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The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) outlaws the possession, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana except for authorized research. Twenty states have regulatory schemes that allow possession, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Two have revenue regimes that allow possession, cultivation, or sale generally. The U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause preempts any state law that conflicts with federal law. Although there is some division, the majority of state courts have concluded that the federal-state marijuana law conflict does not require preemption of state medical marijuana laws. The legal consequences of a CSA violation, however, remain in place. Nevertheless, current federal criminal enforcement guidelines counsel confining investigations and prosecutions to the most egregious affront to federal interests.
Legal and ethical considerations limit the extent to which an attorney may advise and assist a client intent on participating in his or her state’s medical or recreational marijuana system. Bar associations differ on the precise boundaries of those limitations.
State medical marijuana laws grant registered patients, their doctors, and providers immunity from the consequences of state law. The Washington and Colorado retail marijuana regimes authorize the commercial exploitation of the marijuana market in small taxable doses.
The present and potential consequences of a CSA violation can be substantial. Cultivation or sale of marijuana on all but the smallest scale invites a five-year mandatory minimum prison term. Revenues and the property used to generate them may merely be awaiting federal collection under federal forfeiture laws. Federal tax laws deny marijuana entrepreneurs the benefits available to other businesses. Banks may afford marijuana merchants financial services only if the bank files a suspicious activity report (SAR) for every marijuana-related transaction, and only if it conducts a level of due diligence into its customers’ activities sufficient to unearth any affront to federal interests.
Marijuana users may not possess a firearm or ammunition. They may not hold federal security clearances. They may not operate commercial trucks, buses, trains, or planes. Federal contractors and private employers may be free to refuse to hire them and to fire them. If fired, they may be ineligible for unemployment compensation. They may be denied federally assisted housing.
At the heart of the federal-state conflict lies a disagreement over dangers and benefits inherent in marijuana use. The CSA authorizes research on controlled substances, including those in Schedule I such as marijuana, that may address those questions. Members have introduced a number of bills in the 113th Congress that speak to the conflict. Only the proposals found in the farm bill (P.L. 113-79 (H.R. 2642)) have been enacted thus far.
This report is available in an abridged form, without footnotes or citations to authority, as CRS Report R43437, Marijuana: Medical and Retail—An Abbreviated View of Selected Legal Issues, by Todd Garvey and Charles Doyle. Portions of this report have been borrowed from CRS Report R43034, State Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: Selected Legal Issues, by Todd Garvey and Brian T. Yeh.
ASIN : B00K4MM16U
Publisher : Congressional Research Service (March 25 2014)
Language : English
File size : 553 KB
Simultaneous device usage : Unlimited
Text-to-Speech : Enabled
Screen Reader : Supported
Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
X-Ray : Not Enabled
Word Wise : Enabled
Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
Print length : 84 pages
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