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ASU club says it is a 'legal mind' behind the future of federal cannabis regulation

The Cannabis Legal Association aims to educate undergraduate and law students about the growing legal profession relating to weed


A club at ASU law aims to help students understand the fields of law pertaining to the cannabis industry. 

ASU has often been regarded as a party school, but consumption culture is not only unique to the University, as nearly one in four Arizona teenagers use cannabis, found a 2019 research study.

High legal consumption of cannabis paves the way for a growing legal profession in cannabis, said Ella Smith, president of the Cannabis Legal Association and a second-year law student at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

With cannabis becoming a $17.8 billion industry in 2021, the club allows students to specialize in an emerging field.

"Most facets of the law touch cannabis in some way, whether it's family law, employment law, criminal law, real estate zoning," said Smith.

Lauren Hahn, a second-year law student and vice president of the association, which was created last year, said it is not an advocacy group and it does not discuss consumption at events. The club, which is open to all ASU undergraduate and graduate students, is only about career opportunities in law and hosts networking events, Hahn said.

The Cannabis Legal Association club is partnered with the Arizona Cannabis Bar Association, a group of lawyers who practice cannabis-related law in Arizona. The club hosts events where an attorney from ACBA speaks about their experience, and students can ask questions and receive tips on how to get into the field. 

Arizona law firms have reached out to the association inquiring to fill open job positions with law students from the club, Smith said.

Through emails from employers that the club has connected with about available job opportunities, Hahn found her summer legal internship at a cannabis company. 

"There are all these opportunities out there and without this club, I would have probably never heard of it," Hahn said. 

Due to the legalization of cannabis in Arizona two years ago, Smith said there's more opportunity to "hopefully be part of building equitable and effective cannabis policies" and "shape what federal cannabis regulations look like."

The club also has a focus on social justice surrounding cannabis.

Forrest Zimmerman, a second-year law student and chief of staff of the association, said the club has hosted record expungement clinics in the past, and members still assist with expungement through other organizations and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

Smith said these events help find people in the area who have small convictions for using or possessing marijuana before it was legal to get the conviction expunged, meaning off their record. This prevents that conviction from continuing to limit their opportunities such as being housing or becoming employed, Smith said.

Zimmerman said the expungement procedure is a "relatively easy process," as it's offered online and can be done in one sitting. However, the form can be inaccessible for some, such as those who lack internet or English fluency.

These expungement clinics allow attorneys to communicate directly with Maricopa County about the case and move the process along faster.

As long as you meet the eligibility requirements your expungement is likely, as Zimmerman has "never heard of any denial."

The association also hopes to break down the negative stigma surrounding cannabis. 

"It is taboo still, and so that's something that the stigma we are trying to break just by having these like open conversations and talking about cannabis, marijuana," Hahn said.

Smith said it's critical to educate law students to prevent the industry from getting more and more run by millionaires and billionaires, and people who are not at all related to the communities who have been impacted negatively by the war on drugs.

"It's cool because as we're coming up, we can be the legal mind to potentially shape what federal cannabis regulations look like," Smith said.

Edited by Jasmine Kabiri, Logan Stanley, Piper Hansen and Kristen Apolline Castillo.

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Sherry FanCommunity Reporter

Sherry Fan is a journalism student hoping to educate audiences on underrepresented communities. She has previously worked producer roles for the film company, Summery Productions.

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