Supervised release—part of the original sentence following a guilty verdict—is a system by which federal probation officers monitor prisoners released from federal prison. In imposing supervised release, sentencing judges set conditions that each supervisee must comply with, or risk reincarceration at the discretion of the sentencing judge. Certain conditions of supervised release are prescribed by statute and others are crafted by judges.
If a defendant violates the terms of supervised release by possessing cannabis products, the statutory regime provides the sentencing judge with two options: revoke the defendant’s supervised release and reincarcerate her or, alternatively, release the defendant from the supervised release program altogether. While district judges are not often confronted with cannabis related revocations, as state and federal cannabis laws have diverged, judges have increasingly faced serious questions of penological philosophy when asked to punish those engaged in cannabis use sanctioned by state law but proscribed by federal law. This Note highlights the sources of those burgeoning areas of conflict and suggest numerous ways that these conflicts might be resolved.