Even with different states like Washington, Nevada, and California allowing cannabis, there’s no denying it. Federal laws still treat marijuana as an illegal substance and prohibit its use.
As more states move into legalizing marijuana in the years to come, there is a growing dissonance in the air. Operating a dispensary or becoming a grower becomes difficult.
Navigating conflicting state and federal laws is crucial. You’ll need the expertise of a Los Angeles criminal lawyer to guide you. Here are some things you should know to get started.
The History of Marijuana Laws
Before we try to understand the intricacies of marijuana laws at both the state and federal level, we need to understand its history.
The history of marijuana laws is long, complicated, and complex beyond imagination. For example, former AG Jeff Sessions pursued a reversal of Obama-era policies on cannabis. While his ouster meant a positive for marijuana advocates, it continues to be a problem.
Here’s a vital cannabis timeline useful for anyone in the business.
During the 90s, California, the District of Columbia, and four other states pushed medical marijuana laws. This was when federal minimum sentences came after Reagan-era punishments. The wave of legalization came at the status quo until the 2000s, where eight more states followed suit.
The public view of marijuana and its derivatives changed, with the mainstream crowd seeing it as less harmful. Many of the states who first pushed for medical marijuana legalization allowed recreational use too. From the start of the 2010s, another 16 states legalized adult recreational and medical use.
At a state level, many of these states decriminalized marijuana use and possession. The problem comes from federal level laws. Today, 38 states have some form of legalized marijuana, where 11 states have legalized recreational use and Texas, Florida, Ohio, West Virigina and others have legalized medical marijuana program.
The Problem with Federal Cannabis Laws
At a federal level, America still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. What this means is that the government thinks it has no medical value and is easy to abuse. This is a restrictive category, on the same level as heroin, and at a higher position than cocaine and crystal meth.
A strong conflict between state laws emerges as federal laws are placing undue pressure on the industry. To be specific, many laws are problematic for budtenders and dispensary workers. You would need a more profound understanding of the complications coming from an experienced Los Angeles criminal lawyer.
For example, federal laws prohibit the recreational use of marijuana at home. The use of cannabis in the property can thus be an offense that warrants conviction.
Dispensaries and growers aren’t catching a break too. IRS Code Section 280E keeps cannabis-related businesses from availing certain deductions, including:
- Staff training and processing
- Marketing to consumers
- Business transport costs
It leads to abnormal tax rates for dispensaries, which can be prohibitive. Banking institutions also tend to not deal with people connected to the cannabis industry.
Can You Face Marijuana Penalty in a Legal State?
So, can you face a marijuana penalty charge in a legal state? Many of the laws for recreational marijuana use penalize individuals.
For example, Proposition 64 in California legalized the sale of marijuana. The law, however, is available only to businesses that get and operate with a state and local license. As such, possession of marijuana with intent to sell is still a chargeable offense under HS 11359.
While it only merits misdemeanor, it goes up to a felony if you satisfy a few factors.
First, you have a prior felony conviction for a list of serious violent crimes. Sexual violent crimes include murder, sex crimes involving minors, gross manslaughter via DUI, and sex crimes that need sex offender registration.
You also qualify if you have two prior misdemeanor offenses from selling marijuana or possession, or an illegal sale to anyone under 18.
Businesses Can’t Relax
For businesses, it’s vital to always make sure your license is not expiring. HS 11360 mandates all businesses to sell only if they have a valid license.
Remember that the Controlled Substances Act or CSA prevails over states. Thus, local marijuana laws are subject to the provision of federal law. Even then, you’re unlikely to get into trouble if you have a license or under personal use.
Federal laws show an interest only for large-scale traffickers, in compliance with Proposition 64. Remember that federal law is undeniable in federal vicinities.
That said, it’s still best to consult with a Los Angeles defense lawyer to interpret laws. Even with the ouster of AG Jeff Sessions, there is still a chilling effect of the contradictions between local and federal law. Businesses must show vigilance in making sure that federal prosecutors cannot come after them.
Ask a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for More Information
There is an apparent discord when it comes to state marijuana laws and federal marijuana laws. There are clear protections on a state level – and that’s not an issue. However, the problems that federal laws can bring to businesses are evident.
Until there is any clear indication of any changes, it’s best to consult with a Los Angeles defense lawyer. After all, you’d need to get clear answers for safe operation.