Why Federal Laws Matter When It Comes to Legal Cannabis
It’s the same story told with different versions. Maybe you have a medical marijuana card, and a doctor in Washington D.C. decided to honor it. Perhaps you took a road trip out to Colorado and purchased some legal cannabis for recreational use. When it comes down to it, neither action was illegal. That is, unless you consider federal law.
As you might already know, marijuana is regulated by state laws. Here in New Jersey, our legislature has identified certain medical conditions for which medical marijuana is approved. Meanwhile, our state is considering making cannabis available for recreational use.
As of March 30, 2018, thirty states and the District of Columbia have cannabis laws. However, their laws apply to individuals who sell, possess or use marijuana while in their state. Once you step over the state line, it’s the same as someone from another country passing over the border.
What does that mean to you? First, there’s always the reminder that weed is federally prohibited. Conceivably, federal law enforcement authorities could arrest you on marijuana-related charges even if you followed state laws. That’s the same reason you can get in trouble – if you decide to take your California pot to New Jersey. Your purchase and use are only good in California.
The Cole Memo
Back in 2013, federal officials recognized the issue with states passing cannabis laws. To address the problems and offer guidance with marijuana enforcement, a memo was issued to all United States Attorneys. It was authored by then United States Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole.
In his message, Deputy Attorney General Cole acknowledges that “Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug…” and speaks of the dangers of its illegal distribution. Although cannabis is illegal on a national level, the memo targets states that have established laws.
In short, the directive speaks of seemingly select enforcement. For example, it speaks out against diversion from states where it is legal, sale to minors or precautions about drugged driving. Many thought the memo gave some relief to marijuana dispensaries, patients, and other cannabis users.
That was then. Within a few days, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo. “After all, good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Many worry about what enforcement will now come to on a federal level. For now, there seems to be some protection in the enactment of the latest spending bill. The bill disallows use of Department of Justice funds to prevent states from implementing and enforcing their own medical marijuana laws. As it stands, this protection ends on September 30, 2018.
The bottom line is that federal laws matter when it comes to legal cannabis.
At the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, we keep up with important changes in the law. We would be more than happy to help you with regards to your issues concerning cannabis. Contact us to set up a meeting.