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Questions on the legality of marijuana use

American society’s dalliance with Marijuana has seen some surprising twists and turns and roller coaster rides. News used to be dominated by police crack downs and drug busts and sizeable seizures. Gradually the newsprint and media have switched to coverage of states legalizing the use of marijuana. This singular development has begged the question whether marijuana use has indeed been legalized as it has been trumpeted and whether the legalization has been initiated by the federal authorities. If that were not the case, are the states in a position to legalize use? More important, are these changes of a permanent nature, or are we experiencing a fleeting type of legislation destined to be submerged in the hurry burry of routine life?

The eternal question of deciding jurisdiction

Perhaps the most confusing question is that of deciding jurisdiction of laws. It is universally acknowledged that federal legislation overrides state laws, and any law enacted by Congress gains preference over laws passed by the state legislative arm, and the same holds good as regards any administrative action, presidential order or regulation. Technically, it is a fact that the federal government has not granted permission to legalize marijuana and that would indicate that the government reserves the right to set aside any state ruling and initiate a ban on marijuana use or begin a crackdown on marijuana supply and distribution using the full force of the federal police at its disposal.

The validity of state laws legalizing prescription marijuana use

State vs Federal battle

As of now President Obama supports policies favoring marijuana legalization and is unlikely to deploy federal might to overturn state rulings and begin a crackdown on marijuana use. Reassured by the President’s stand on the issue, states have begun rolling out legalization plans, but states would be cautioned to remember that the situation could hold till 2016 when a new administration takes over and decides whether the policy of acquiescence to state laws should continue unchecked or be countered by stringent legal action on users.

Till the federal government unequivocally clears the air on marijuana use, the continuance of the drug in the federal listing of controlled substances means that marijuana possession will still be treated as a crime likely to invite stringent punishment at any time. Such a stand by the federal government will continue to apply even in those states that have legalized marijuana as a prescription drug because federal law is yet to agree that marijuana has any medicinal value.

The legitimacy of state legislation

Sates like Colorado have legislated to make marijuana use legal if it is issued subject to a medical professional’s prescription, and that too if the drug is used exclusively for medicinal purposes. Even such a ruling fails the test of validity when federal laws treat the drug as a controlled substance possession of which is illegal.

Another aspect of states’ legalization of marijuana is that rules apply only within the jurisdiction of the state, and ferrying marijuana across the border to another state doesn’t legalize possession if the other state insists it’s illegal. But states will continue with legalization programs as long as the federal government turns a blind eye to the drug’ usage and possession.

Also the state’s laws will not prevent an employer for example from conducting a drug test on an employee and refuse to continue the services of that employee if and when he tests positive for the drug usage. Landlords can also make tenancy conditional to keeping marijuana usage out of their premises and properties. Traffic laws may also stand violated if a driver is caught erring in judgment under the influence of marijuana. The distribution of the drug continues to be illegal unless the distributor has obtained a proper license from the state authorities.

Mostly the degree of usage of the drug continues to be guided by laws curbing the use of tobacco and alcohol in that a person may use the drug freely for his own purposes but there are severe restrictions in the manner in which marijuana can be distributed to other users or be used in public spaces where you may risk annoying the public at large.

Is there a degree of permanency to marijuana laws enacted by the states?

At present there is no authoritative figure willing to give a clear answer to this complicated question. By and large there is rising support for the legalized usage of marijuana as a medical drug designed to tackle certain categories of ailments, and most states have stopped short of legalizing any other type of usage. In some states that are vehemently opposed to marijuana usage there is no consensus on legalization.

The indisputable fact remains that federal policies supporting state wide legalization of marijuana are likely to last as long as the incumbent President murmurs support for legalization. A change in incumbency in the White House and change in political leanings in Capitol Hill can bring about a drastic reversal of policies returning the states to the pre legalization era.

If you are considering using marijuana for personal purposes including medical reasons it would be a wise gambit to consult a professional attorney at law in your state. The attorney’s deeper knowledge of basic issues concerning marihuana and its legal conundrums can be useful in guiding personal use with legal safety uppermost in mind. If you are thirsting for legalization in your state, the attorney can bring you closer to political gatherings of likeminded citizens to network the relevant authorities and help push the right buttons to launch a legalization drive.

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