The social landscape of marijuana use has been in a state of flux for the past several years. Many state and local laws are loosening significantly, the states of Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado as well as the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and 25 states have legalized medicinal use of marijuana in some form. Laws are different in each place, which leads to considerable confusion concerning what's actually legal and what isn't. Following are five things that you need to know about the legal status of marijuana.
You Can't Take it With You
If you live in a state that borders one where marijuana use is legal, you cannot purchase it in that state and then legally transport it back to your home state. It is illegal to transport marijuana across state lines no matter whether you're driving, riding a bike, walking, or flying. Although state laws vary, this is a federal law, and authorities on the borders of states where marijuana is legal are alert to signs that people may be transporting.
Employers Still Have the Right to Drug Test
One of the biggest misconceptions about legalized marijuana is that you can't be fired from a job if you test positive for marijuana. Your employer still has the right, however, to terminate your employment in the event that you test positive. Employers can also refuse to hire applicants who test positive for marijuana, and, unfortunately, in most states you can be fired from a job or not offered one even if you qualify for a medical marijuana card under the laws of that state.
Marijuana Is Not the "New Cigarette"
Critics predicted that states where citizens voted to legalize marijuana use would quickly become places where clouds of marijuana smoke was the norm. However, unlike tobacco, smoking marijuana in public is illegal in all of the states where recreational and medical use is legal. That means you can't simply light up in a park, for instance, or take an outside smoke break in front of a bar the way so many people do with tobacco now that indoor cigarette smoking is banned in most places. You also may not have the right to use marijuana in a hotel room or other rented property -- business owners and landlords have as much right to refuse marijuana smoking on their property as they do to enforce "No Smoking" in regards to cigarettes and cigars.
It's Still a Federal Crime
One of the slippery legal slopes involved with both recreational and medicinal marijuana is that it remains a federal crime. Although local law enforcement officers in states where marijuana is legal won't arrest you under federal law in most circumstances, they will if the act takes place on federal property. For instance, recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington, D.C., but there are 18 square miles of federal property within its city limits. The same applies to the other states where it has been legalized. For instance, those who have been caught using marijuana while visiting a federal park may face entirely different charges than if they were on state or city public property.
Buying and Using Black Market Marijuana Remains Illegal
Another issue that causes confusion, even in states that have legalized marijuana, is that buying, selling, and using black market marijuana remains illegal. Consumers often erroneously believe that legal marijuana covers all types, but it only applies to marijuana that is sold through dispensaries or other legal channels.
Laws involving both medical and recreational use of marijuana continue to evolve as more and more states either legalize or decriminalize it, so be sure to seek out the services of an experienced marijuana defense attorney. That person will be current on any and all new legislation.