State Medical Marijuana Laws

We’ve all heard that adults have been allowed to consume cannabis in 14 states and U.S. territories since June 2019. This measure naturally followed the Vermont legislation, which the governor signed in January 2018. However, apart from allowing cannabis consumption, this legal measure sets no rules for its production or sales and distribution.

In fact, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act.  That means that, on a federal level, marijuana is a highly addictive substance that has no use in medicine. In other words, if we distribute it, we may face federal charges.

But things have surely started to change in recent years. Even the Obama administration issued the October 2009 memo to the federal prosecutors. It instructed them not to prosecute people who sell medical marijuana. That leaves us to wonder how federal and state medical marijuana laws will change in the coming years. Here is what we know so far about the progression of state medical marijuana laws.

An Overview of State Medical Marijuana Laws

In 1996, California became the first state in the union to allow the use of marijuana. With the passing of Proposition 215, marijuana use for medical purposes was legalized in this state. Since then, 32 states followed in the same vein, and several U.S. territories, including the Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the district of Columbia. In addition, 13 more states are undergoing similar initiatives. They allow products that have low THC and high CBD content to be used for medical reasons. However, those states still prohibit the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana.

What Research on Medical Marijuana Has to Say

The Institute of Medicine published a report of their findings on the use of medical marijuana for therapeutic purposes. It states that there is ample scientific data to indicate that cannabinoid drugs, particularly those containing THC, have medicinal uses. They successfully relieve pain, suppress nausea and vomiting, and stimulate the appetite. But they refute the theory that smoked marijuana will have similar benefits. Smoking medical marijuana will still have numerous negative effects on our health. They conclude by confirming that the psychological effects that cannabis compounds have can also be helpful. The feeling of euphoria, lowered anxiety, and sedation can contribute to the therapeutic value of medical marijuana.

There are also additional studies that have proved the beneficial effect of medical marijuana on conditions such as glaucoma, cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis.

State vs. Federal Perspective on the Matter

As previously mentioned, marijuana is illegal on a federal level. But in 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice updated its policy for marijuana enforcement. It stated, among other things, that this legislative body will no longer deter the right of individual states, like Colorado and Washington, to enforce their own legalization and enforcement laws.

In addition, in January 2018, the Attorney General Sessions’ Marijuana Enforcement Memorandum instructed U.S. attorneys to weigh in on all of the factors that contributed to the offense when prosecuting offenders. They should also consider the overall impact of the crime on the community.

The Current Situation

In general, states that do have medical marijuana laws also have a comprehensive patient registry. It offers protection against possession charges for users as long as the amount is within the prescribed limits for medicinal use. What’s more, medical marijuana growers and dispensaries, or “caregivers,” have to obey limitations to a specified number of plants or products per registered patient.

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