Criminal Law

Marijuana Legality Explained

Marijuana laws vary considerably. The states of Colorado and Washington are the first in the nation to legalize, tax and regulate the recreational possession and use of marijuana. Once implemented, these state constitutional amendments (passed Nov. 2012) will allow individuals age 21 and older to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana at specially regulated retail stores.

The new laws will be very similar to those regulating alcohol. Users will not be allowed to light up in public. Local governments will be able to pass laws banning marijuana possession and use, and in most states employers can bar employees from working under the influence. States can establish blood test limits for driving.

Many states already limit punishment of marijuana possession to a small fine.

Medical Marijuana Softened Objections

California was the first state to defy federal law and legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996, allowing storefront dispensaries in 2004. Today, 18 states have passed laws permitting the drug’s use for medical purposes. In Colorado alone, there are already more than 1,000 medical marijuana cultivation and retail facilities.

Medical marijuana is prescribed by doctors as a helpful treatment for patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, severe pain, severe nausea, epilepsy and persistent muscle spasms. Nearly one million patients around the country currently use marijuana as recommended by their doctors and in accordance with state laws.

The federal government selectively prosecutes state medical marijuana laws, targeting in particular medical-marijuana dispensaries located near schools, parks and playgrounds.

Still Illegal under Federal Law

Federal law categorizes marijuana as a dangerous drug, with no medical benefit, along with heroin. Regardless of state law, marijuana possession, use and sale remain illegal under federal law. Due to a lack of resources and personnel, however, consistent enforcement efforts remain a low priority.

Despite federal law, nearly 30 million people in the United States used marijuana at some time in 2011.

Although the federal government has largely allowed the state-regulated medical-marijuana industry to operate, it decided to take a stand and challenge these new state laws in court, arguing that the laws are pre-empted by federal laws. Additionally, the federal government could take other punitive measures, like denying money to states that legalize marijuana for recreational use.

A Lawyer Can Help

The laws surrounding possession of use of marijuana, whether for recreational or medical use, differ considerably from state to state. Plus, enforcement of the law in this area is Visit to locate a criminal attorney in your area who can help you and answer your questions on marijuana laws.

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