A 'side effect' - Law student spearheads WSU Chapter of NORML


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Earlier this year, 2L Wayne State University Law School student Alexis Cobau launched the Wayne Law Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and serves as president; her fledgling group currently has about 20 members. A medical marijuana patient herself, who suffers from multiple chronic conditions that necessitate treatment with medication, Cobau’s activism arose almost out of a feeling of obligation.

“While externally I may appear healthy, the medications I take result in chronic nausea and pain,” she said. “While I’m incredibly grateful and blessed that these medications allow me to fight my illnesses, I don’t know I’d be able to bear their side-effects — much less function on a day-to-day basis — without the assistance of medical cannabis.”    

Cobau realized a significant — yet silent — population of law professionals and other highly educated, high-achieving individuals depend on cannabis in order to function.

“Like many, I previously harbored negative stereotypes of those who used cannabis and was ashamed and silent about my own use,” she said. “I realized this silence can be harmful in that it allows these misconceptions to persist.”     

Cobau noted that negative stereotypes associated with marijuana users are a huge obstacle to legislation.

“I hope I can be an example that you can be someone who is successful and contributes positively to society while depending on medical marijuana,” she said.    

“When anyone who associates with me ponders marijuana legalization, I want them to think of me as an example of the kind of person who is ultimately harmed by the government prohibition on marijuana. I hope that through letting people know my story, I can make the reality of what is at stake much more concrete to them.”    

One of Wayne Law NORML’s primary functions is for law students to network and forge connections with those currently in the field of marijuana law.. The group’s first meeting hosted Matt Abel, director of Michigan NORML and who runs a cannabis-focused law practice.

The group also is looking forward to hosting a bake sale, panel discussions, movie screenings and political action meetings. Cobau, whose current focus is on commercial real estate and international trade law, headed to Wayne Law after earning her undergrad degree in Asian Studies with a concentration on Chinese language and culture from the University of Michigan, during which she spent a year in Beijing — her second visit to China, after spending a couple of months as a high school student with a host family in Harbin.

“After my experience abroad, China, and international affairs, were permanently cemented into my life, interests, and career goals,” she said.     

One of the first major projects Cobau took on in law school was organizing a panel last November addressing the Flint water crisis.

“At the time, the crisis had not yet broken national news, which made it even more rewarding when it later did, as it’s rare for anyone advocating for local issues to see recognition of the causes they devote time to,” she said.   

Cobau serves as a representative on the sudent government and enjoys the opportunity to make real, meaningful change happen.

“The small community and invested faculty make for a school that is uniquely situated to be responsive to the needs of students,” she said. “While being on the student board of governors isn't without its challenges, it’s in these sometimes heated disputes over issues — that we’re ultimately arguing about because we’re invested in the school and want what’s best for our fellow students — that I see democracy in its most thrilling, unadulterated form.”    

An alumnus of Gamma Phi Beta, Beta Chapter, Cobau is a campus rep for the Themis Bar Review. She serves on the board of If/When/How and enjoys collaborating with many friends and like-minded individuals on issues of reproductive justice.

“This is especially rewarding because reproductive justice affects nearly all women, making these issues especially pertinent to me as a feminist,” she said.    

Cobau also has worked at the Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center.

“The most rewarding aspect was being able to assist people in a concrete way through my legal education,” she said.    

A native of Grosse Pointe Farms, Cobau now makes her home in Detroit with her boyfriend, Phil, and loves to cook, draw and hang out with her family and cats.