5. Defend a client from a marijuana charge and how to protect that client from immigration consequences
  6. Gain insight on business considerations facing medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries, as well the effect of federal law on starting and operating those business 
  7. Grasp the banking and financing difficulties facing marijuana businesses

Credit Information

After completing this course, Lawline will report your attendance information to {{ accredMasterState.state.name }}. Please ensure your license number is filled out in your profile to ensure timely reporting. For more information, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements page . After completing this course, {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} attorneys self-report their attendance and CLE compliance. For more information on how to report your CLE courses, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements FAQ .


Rochelle Berliner

Law Offices of Rochelle Berliner

Upon graduating New York Law School in June 1991, Ms. Berliner began her legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in the office of Robert M. Morgenthau, the New York County District Attorney. She spent two years working in the Appeals Bureau, writing briefs and arguing them in the Appellate Division, First Department. She then spent another twelve years in the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor. While in the Office of Special Narcotics, Ms. Berliner worked on long-term and short-term drug investigations, a lengthy wiretap case and hundreds of street-level drug sale and possession cases. During that time, Mr. Berliner tried approximately 50-60 cases to verdict and acquired extensive litigation skills and experience. 

Before leaving the Office of Special Narcotics, Ms. Berliner received a Certificate of Appreciation from the New York Police Department’s Detectives Endowment Association. 

Ms. Berliner left the District Attorney’s Office in 2005 to begin her own criminal defense practice. For more than ten years, she has provided vigorous criminal defense for men, women, and adolescents in New York City, and in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Ms. Berliner also represents victims of police brutality and official misconduct in Federal Court in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York. In 2008, in the case of Colon v. City of New York, Detective Stephen Anderson and Detective Henry Tavarez, et al., Ms. Berliner exposed rampant misconduct within the NYPD’s Queens Narcotics unit. The case involved the two named detectives fabricating a drug sale and falsifying police reports against four completely innocent men; the entire evening was recorded on surveillance video from the bar in which this “sale” was alleged to have taken place. After convincing members of the Queens County District Attorney’s Office that the drug sale charges against her client were fabricated, the District Attorney dismissed all of the charges against Ms. Berliner’s client, his brother and two of their friends. The District Attorney then brought criminal charges against the two detectives, who pled guilty and are now convicted felons; one of them went to prison. The case also opened the doors to multiple other charges of police misconduct, both in criminal cases and civil rights lawsuits. 

Ms. Berliner is admitted to practice law in New York State as well as the federal courts in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.

Ms. Berliner has lectured on marijuana law for the Cannabis Career Institute. She is an active member of the New York State Bar Association, the Queens County Bar Association, The New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the New York State Defenders Association, the National Police Accountability Project and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Legal Committee. 

Mr. Berliner received her B.A. Degree in Broadcast Journalism from New York University in 1981. She began her first career in journalism as a newscaster at a Connecticut radio station, and then became a political correspondent for a statewide radio network in Connecticut, covering the state legislature and other political stories of statewide interest, including gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns and elections. Ms. Berliner was also the news director and morning anchor at another Connecticut radio station. She then became the on-air talent and a scriptwriter for a nationally-syndicated ski report and beach report, aired on about 200 radio stations across the country. Before starting law school, Ms. Berliner did commercials and voice-over work in New York City.

Ami P. Kim

Ami P. Kim, Esq.

Ms. Kim is a graduate of St. John’s University School of Law where she served as Editor-in-Chief of “The Forum,” the law school newspaper, and as President of the Criminal Law Society. During law school, she interned at the Innocence Project where she helped prisoners gain access to post-conviction DNA testing for the purpose of exoneration. Since 2011, her practice has included criminal defense and civil rights litigation involving police misconduct. Her practice has also focused on political and religious asylum cases in Immigration Court. Additionally, she has experience handling cases involving the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. Ms. Kim works as Of Counsel to the Law Office of Rochelle Berliner as well as to other attorneys. She is admitted to practice law in New York State and is a member of the Queens County Bar Association.


Regardless of the allegations, Ms. Kim believes that everyone is entitled to a fair process and protection from the potential abuse by the government. Whether that means advocating for the best possible disposition during plea-bargaining, taking a case to trial, pushing to have a conviction vacated or re-evaluated, or pursuing a civil rights claim, she strives not only to be a voice for her clients, but also to help them navigate through the system so that they may make informed decisions.


Prior to starting her legal career, Ms. Kim attended Parsons School of Design and the State University of New York at Binghamton where she earned her degree in Fine Arts and Philosophy. She has previously worked in advertising and graphic design and has also owned and operated a retail business.


Bruno C.


Robin B.

Very important information.

Helen J.

Very well presented with good reference material and evidence of the presenters ‘ know.edge in this area, especially with immigrants, a particular area of interest for me.

Larned F.


Greg V.


Larry D.

Very timely topic. I learned a lot by watching this presentation.

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