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Medical Cannabis Laws

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What Is Medical Cannabis?

Medical cannabis, or medical marijuana, refers to the use of the marijuana plant for treating various medical conditions. Some states have legalized the use of marijuana for ailments such as glaucoma, AIDS/HIV, cancer, various bodily pains, arthritis, and other uses. The term "medical cannabis" can refer to a number of forms of treatment, including:

  • The leaves of the plant (used for smoking, ingesting, and other uses)
  • Concentrates or derivatives of the marijuana plant (extracts of THC, the main active component in marijuana)
  • Pills or capsules derived from marijuana
  • Edible products made with marijuana

Medical marijuana generally does not include synthetic marijuana products (such as Spice or other synthetic drugs), as these are generally illegal under most state laws.

Which States Have Legalized the Use of Medical Cannabis?

A number of states have now legalized or decriminalized the use of medical cannabis. These states include: AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, IL, ME, MA, MD, MI, MT, NV, NH, NJ, NM, OR, RI, VT, and WA. The District of Columbia has also legalized medical marijuana. Some other states are also considering similar legislation to decriminalize the medical use of marijuana.

While medical marijuana use and possession is decriminalized in these states, the patient must generally obtain a license (ID card) to purchase marijuana and marijuana products from certified vendors. Some states require that the patient be receiving ongoing care from their physician in order to maintain medical marijuana use.

The exact details of state medical marijuana laws will vary by state. For instance, glaucoma is a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use in Connecticut but not in Delaware. Similarly, PTSD is a qualifying condition in Maine but not in Maryland. Thus, medical marijuana laws often depend on the condition that the patient seeks to treat using medical marijuana.

Can I Face Criminal Charges for Medical Cannabis?

While some state laws have decriminalized medical cannabis, federal laws still prohibit the possession, sale, distribution, and use of marijuana. Thus, a person can still face federal misdemeanor or felony charges. The type of charge will depend on the amount used or possessed, and whether or not the person was engaged in the sale of the substance.

Also, even in states that allow medical marijuana, a person can still be charged with a crime for:

  • Purchasing the substance without a license or approval
  • Selling or reselling the substance without proper authority to do so
  • Possessing an amount above the limit allowed by state law (this may vary by state)

Again, state laws vary widely when it comes to medical cannabis laws. You may need to research the laws or hire a legal professional if you have any specific questions regarding the laws in your area.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Medical Cannabis Laws?

Medical cannabis laws are different in each state; they are also subject to frequent change and revision. You may need to hire a criminal law attorney in your area if you have any questions or concerns regarding the drug laws in your state. Your attorney can inform you of your rights and options under the law. Also, if you’re facing any criminal charges or other legal issues, your lawyer can provide you with representation in court as well.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-08-2016 12:33 PM PDT

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