Legal Weed: The Growing Confusion Between State and Federal Law

sentencing guidelinesThe Cannabis Cup was held in Michigan this year.

Medicinal marijuana is legal there, but it’s still illegal for personal use. The acceleration of the legalization process in many states is raising many legal questions. Here are a few answers to some questions about the apparent contradictions between state law, federal law, and constitutional guarantees.

The State of Michigan does not stop this gathering (Cannabis Cup) — are the increasingly obvious economic benefits of legal marijuana behind this apparent willingness on the part of law enforcement to look the other way? Or is it more about compassion for it’s medicinal benefits and confidence in the regulations for it’s use, in a state where medicinal use is already legal?

From what I observed, the Michigan medical cannabis community does an excellent job of self-policing, specifically because the legal use is limited to qualified patients.

The Cannabis Cup itself was well regulated by the private entity that owned the facility where the Cup was held, and I personally did not see anyone trying to flout or circumvent MI law. But, I certainly do not believe Michigan is doing a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” and tacitly permitting a recreational black market.

Another important issue has been raised in Colorado and Washington, which are seeing increased traffic from border state residents seeking legal weed. There is even a developing tourism economy growing around legal weed.  Yet, it’s still illegal to bring across state borders. Is this not a problem in terms of constitutional protections?

On a federal level, crossing state lines with a Schedule 1 narcotic is a pretty serious charge, but the waters are still very murky in terms of enforcement. Individual states, on the other hand, are free to enforce their existing laws.

The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that enforcement of existing federal statutes regarding marijuana are not a priority for them. The ambiguity of this statement leaves ample room for speculation, especially if the country elects a Chief Executive with differing views on the law.

It’s important to remember that despite the victories in the battle for full legalization, there is still much work to be done.

In terms of Constitutional protections, it’s not a problem, provided citizens traveling to CO or WA understand that those protections end at the state line. I’ve read stories about rental cars turning up at Denver International with cannabis products summarily ditched. More importantly, once a cannabis product crosses state lines, it potentially becomes a federal drug trafficking offense.

But, if you want to conduct an experiment in just how fast one can get pulled over, cross from Colorado into Utah wearing a tie dye . . .

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