As states increasingly legalize marijuana, federal laws and their enforcement have become complicated. Despite shifting attitudes, it remains illegal under federal law.
This inconsistency has created disarray and tension. Therefore, we will explain what federal laws oversee marijuana enforcement currently. However, if you need more guidance, or are simply even more curious, consider our reading on a brief history or Marijuana laws.
Federal Marijuana Laws and Their Enforcement
As with most legal issues, marijuana law, especially at the federal level, isn’t exactly clear cut and simple. It is a highly nuanced legal issue that takes time, and dedication to get right.
Whether you are a business owner, a patient, or simply curious, the info in this article below will provide some much-needed clarity. It will also assist you in navigating the convoluted domain of U.S. marijuana laws. From a potential drug possession charge, to a simple misdemeanor.
Controlled Substances Act (CSA)
This federal law categorizes marijuana as a Schedule I drug. According to this classification, it has associations with a high potential for abuse. It also insinuates there is no accepted medical use. Regardless, enforcement of the CSA has undergone drastic changes since it became law in 1970.
Before 2013, the enforcement of federal marijuana laws was notably harsher. Agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) pursued legal action against the marijuana industry. Anyone involved was at a high risk of facing federal prosecution.
There were often raids, confiscations, and other types of aggressive actions. These regular events caused a significant level of ambiguity and instability. Not even legitimate enterprises could continue operating without fear of legal repercussions.
Many states perceived the intense enforcement of federal marijuana laws as a hindrance. Moreover, it caused a divide between states that legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. After all, the highest level of government still treats marijuana as a substance with no redeeming value. Still, there is plenty of important marijuana laws and legislation from 2022 that could change the federal perspective.
The Cole Memorandum
The Cole Memorandum, issued in 2013, had an earth-shifting impact on marijuana enforcement. The memo instructed federal prosecutors to de-prioritize criminal charges in states that legalized marijuana.
This executive order signaled a shift from the bold activities that characterized previous administrations. Furthermore, it gave peace of mind to businesses and individuals in the marijuana industry. This meant that they only needed to remain compliant with state laws to avoid entanglements.
The memo also guided agencies on how to approach marijuana-related activities. They received direction to focus on these tasks:
- Stop the sale of marijuana to minors
- Prevent marijuana revenue from going to criminal enterprises
- Catch marijuana transported across state lines
However, the U.S. government rescinded the Cole Memorandum in 2018. This action signaled a renewed commitment to enforcing federal marijuana laws.
At the time of writing, the government has not seen an official turnaround on this policy. Nonetheless, Attorney General Garland made a statement that his policy on marijuana is close to the Cole Memorandum.
The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment
This amendment prohibits the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering with state medical marijuana programs. It took effect in 2014 and has been in annual federal budget bills ever since.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment has been a milestone victory for marijuana advocates. It protects patients, caregivers, and businesses operating in states where medical marijuana is legal.
However, this regulation only applies to medical uses. It does not protect individuals or businesses involved in the recreational industry. Additionally, the amendment must be in annual budget bills. Otherwise, there is always the possibility that it could get cut in future negotiations.
The Farm Bill
The Farm Bill, passed in 2018, legalized industrial hemp and removed it from the list of controlled substances.
This change effectively legalized the production and sale of hemp-derived products, such as CBD oil. These products are legal if they contain less than 0.3% THC.
The legalization of industrial hemp also had implications for expanding industries. Removing hemp from the list of controlled substances created a legal distinction between hemp and marijuana. However, the Farm Bill did not legalize marijuana at the federal level.
Talk to a Local Attorney About Marijuana Law Issues
Do you feel that you, a loved one, or your company has faced undue pressure related to cannabis? After all, it’s not all simply legal smoking pot in California.
As you have read, you may have more options than prosecutors want you to believe. A local criminal defense attorney who has experience in marijuana law can be a passionate advocate for your rights.