Cannabis Law is Chaotic: Avoiding Misinformation Online

The internet is a badlands of misinformation on cannabis law and policy. Less than stellar takes may be amplified on news sites, giving them a veneer of authority. Social media platforms, from X to LinkedIn (where all the pros are said to be) don’t have nonsense filters. This dynamic is not new! However, things reached a fever pitch this year with the ruckus around schedule III, and most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court gutting Chevron deference.

Life is short, so I don’t plan to triage bad online takes today. Instead, I’d like to highlight a few reliable sources for you, a discerning consumer of cannabis legal news and analysis. I’m sure I’ll miss a few deserving sources as we go; if you find yourself in that camp, I promise it wasn’t intentional.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports

CRS serves as a “nonpartisan shared staff to congressional committees and members of Congress.” Its reports are usually five to ten pages. These tidy summaries cover cannabis law and policy topics, and related effects. CRS writes in plain language, so that every last member of Congress can hopefully understand them. Relevant reports are also updated from time to time. Here are some recent examples:

CRS reports are a good primer on “what the law is” and related policy considerations. Thus I recommend them.

Think tanks

Don’t trust the government? Perfectly understandable with cannabis. Fortunately, a number of think tanks exist with strong output on the topic. If you like, you can probably find one aligned with your politics. Here are a couple that have done notable work in the space for years:

The RAND Corporation

RAND is a nonprofit, nonpartisan global policy think tank. Their cannabis archive goes back over 20 years. RAND has taken the deepest of dives on just about everything cannabis, including challenging issues like state program architecture and tax policy.

The Brookings Institution

Brookings is another nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. John Hudak and others have contributed a robust archive going back to 2015, including a slender history book of sorts that I used to assign to law students. Brookings’ longer-form content tends to be more approachable, but less comprehensive, than RAND’s.

The CATO Institute

This is a nonprofit, libertarian think tank. I’m listing CATO because it has a strong, anti-prohibition stance which should appeal to readers of this blog. CATO’s cannabis offerings are pretty diverse – you’ll find think pieces mixed in with op-eds and newsy offerings.

Legal blogs

Don’t want to read wonky things either? In that case, there are a handful of good legal blogs out there on cannabis law and policy.

Canna Law Blog

We have published thousands of articles on this blog since July of 2011. As its editor, I will stand by anything you find on these pages. Our goal is to provide thought leadership and practical analysis for cannabis industry stakeholders – often in real time.

On Drugs

This blog kicked off about three years ago. It was originally authored by wiz kids Matt Zorn and Shane Pennington. Now it’s just Matt, but it’s certainly still worth following. On Drugs skews toward administrative law concepts and suing the federal government. Some of the content here will be less approachable for laypeople, but it can be a real treat.

Kight on Cannabis

If you are interested in hemp law and policy, this may be the blog for you. Rod has written on these topics for many years as a strong advocate for hemp growers. Rod also takes clear positions on legally problematic topics– which is basically the whole of hemp. You don’t have to agree with Rod to give him his due for thought leadership.

Other law blogs

These days, there are many other law firm blogs scattered about the internet. Some publish more frequently than others, and to be honest I’m not familiar with most of them. Generally speaking, these blogs post cautious, reliable analysis. That said, I’ve seen problematic output from lawyers as well. To that point, remember: law blogs are not legal advice.

News sites

News sites dedicated to cannabis tend to come and go. By and large, these are pro-cannabis outlets and they do a better job covering non-business issues than most of the cannabis law blogs. Other news operations like Forbes and Politico cover cannabis closely, but not exclusively.

Below are a few of the heavyweights dedicated to cannabis, only.

NORML Blog

The National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws has published on the NORML Blog going back to February of 2008. Output has dipped a bit in the past year or so, but these old heads still run a dozen or more news pieces monthly. The NORML Blog also runs advocacy op-eds from its directors.

Marijuana Moment

This is the best website for beat reporting and breaking cannabis news. Tom Angell, Kyle Jaeger and others have done yeoman’s work, including bill tracking, for over a decade. The site also publishes the occasional op-ed piece, but please use discernment here – last week featured one strong piece and one wild take on the very same topic, for example.

Other

Sites like Cannabis Business Executive and Marijuana Business Daily tend to run a mix of news and opinion pieces. They may also republish other media (like the Canna Law Blog, with permission). These sites aren’t perfect; but then again, even mainstream media sometimes struggle in this space. Again, please use discernment when reading opinion and advocacy work on cannabis news sites.

Social media

This is where you need to be so very careful. Sites like X can be great for following cannabis reporters like Tom Angell or Politico’s Natalie Fertig, to name a few. As with lawyers, some of the reporters are more focused on cannabis than others, and some are just better than others.

On the legal side of social media, some of what gets amplified across the networks isn’t worth your time. Much of it doesn’t even come from lawyers, to start. So for every Marc Hauser or Shane Pennington or Hilary Bricken posting or curating useful information, ten people (and twenty bots) are doing the opposite. Fortunately, it is easy to find good information on cannabis law outside of social media. I recommend it.