Cannabis used for medical purposes, also called medical marijuana, has sparked various debates. While it has garnered reactions such as controversy, confusion, and curiosity, medical marijuana continues to make its name as a substance to ease various ailments. Patients suffering from conditions such as AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, cancer, and illnesses with painful symptoms have turned to this alternative treatment because of its reported benefits.
Access to this treatment is riddled with complexities. Each state has its laws about how to handle this treatment. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the intricacies surrounding medical marijuana and the legal challenges one might face. This article will explore the laws and rules related to the medical use of marijuana.
Federal Stance on Medical Marijuana
A growing number of states are welcoming the medicinal use of cannabis, leading to rapidly changing laws and decriminalization of marijuana throughout the U.S.
Medical marijuana, also known as medical cannabis, is a derivative of the Cannabis sativa plant. The substance eases symptoms of some medical conditions but, under federal laws including the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is still classified as a Schedule I drug. The Schedule I category is the most addictive and dangerous tier in the scheduling system.
Schedule I substances are regarded as having more significant potential for drug abuse. It is also considered as having no accepted medicinal use in the country. The CSA also prohibits the distribution, dispensation, manufacture, and possession of Schedule I drugs such as marijuana. An exception applies to research studies approved by the federal government.
Recent Changes in Marijuana Laws
In 1970, the CSA categorized marijuana under Schedule I status. The Schedule I status meant that this substance was strictly under regulation by the federal authorities. Over the past few decades, states have begun to decriminalize medical marijuana, with some allowing cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of this Schedule I substance.
On the 6th of October, 2022, President Biden announced a reform of the policy that controls marijuana. First, the President pardoned all federal charges for simple possession of marijuana. He then asked the Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review marijuana policies. The focus is to reassess the federal policy's classification of this substance.
The Complexities of Selling Medical Marijuana
Even though people are becoming more open to the medicinal aspect of marijuana, the economic part of it still faces challenges. For instance, the selling of medical marijuana products, and the banking that is necessitated by its sale, face a complicated balance.
Many financial and banking institutions hesitate to extend marijuana-related business (MRB) services, mainly due to the federal illegality of the substance. In addition, cannabis products still being classified as a Schedule I controlled substance continues to complicate banking transactions, as they are technically illegal. Most banks are wary of violating the anti-money laundering laws by transacting with federally unlawful marijuana dispensaries.
There are several reports of MRBs being unable to access banking services. There were also cases where MRBs have had their banking relationships terminated, with the reason cited being their involvement in the cannabis industry. This causes some cannabis providers to operate mainly through cash, which poses a security threat and accounting issues. As acceptance and legality increase, so do the financial options for the MRBs.
The challenges of banking and selling medical marijuana show the complex landscape of this issue. Various factors are in play that extend beyond the public health benefits of the substance. This article will explore more about the laws and rules related to the medical use of marijuana.
Benefits and Challenges of Medical Use Cannabis
Despite the intricate federal rules, many states started adopting regulations for medical marijuana use. As of the 24th of April 2023, 38 states allow the medical use of cannabis products.
The Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) published a report that looked into the possible therapeutic purposes of cannabis while also noting that smoking marijuana, which is a raw method of consuming THC, introduces harmful substances.
The study concluded that medicines coming from cannabis plants, mainly THC, could have potential benefits. These benefits include the following:
- Relieving chronic pain
- Controlling vomiting and nausea
- Stimulating appetite
The psychological effects of cannabis include:
- Reducing anxiety
- Triggering euphoria
- Causing sedation
These psychological effects may vary in each case. While these effects sound helpful for some, the effects may be undesirable for others. The psychological effects of the substance add more challenges to understanding its full impact.
Moreover, studies also found marijuana was effective in relieving some symptoms of the following diseases:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
State Medical Marijuana Laws
In 1996, California passed Proposition 215, which became the first system for medical marijuana legalization in the world. Proposition 215 was also called as Compassionate Use Act. It became a turning point for cannabis policy reform in the United States.
With this law, any adult user in California with qualifying health conditions could get a written recommendation, which would also grant them the right to use, own, or grow marijuana plants. In addition, Proposition 215 led to the creation of various medical marijuana dispensaries.
After California enacted Proposition 215, other states followed suit. At present, the following states have medical marijuana programs:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
These states have medical marijuana programs that define the amount of marijuana allowed for personal use. Some states have specific requirements on what marijuana products are permitted. For instance, in Mississippi, the law authorizes CBD oil if the product contains more than 15% cannabidiol or a dilution of the resin, but it cannot contain more than 0.5% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In Florida, the sale of marijuana with THC below 0.8% and above 10% CBD by weight is allowed. To learn about specific rules regarding the possession or use of medical marijuana or recreational marijuana in your state, this article by FindLaw offers more detailed information.
Medical Marijuana Caregivers
A medical Marijuana caregiver (MMJ caregiver) is an individual who can pick up the substance from a dispensary on behalf of a qualifying patient. They are responsible for caring for and assisting the patient in administering the cannabis plant. This is usually the case for patients who can no longer travel to pick up their prescriptions.
The term caregivers is also used for small cannabis growers allowed to cultivate a certain number of cannabis plants for each qualifying patient. Note that state laws could regulate this matter locally, and caregivers' responsibilities may vary in every state.
How Law Enforcement Handles Medical Marijuana Cases
Even though more states are legalizing medical marijuana, law enforcement authorities are still trying to keep up with the rapid changes in marijuana policy. Each jurisdiction may also have different zoning requirements and apply different approaches to handling related criminal penalties.
In some states like Massachusetts, laws were in place to remove past criminal charges related to marijuana possession. The process is otherwise known as the expungement of criminal records for possession of marijuana.
Still, a person may face criminal penalties for making false statements about any circumstances related to the use of medical marijuana products. The penalties may also vary in every case and depend on each state law. The state may impose imprisonment, fines, and other criminal penalties.
Navigating Medical Marijuana Laws With an Attorney
Learning about the rules and regulations surrounding the use of medical marijuana is essential. This is particularly true for those who are using marijuana products for treatment or even for recreational use. Knowing the laws is also crucial for caregivers and providers of medical marijuana.
Due to the ever-changing laws surrounding this substance, it is recommended that you consult an attorney near you. They can provide you with a better understanding of the Controlled Substances Act and guide you through the legal adult use of marijuana.
A criminal defense attorney may also be helpful for those previously convicted of drug crimes related to this substance. This includes the possession, sale, or use of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia.
FindLaw has a directory of criminal defense attorneys in each state. They also have various resources that you can access for free. These articles will give you a better understanding of this topic's issues.