The use, possession, and/or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes is referred to as “medical marijuana.” Medical marijuana is frequently requested as a form of treatment and/or pain relief by people who are terminally ill or suffer from painful or long-term symptoms associated with certain diseases, such as epilepsy, AIDS, glaucoma, and cancer. Medical marijuana is, in general, no different than regular marijuana (or cannabis).
State vs. Federal Law on Medical Marijuana
- Within their borders, a growing number of states have legalized medical cannabis. Marijuana, on the other hand, is classified as a “Schedule I drug” under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which means it:
- There’s a chance it’ll be abused.
- In the United States, there is currently no accepted medical use for it in treatment, and
- Hasn’t been proven to be safe when used under medical supervision.
- As a result, there is a growing debate about the legality of personal medical marijuana use.
On one hand, some politicians and law enforcement officials want to combat illegal marijuana use and control some of the consequences, such as the “wide open sale of marijuana under the guise of medical use.” On the other hand, some health advocates and other drug legalization groups want to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, believing that the drug is an effective treatment for a variety of ailments.
When the Obama Administration took office in 2009, the US government shifted its focus to larger drug-trafficking issues, with the Department of Justice stating that it would not prioritize the enforcement of federal marijuana laws against authorized medical marijuana users or their caregivers. The Department of Justice, on the other hand, resumed its prosecution of medical marijuana providers in 2011, putting pressure on publishers who run ads for dispensaries.
Marijuana Laws for Medical Use
Medical marijuana laws are constantly changing and differ depending on where you live. Marijuana use, cultivation, sale, and possession are all illegal under federal and state law. The federal Supreme Court, for example, has ruled that using, selling, or possessing marijuana, even for medical purposes, is illegal (in the 2005 case of Gonzales v. Raich).
A growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical (and even recreational) use, removing any criminal penalties imposed on doctors who prescribe it or patients who use it within state law’s limits. When California passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, in 1996, it became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. On a doctor’s recommendation, the law allows for the possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes.
State medical marijuana laws usually define the conditions under which the herb can be prescribed, grown, possessed, and used. States may, for example, require written documentation from a person’s doctor stating that the person has a debilitating condition that would benefit from medical marijuana use. States may also require people to present this documentation, also known as a “marijuana ID card,” before being arrested.
Other provisions could include restrictions on the types of illnesses that can be treated with marijuana, such as HIV and AIDS, as well as the amount of marijuana that can be possessed, used, or grown. Finally, some states have additional provisions, such as restrictions on medical marijuana use at work for employees and ID card requirements and fees.
Penalties for Medical Marijuana
Depending on the nature of the offense and the state where the occurrence occurred, penalties for medical marijuana violations may include prison time, fines, or both. The charges are treated as general misdemeanor or felony drug charges in states that have not legalized marijuana for medical purposes.
Although penalties such as prison or fines may still apply in states that have decriminalized medical marijuana, offenses are frequently treated as minor civil infractions.
Punishable circumstances may include, for example:
- Possession of more than a specified amount (in grams);
- The sale of the drug to or from others, particularly a “minor”;
- The cultivation of the drug in jurisdictions where it is prohibited; and
- Marijuana paraphernalia possession
Know Your Legal Rights: Know Your Defenses
Patients arrested on drug charges may use their medical status as a defense, either before or during the trial, to help reduce the severity of the penalties. A patient may also show a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana to reduce penalties and avoid jail time or fines entirely. Finally, due to the clinical nature of his or her health condition, a patient may wish to assert the defense of medical necessity.
It’s crucial to speak with a lawyer who specializes in medical marijuana cases to learn about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to medical marijuana use and/or charges.
From an Attorney, Learn More About Medical Marijuana Laws
Understanding the financial and personal consequences of state and federal marijuana convictions and other criminal sentences is crucial. As a result, if you’ve been charged with a drug crime, your best move is to speak with a criminal defense attorney.
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*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.