The Impact of Gibbons v. Ogden on Medical Marijuana Operators In Illinois

Supreme Court decision, Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, Gibbons v. Ogden, the 1824 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a decision from America’s storied legal past that has suddenly become a part of the national debate once again.  The precedent set by this case that has fundamentally shaped American jurisprudence ever since is the idea that federal law takes precedence over state in matters of commercial contracts and assignations, but how could that decision apply to medical marijuana operators?

As state markets claim where federal law will not tread this year, and three states plus the District of Columbia and Guam vote to legalize some type of marijuana reform in November, the questions about federal vs. state pre-eminence has also been a news subject and a topic of debate for both the public and the legal community alike in Illinois and across the country.

Does Ogden have Impact On In-State or Only Interstate Commerce?

Gibbons v. Ogden is actually not relevant in the discussion of the legitimacy of federal law over state when it comes to the issue of marijuana for several reasons.  Ogden is actually a precedent covering interstate trade, not what states may do within their territorial boundaries.

The case is still interesting, however, because of its implications on not only legal commercial development in the state of Illinois (and for markets other than cannabis),  but the larger national debate, particularly in terms of the impact of federal vs. state regulation of an industry. Ogden hinged on the dispute between two steamboat owners who had been awarded the same rights in territorial waters in New York. One owner, Gibbons, had a federal permit, and the other, Ogden had a state permit for the same waters.

In siding with Gibbons, the court established that in matters of “interstate” commerce, the “Supremacy Clause” tilts power to the federal government over state.

Because there is no national “interstate” regulated marijuana trade yet, this is one area where this idea does not directly apply, except to continue the ban on interstate sales.

What Does That Mean For Illinois?

 In Illinois, what this means is that medical marijuana patients and those who serve them are protected at least for now, in a semi-legal state market that is set to begin initial operations next year. Commercial operators, for now, do not have to fear that their state licenses to operate such businesses in the state will be challenged by federal authority, given forward motion on reform on a national level this year.

 That said, owners of medical marijuana establishments in the state of Illinois are bound by both state and federal laws, which are complex and cover areas of both commercial and criminal law. Such complexity is only expected to increase in the near future.

If you are a medical marijuana operator in Illinois, or are engaged in the licensing process currently underway and have questions about how Illinois’ new marijuana law could create criminal liability for your business, you will need the advice of an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney. The Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney has attorneys that are prepared to assist you today.

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