Now that a few states have legalized the sale of marijuana for medical use and Colorado for recreational use, many legal questions have begun to arise about the growing and possession of this substance in regard to different state and federal laws.
At this time, possession or growing of marijuana is illegal on a federal level and in most states. It’s recorded as a Schedule 1 drug which in short means it doesn’t have any medical value and has a high potential to be abused.
Some lawyers advise, “Should you be arrested with drugs in your possession, it is likely that drug charges will be filed. In some cases these charges are misdemeanors, but in many cases drug crimes are charged as felonies.”
However, with locations like Colorado legalizing the substance, how does this apply to federal laws and to laws in surrounding areas? Can a federal officer enforce drug possession laws on someone legally able to possess marijuana within their city? Can the feds supersede state laws? Can someone cross state lines to buy legal marijuana in Colorado and take it back home without breaking the law? Is this legalization a ploy for the federal government to step up and regulate and tax marijuana on a national level? All of these questions are very valid and have just begun to be addressed.
Breaking Down the Answers
• A federal officer cannot charge a person with a crime for possession of marijuana if the person has not committed a federal offense with the drug. A federal offense would be considered transporting the drug over state lines or trying to resell the drug in another state. If the person tried to resell the drug within the same state or did not have the right to possess the drug, state criminal laws would apply.
• Federal drug laws cannot supersede state laws if the activity that is in question remains within the state. Every state has the Constitutional right to make and enforce their own laws without interference from the federal government.
• Someone who is a resident of a state where the purchasing and possession of marijuana is illegal cannot legally cross state lines to make the purchase, nor can they bring the product back into the state legally. If something is illegal in a state it remains illegal until the law is changed. Purchasing the product in a state where it is legal does not make it legal in another state.
• It is possible that the federal government would like to find a way to regulate and tax on a national level, but this is probably an impossible task. The federal government does not have the authority to force any state to change its laws or make something legal or illegal. All the states that currently do not allow the sale and use of marijuana would have to change their laws to allow this and agree to allow the federal government to monitor, tax and enforce the product’s law within their borders.
As time goes on and more locations adopt a policy to allow cannabis to be sold and used within their state, the answers to these questions will change. If you are in the market for a purchase or transaction, it would be wise to contact a legal professional to understand and protect your rights. Eventually, if all the states allow marijuana to be purchased and possessed for medical or entertainment uses, there ultimately may be federal legislation or taxation passed surrounding the plant. Until then, the state in which it is legal will be the only authority surrounding the product.