Pot. Mary Jane. Weed. The Devil’s Lettuce. Kush. Medicine. Whatever you call it, marijuana is a hot topic these days. As the number of states that have legalized pot grows each year, so do the questions about how these developments will apply to employment, driving, law enforcement, and many other situations.
If you’re wondering “is pot legal in my state” or “what are the next states to legalize 2019,” the short answer is, “It depends.” While laws governing decriminalized states, medical cannabis, and synthetic cannabinoids are changing rapidly, here’s a brief overview of marijuana and the current laws. The three main questions about cannabis are: what is it, where is it legal, and what is synthetic cannabis?
1. What is cannabis and why is it illegal?
Cannabis comes from the plant cannabis sativa, which can be grown in almost any climate or indoors. The main active ingredient is tetrahydro-cannabinol, otherwise more widely known as THC, which produces the “high” feeling typically associated with marijuana. A second active ingredient, Cannabidiol (CBD) has been in the news in the past few years with many people claiming that certain strains of cannabis with increased levels of CBD can offer some of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana without the “stoned” feeling.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, which includes CBD. In fact, cannabis has been illegal at the federal level since the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This legislation was replaced by the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s that established schedules for classifying legal and illegal drugs, including marijuana. Although there are increasing efforts to change these laws and the Drug Enforcement Agency has altered the way it sometimes handles marijuana cases, currently this is still the prevailing law of the land in the United States.
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2. Which states legalized pot?
Like the answer to many legal questions, the answer to whether weed is legal in any state will depend on how you define “legal.” Despite conflicting federal laws, ten states have fully embraced legal marijuana by allowing recreational use of the drug. In states pot is legal, there are still strict rules regarding taking marijuana out of state. Many people are also surprised to learn that even in these states, that a person can still be charged with driving while impaired by cannabis, even if it requires more than a breathalyzer to prove the charges.
In other states, such as Mississippi and North Carolina, cannabis is still illegal however possession has been “decriminalized.” These means the penalties associated with marijuana may be reduced or eliminated. Finally, there are states such as Alabama where marijuana is still fully illegal and will be prosecuted as a crime.
Medical marijuana is another issue that complicates the answer to this question. Although the number can change with each election, currently 33 states now allow some form of medical marijuana. These laws vary widely from state to state, with some states requiring an ID or registry and other states still sorting out how the laws will work. The conditions that will allow a person to use medical marijuana are also different under each state’s law.
For example, Louisiana passed its laws in 2015, however medical marijuana is still not expected to be available until May 2019 at the earliest. Since that law, the list of eligible conditions has expanded twice to include PTSD, Parkinson’s disease, and glaucoma, among many others. Likewise, in Arkansas, medical marijuana has been available since January 2019, but it is still illegal recreationally. Special interest groups are planning a push to change that in 2020.
3. What is synthetic marijuana and is it illegal?
If the laws regarding the marijuana weren’t confusing enough, “synthetic cannabinoids” started to hit the markets in the mid 2000s. Essentially, these chemical concoctions tried to use legal substances to remake an illegal drug. As the use of these products grew, so did alarming reports of users passing out, becoming violent, and even bleeding from the eyes.
The DEA and federal legislatures have made several attempts to ban the formulas and compounds that make up synthetic marijuana. However, this has allowed manufacturers to try to stay one step ahead by constantly updating their formulas to something that isn’t technically illegal. Many states, including Louisiana and Alabama, have enacted additional laws to try to combat the the ever-changing formulas that make up synthetic cannabinoids.
Have you or someone you love been injured in an accident involving marijuana?
Whether you were injured by someone under the influence OR you’ve been injured and you tested positive for cannabis, contact us for a free case evaluation. These claims require specific evidence to prove that the drug caused the accident. We will work with you on a contingency-fee basis to gather this evidence and prove your case. You may be eligible to file a claim for medical costs, emotional distress and further damages. Fill out our free case evaluation form to see if you are eligible for a claim. An experienced motor vehicle accident attorney at Morris Bart will assist you in the evaluation process. Initial consultations are free. We have office locations throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. Call us at 1-800-537-8185 today.
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