Medical Marijuana Laws and Lawyers

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Which States Have Legalized Medical Marijuana?

The following states have legalized marijuana for medical use:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C.

How Do State Laws Vary for Users of Medical Marijuana?

State laws vary greatly as to the legality of medical marijuana. Some states provide no protection for the users of medical marijuana. In other states medical marijuana has been legalized, but even among these states, there remain differences as to the specific criteria for being a legal user of medical marijuana. There are two main policy determinations for determining the ultimate scope of state medical marijuana laws:

How Does Federal Law Affect State Laws?

As a rule, when federal and state laws conflict, the federal law prevails. Therefore, since Congress bans all marijuana use, nobody in the United States is immune from the federal government enforcing federal laws, even if the drug is permitted under state law.

Update: As of December 2014, Congress has passed a budget provision that prohibits the use of federal funding to prevent state implementation of medical marijuana programs.

Although the use of marijuana for any purpose is still illegal under federal law, passage of this law will limit the number of federal prosecutions in states that recognize medical marijuana at the budget was passed. Individuals and businesses in states that have not passed medical marijuana programs will not be protected.

Note that this provision only limits interference with medical marijuana. If the Justice Department can prove that marijuana possession, cultivation, and/or distribution was for recreational use, the provision would not be an obstacle to prosecution.

Are There Any Limitations to a Medical Marijuana Defense?

Medical marijuana is a strong defense if you are charged with marijuana possession, but it does have its limits:

Medical marijuana is a valid defense, but there should be additional defenses if the prosecution finds a way around it.

Will Medical Marijuana Laws Help Outside of Criminal Law?

No. If marijuana possession caused job termination, property eviction, denial of bankruptcy discharge, or any other civil law issues, medical marijuana laws will not help. Medical marijuana is only a defense against charges of criminal drug possession.

Should I Contact a Lawyer about My Use of Medical Marijuana?

Because medical marijuana laws vary so much between the states, it is important to understand the law in your state. If you are a user of medical marijuana and are unclear on the law, or have been charged with possession or use of marijuana and think you may have a medical defense, it would be beneficial to talk to a criminal defense attorney about your situation.

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Last Modified: 12-18-2014 04:34 PM PST

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