US Map with a cannabis leaf on it

Certificate in Cannabis Law

Current and relevant curriculum to expand your knowledge of Cannabis Law

The Certificate in Cannabis Law is comprised of 5 self-paced courses. The certificate will take approximately 3 months to complete, or 75 coursework hours. However, each student's schedule and availability will differ. A student may complete the certificate in as little as 6 weeks, but will also have up to 6 months for completion.


This course provides practicing attorneys and related professionals with an overview of cannabis and the legal framework that surrounds it. It begins with a short history of the regulation of cannabis, and then covers the evolution of medical marijuana laws and the impact of these early laws. From here the course examines the current adult-use cannabis laws in various states and how these laws are moving us towards a national approach to cannabis regulation. The course concludes with an in-depth analysis of the foundational questions confronting lawyers who are considering a cannabis practice:

  • Is it legal to advise clients about their cannabis businesses?

  • Is it ethical to do so?

  • Is it prudent to do so?

This course is designed for practicing lawyers and related professionals who are working with cannabis businesses. It provides comprehensive coverage of key legal issues that a lawyer should consider when working with clients in this industry―including business planning, employment, financial matters, licensing, and taxation―in light of current industry trends. The course focuses on California law and policy.

This course examines the criminal law issues that arise from cannabis legalization. It covers federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act, including investigation, intelligence gathering, and eradication programs. It examines generally the approach taken by states around the country. It also explores sentencing and other enforcement mechanisms, such as asset forfeiture. It explores a variety of defenses and other criminal law rules, including medical necessity, reliance on the Cole memorandum and constructive possession. This course also considers whether severe punishment for cannabis offenses violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Finally, the course examines how the Supreme Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has been shaped by aggressive enforcement tactics.

This course explores the main constitutional issues that litigants have raised in cases involving cannabis:

  • Does the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) exceed the federal government’s power under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution when the Act is enforced against a person who grew and used marijuana for medical purposes entirely within the borders of a state that has legalized the medical use of marijuana?

  • Do the guarantees of life and liberty in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments protect a medical marijuana user from criminal enforcement of the CSA?

  • Does the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of one’s religion prevent the federal government from enforcing the CSA against a person who claims the right to use cannabis for religious purposes?

  • Does a business that wants to advertise cannabis products have a First Amendment right to do so?

This course examines the broad range of property-related issues stemming from cannabis legalization that practicing attorneys should be familiar with. The course coverage includes:

  • Zoning and other specialized forms of land use regulation that affect where and how cannabis may be cultivated, processed, and sold.

  • Environmental law and water law issues that affect cannabis businesses. Landlord-tenant issues that arise for cannabis businesses operating under commercial leases, including the drafting, performance, and enforcement of such leases.

  • Intellectual property issues that confront cannabis businesses, such as: (1) Is any form of trademark protection available for cannabis products? (2) Can patent law protect cannabis products or processes? and (3) To what extent can cannabis businesses protect trade secrets?


The Academic Program Team consists of faculty, attorneys, and experts across all avenues of law and cannabis legalization, including Michael Vitiello, Distinguished Professor of Law, John Sprankling, Distinguished Professor of Law, and Francis J. Mootz III, Professor of Law.

Distinguished Professor of Law Michael Vitiello is a nationally-recognized expert on criminal law, sentencing policy, and marijuana law. He joined the law faculty at McGeorge in 1990. His work on California's three-strikes law has been cited by the United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court. Professor Vitiello is the author of 12 books and over 50 law review articles, including his recent launch of a book he co-authored on the topic of Marijuana Law: Cases and Materials on Marijuana Law. His numerous articles on legalizing marijuana take a careful policy-oriented approach to that area of the law, insisting that, because legalization will occur, policy makers need to craft legislation to avoid undue social harm. He also organized several symposia for the McGeorge community, including symposia on legalizing marijuana, sex offenses, and sentencing reform.

Francis J. Mootz III joined the McGeorge School of Law on June 1, 2012, as the school's ninth dean. After his term as dean ended, he joined the law faculty. Previously, Professor Mootz served as Associate Dean and William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada. He has also taught at Penn State Dickinson School of Law, William and Mary Law School, and Western New England University School of Law. Professor Mootz is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Duke University. Professor Mootz teaches and writes in areas such as contracts, sales, insurance, and employment law. Most recently, he has written and spoken about the emerging adult-use cannabis industry in California, focusing on insurance and ethical issues. He served as a Member of the Board of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws from 2006 until 2012.

Distinguished Professor of Law John G. Sprankling is an internationally-recognized authority on property law and the author of 6 books on this subject. His treatise Understanding Property Law is used by law students across the United States; it has also been translated into Chinese and published by Peking University Press. His casebook Property: A Contemporary Approach, written with Ray Coletta, is the first property textbook to be published in both hard copy and electronic formats, and has been used at over 70 law schools. His articles have appeared in journals published at Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, North Carolina, Stanford, UCLA, and other law schools. Professor Sprankling began his legal career with Miller, Starr & Regalia, one of the nation's largest property law firms. He practiced there for 14 years, ultimately serving as its managing partner. After teaching at UC Hastings and Stanford, he joined the McGeorge faculty. At McGeorge, he has served as Interim Dean and as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Special Contributing Faculty and Attorneys:
The McGeorge School of Law has many faculty members and outside counsel who add great value and expertise in contributing to the education of our program by teaching some of the modules.

The following is a list of current members of contributing faculty and attorneys:

  • Daniel Conway
  • Managing Partner, Truth Enterprises
  • Edward Monsour
  • Visiting Professor, UCLA School of Law
  • Jeffrey E. Proske
  • Professor, McGeorge School of Law
  • Dara Szyliowicz
  • PhD, Associate Professor of Management, Eberhardt School of Business, University of the Pacific
  • Ariana Van Alstine
  • Associate, Kennaday Leavitt Owensby PC
  • Jeffrey M. David
  • Associate, Call & Jensen


  • Requirements: JD desired, however not necessary
  • Modality: Online
  • Length: Approx. 3 months; self-paced (approximately 75 hours)
  • Minimum & Maximum Time to Completion: 6 weeks to 6 months
  • Program Director: Clemence Kucera, 916.739.7353,

“As we continue to recruit and develop future leaders, McGeorge graduates are one of the first groups we reach out to."

— Chris Micheli, Principal at Aprea & Micheli, Inc.