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On Demand Audio

Reconciling State Medical Marijuana Laws with Federal Laws

(776 reviews)

Produced on April 20, 2017

Taught by
$ 59 Constitutional and Cannabis In Stock

Course Information

Time 1h
Difficulty Advanced
Topics covered in this course: Constitutional Cannabis

Course Description

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.

As of January 2017, twenty-eight (28) states, plus Washington, D.C. and Guam, have legalized medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana use is legal in eight states: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Washington D.C., Nevada and Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, under Federal Law, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I Substance under the Controlled Substances Act, with no accepted medical use and a strong potential for dependency, thus making its sale and possession punishable as harshly as narcotics such as cocaine and heroin.

Rochelle S. Berliner, a New York City-based criminal defense and civil rights attorney, discusses the conflict of laws between the federal and state governments surrounding medical marijuana, the associated federalism issues, the collateral consequences of a marijuana conviction, and the legal implications for people involved or looking to get involved in medical marijuana businesses.  

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Understand Federal Marijuana laws and current federal enforcement priorities under the Controlled Substances Act
  2. Recognize additional state criminal and medical marijuana legislation 
  3. Explore the federalism issues implicated by the conflict between federal and state laws on the issue of legalization of medical marijuana
  4. Identify the collateral consequences of a marijuana conviction in connection with, among other things, immigration, professional licensing, education and housing 
  5. Address how to defend a client from a marijuana charge
  6. Gain insight on essential business considerations facing medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries, as well the effect of federal law on starting and operating those businesses
  7. Grasp the banking and financing difficulties facing marijuana businesses 


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.


David T.

Timely, insightful and informative, excellent.

Mary J.

very superb lecturer and presented excellently.

Christopher K.

Good CLE with clear presentation of the facts and law.

Carrie B.

Great! Straightforward information.

Mark K.

Good overview. Thought provoking. More interesting than I anticipated.

Bryan M.

Great course

Adrienne B.

enjoyed the content

Vincent L.

The speaker was well informed about the varying issues between states and the federal government.

Gerald C.


Dave D.

Super class

Robin E.

Great update on effect of federal laws on new state laws.

Louis M.

Informative and current

Ralph M.

very informative course on a subject that is evolving daily.

Fran M.


Fredrick W.

A great program

Joseph M.

Genuinely enjoyed the program!

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