One of the biggest headlines after the most recent election votes were tallied was that two states had legalized marijuana. For those of our readers in New Jersey, it was not our state in which the referendums were passed. Colorado and Washington State both passed referendums that eliminated the state laws prohibiting the recreational use of marijuana.
Even thought recreational use of marijuana is legal in those two states, residents should keep in mind that there are metaphorical quotations around the word legal. Federal laws are still applicable, and under federal law it is still considered a schedule I controlled substance.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration issued a statement on Wednesday after the announcement was made that voters in the two states voted for the legalization of the drug. The state ensured residents of those states that “enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also warned residents of the state not to go out and purchase and use marijuana without thinking there could be consequences. Until issues with federal laws are addressed in the state, it will not be considered legal to buy and sell the drug.
Other states also passed medical marijuana referendums that would provide an avenue for cannabis use when medically necessary. A total of 17 states already have laws that make medical marijuana use legal.
Even the states with established medical marijuana laws continue to navigate issues with corresponding federal laws. Tension often exists between federal prosecutors and dispensaries located in states where medical sales are legal over where they are located, how they are run or even what people come to the dispensaries.
Source: CNN, “2 states legalize pot, but don’t ‘break out the Cheetos’ yet,” Alan Duke, Nov. 8, 2012
Navigating federal and state laws that work together or potentially conflict is something that an experienced drug defense attorney is apt to handle. Our law firm helps individuals understand the charges and present a meaningful defense against them.