Voters in Maine just made it the 8th state to legalize recreational marijuana use. Right now, 26 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form or another—and, while marijuana possession and use is still illegal under federal law, the Department of Justice has shown a remarkable willingness to bend itself to the rule of the states involved. Yet, you can still end up arrested on marijuana charges in those states if you aren't careful. Here are a few things you should consider.
1. You can only buy marijuana from a legal dispensary or service as defined within in your state.
Each state has its own rules for how people are legally allowed to acquire marijuana. In some states, you can get it for recreational use. In others, you have to have a card from a doctor authorizing you to use the drug for a medical condition that's approved under the law. However, you can only legally acquire the drug through approved channels, which usually are marijuana dispensaries.
That can make it difficult, at times, for people to remain compliant with the law. In Ohio, for example, medical marijuana became legal in September of 2016, but there is no legal way to acquire it—and there won't be for another two years due to a combination of factors including the lack of physician certification, growers, and dispensaries.
2. It isn't always clear what is supposed to happen if you obtain marijuana outside of the state.
The law in Ohio isn't clear on what is supposed to happen if someone obtains marijuana from another state where it's legally available and brings it to Ohio, even if they have an out-of-state card that allows them to do so. That means that people in the state who might have a legitimate need that would otherwise qualify to legally possess the drug could still end up arrested and charged with drug possession under the right circumstances. There are similar problems in other states as well.
3. If you get marijuana from someone else for free or give it to someone for free, you could still be in trouble.
In 8 states, it's legal to give small amounts of marijuana or marijuana-laced items (like cookies) to others. However, do that in the wrong state, or even the wrong way, and you could end up being charged with a drug trafficking crime, even though no money changed hands. For example, in Massachusetts, you can give someone a marijuana gift but if they give you a gift of any value in return, that's illegal and can count as trafficking in drugs outside the regulated market.
Even if you are sure that you aren't going to receive anything in return, make sure how much you are carrying on you at any one one point is still below the legal limit for recreational use. For example, if you have five gift boxes of marijuana in your car for five different friends, and each box contains an ounce of the drug, you're way over the 1-ounce limit that you're allowed to have on you in Colorado.
4. Hire an attorney if you get arrested for a marijuana-related crime.
Are you confused yet? A lot of people are. A lack of understanding of the laws in any one state plus misinformation often ends up steering people the wrong way and they end up arrested on drug charges for marijuana-related crimes, even though they live in a state where medical or recreational use is legal.
If you end up charged with a marijuana-related crime, contact an attorney, like one from Barbour & Simpkins LLP, as quickly as possible.Share