Medical Marijuana Legal Issues

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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. However, even even in states where it is legal, there remain numerous restrictions on its sale and use. There are two main policy determinations for determining the ultimate scope of state medical marijuana laws:

How Does Federal Law Affect State Laws?

A general rule is that when federal and state laws conflict, the federal law prevails. Therefore, since Congress bans all marijuana use, states and their residents are not immune from the federal government enforcing federal laws, even if the drug is permitted under state law.

Note that federal regulation is not limited to federal prosecution. State laws cannot force federal agencies or federal courts to change federal policy. Other federal agencies can be obstacles as well. For instance, the Treasury Department can require that banks deny loans to marijuana dispensaries or marijuana providers without assistance or consultation with the Justice Department.

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.

Should I Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Because medical marijuana laws vary so much between the states, it is important to understand the current status of the law in your particular 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 believe you have a medical defense, it may be beneficial to talk to a criminal defense attorney about your situation.

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Last Modified: 12-18-2014 04:32 PM PST

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