Why It’s Not Illegal to Smoke Medical Marijuana
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 02/02/2011 in Medical Marijuana
Fifteen states plus Washington DC have passed laws that allow the medical use of marijuana—and several others have laws pending. (Click here for a synopsis of all state medical marijuana laws). These laws protect patients, doctors and caregivers despite the fact that marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug by the federal government. Because the federal government doesn’t recognize the medical use of cannabis, many people are confused as to why it’s not illegal to use medical marijuana. There are a few reasons why.
First, states are constitutionally allowed to make their own laws. And furthermore they are not required to enforce federal law or prosecute people for engaging in activities prohibited by federal law. Therefore, each state’s medical marijuana laws do not put them in violation of federal law.
Secondly, federal prosecutors rarely make arrests for marijuana. It’s typically up to the state to handle those types of arrests. Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports and the Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics show that approximately 99 out of every 100 marijuana arrests in the U.S. are made under state law, rather than under federal law. Consequently, changing state law will have the practical effect of protecting the vast majority of seriously ill patients who have a medical need to use marijuana from arrest.
And finally, in October of 2009 the US Deputy Attorney General issued a US Department of Justice memorandum to all United States Attorneys that recommends against prosecuting patients using medical cannabis products according to state laws. While it was only a recommendation and not a requirement, it still gives many patients and cannabis related business more peace of mind that the federal government will respect their state’s laws.