What Every Card Holder Needs to Know About Federal Law

by: Rachelle Ferraro

If you have a medical marijuana card in Arizona (or one of the other 27 states or D.C.), you are allowed to possess and use marijuana under state law. But that does not change the fact that the federal government still views your possession and use to be illegal. So can I get into trouble through the feds even though I am following Arizona law? The answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no, and maybe.

You can still violate federal law if you are using or possessing in Arizona if you are on federal land or federal buildings. You cannot possess or use marijuana in an airport or on an airplane. You cannot take your marijuana camping in a national park; or  driving across state lines to one of twenty-two states who have not yet legalized medical marijuana.  You can be terminated from your employment for being a cardholder if your job receives federal funding and/or holds federal licensing that could be affected. And you could lose  FAFSA (student financial assistance) if you are convicted of any drug offense (even for possessing your medical marijuana on a college campus-another prohibited area).

Also because the federal government considers you to be using marijuana illegally, they consider you a prohibited possessor so you cannot  possess a weapon under federal law. So if the feds can ignore the fact that Arizona law allows a person to possess and use medical marijuana when it suits them,  where does that stop?

Why Don’t the Feds Raid Dispensaries if they believe them to violate federal law? In 2003, Congress passed a budgetary amendment (the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment) that  forbids the Justice Department  from spending any federal money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana programs. That law must be renewed every year by Congress to continue to protect state medical marijuana programs from federal raids. The most recent amendment will expire April 28, 2017.  

What will happen under the current administration and Republican majority Congress is unknown. Although President Trump has expressed his inclination to leave the States to decide medical marijuana, he has been known to change his stance especially when big business is interested in the outcome. Likewise, the Republican party which is traditionally in favor of relegating control to the states, tends to want to control issues they deem “moral” at the federal level.  Large pharmaceutical companies do not want to see medical marijuana eat into their profit and have already  played a role in campaigns and spreading false propaganda against  marijuana legalization at the state level.

The recently confirmed Attorney General,  Jeff Sessions, has historically been opposed to medical marijuana and he will be heading the Justice Department that has been kept at bay since 2003 through budgetary restrictions imposed by Congress.  Last year, the DEA declined re- Scheduling of marijuana and just recently added CBD as a Schedule I drug classifying it too as having no currently accepted medical use in treatment.

This writer is concerned about the future of medicinal marijuana despite that fact that the majority of Americans and states are clearly in favor of it.

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