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Medical Marijuana Laws

In the past few years, a growing number of states have made the use of medical marijuana legal under certain circumstances even though it remains illegal under federal law. Medical marijuana laws control the use, possession, growth, and distribution of cannabis or marijuana for medicinal purposes or treatment.

This is a developing area of law and state marijuana laws are constantly evolving. This makes it all the more important to familiarize yourself with medical marijuana laws in order to remain in compliance with the laws in your state.

How Do Medical Marijuana Laws Work?

Generally, each state has its own legal requirements and limits on marijuana or cannabis for medicinal purposes. Every state has their own legislation to address a number of legal issues, including but not limited to:

  • Patient eligibility
  • Qualifying health conditions
  • Limits on the amount or form of cannabis
  • State registration procedures
  • Cultivation of cannabis crops
  • Operation of dispensaries
  • Prohibited uses of medical marijuana

That being said, even in the states where medical marijuana is allowed, there are still legal requirements and limits that must be followed. These laws are meant to regulate not only the patients using marijuana for medical treatment, but also healthcare providers and professionals in the marijuana cultivation and distribution industries.

Medical Marijuana & Patients

Generally, patients must have a qualifying condition as diagnosed and documented by a healthcare provider in order to use medical marijuana. Most states require a patient to provide proof of their residency and medical documentation to a local health department or agency in order to register for a medical marijuana card. These cards are typically required to make a purchase at a marijuana dispensary, and serve as a form of proof of legal possession in the event of any involvement with law enforcement.

The Role of Healthcare Providers

State law also defines the type of healthcare providers that may prescribe or recommend medical marijuana. Depending on the state, this may be a doctor or physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or holistic or naturopathic practitioner.

Providers must comply with state medical marijuana laws as well. A number of states require providers to register with the state health department or other agency before they are eligible to prescribe medical marijuana. Failing to abide by state law may not only lead to criminal charges, but providers may risk their professional licensing as well.

Healthcare providers provide medical documentation to patients, typically by a written prescription or certification, but some states allow providers to give verbal authorization too. Sometimes, a provider may need to submit a petition to the state health department on behalf of a patient to demonstrate the severity of the patient’s condition to qualify for use of medical marijuana if it is not included in the state’s list of qualifying conditions.

Medical Marijuana Laws for Caregivers and Dispensaries

State laws commonly refer to the person responsible for administering medical marijuana to a patient as a “caregiver” or “primary caregiver.” Generally, caregivers are subject to legal requirements under state law because they work so closely with purchasing and distributing medical marijuana and they are involved with a patient’s health care.

One common requirement under state law is for caregivers to register with the state health department. In most states caregivers must be at least 21 years old, but some states allow a caregiver to be 18 years of age. Caregivers typically cannot be under the influence of marijuana or any other substance when administering medical marijuana to a patient.

The marijuana industry also refers to persons involved in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana as caregivers as well. As such, most states have specific regulations for individual growers along with medical marijuana dispensaries for the production of marijuana.

Medical Marijuana & Federal Law

It is important to note that although marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, and the U.S. government does not recognize medical marijuana in any way. This means that people in states with medical marijuana laws can be in complete compliance with the laws in their home state while subjecting themselves to criminal liability under federal law.

One way this commonly occurs is when traveling outside of state lines. For the most part, a patient must reside within the state where they are trying to receive medical marijuana or use it, or be registered to purchase or distribute medical marijuana in the state. However, crossing state lines falls under the jurisdiction, or authority, of federal law. This means that once you cross state lines with marijuana, it opens up the possibility of being charged with a federal crime as it is still an illegal controlled substance under federal law.

While the Department of Justice has directed federal prosecutors not to pursue people who use medical marijuana, people who cultivate, sell, or distribute marijuana, or people who facilitate such activities still may be subject to federal legal action.

Can I Be Arrested For Medical Marijuana?

Yes, it is still possible to be arrested even for medical marijuana. Failing to follow the legal requirement for the use, possession, transportation, cultivation, and distribution of medical marijuana can lead to criminal charges. For example, if you are legally prescribed medical marijuana but the amount you possess is over the limit allowed in your state, a police officer may still charge you with a criminal offense.

In addition, growers who cultivate medical marijuana crops or retail sellers at medical marijuana dispensaries should ensure that they are running their operations in compliance with applicable state law. Failing to abide by these laws may result in criminal charges and being arrested, making it all the more essential to understand the medical marijuana laws and requirements in your state.

Criminal Medical Marijuana Cases

Drug offenses, even for medical marijuana, are serious criminal charges that should be taken seriously. The type of charges you may find yourself facing will largely depend on the facts and circumstances of your situation. For instance, you may be facing a criminal offense such as:

Depending on the state where you were arrested, the charge may be considered either a violation, misdemeanor or felony offense. A conviction can come with serious penalties that can have a lasting effect on your future. Because this is such an upcoming area of law, it can be difficult to navigate on your own so you may decide to consult with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation.

Should I Hire a Medical Marijuana Attorney?

Since medical marijuana laws across the country are changing and growing each day, working with a knowledgeable medical marijuana attorney is an important part of protecting your rights. Anyone who is using or selling medical marijuana would do well to consult with an attorney in order to ensure that they are limiting their legal liability.

A medical marijuana attorney may help you in numerous ways like:

  • Defending against any allegations of misuse of medical marijuana
  • Ensuring that you are in full compliance with the state law
  • Helping you determine whether you are eligible for a medical marijuana license
  • Preparing paperwork or documentation you may need to file with the state
  • Appearing with you in state or federal court in any matter that may arise
  • Negotiating with prosecutors for a plea bargain or to avoid a criminal record

Medical marijuana criminal defense lawyers have a deeper understanding of the criminal court system and the latest developments of the local state laws. This allows them to create a stronger legal defense and fight the charges on your behalf so you don’t have to navigate this overwhelming process on your own.

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