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Brian Kalt, MSU College of Law

Before coming to MSU College of Law, Professor Kalt worked at the Washington D.C. office of Sidley and Austin in one of the top appellate law practices in the country. He earned his juris doctor from Yale Law School, where he was an editor on the Yale Law Journal. After law school, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Danny J. Boggs, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Professor Kalt’s research focuses on structural constitutional law and juries. At MSU Law, Professor Kalt teaches Constitutional Law, Torts, and Administrative Law.

MSU Debate: A lot of our research has centered around the conflict between federal and state laws regarding marijuana legalization. What implication would removing marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act have on decentralization? Would it be likely to have spillover effects on issues that are not marijuana (i.e. states rights on abortion, gun control, ACA etc.)?

BK: Currently, the federal marijuana laws are concurrent with state laws. In other words, the feds do X, the states do Y, and to be obeying the law you need to comply with both. If the feds don’t ban marijuana anymore, it could still potentially be banned by states, so it would be totally up to each state to decide how to handle it. I don’t think that making a statutory or regulatory change like that would have much effect on the other issues you mention.

MSU Debate: There are a lot of people who argue that other countries watch/model the US system of federalism. Do you think that this is the case for marijuana legalization as well? What are the international implications of federal legalization considering that there are potentially substantial domestic federalism implications to such a decision?

BK: I am not aware of how other countries regulate marijuana. My sense is that rather than a federalist approach they might have variation at the municipal level. But I really don’t know.

MSU Debate: More generally, is the premise of my third question correct? Would you say that the U.S. is still considered a “model” of successful federalism internationally?

BK: Not my area, but my sense is that the answer is “sort of.” I don’t think that other countries admire the level of conflict we perpetrate with our current system—the vertical question of federal versus state—but that they do appreciate the “laboratories of democracy” idea—the horizontal question of state versus state.

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