And no, we are not talking about Easter. April 20, more colloquially known as “4/20” is the (unofficial) national marijuana smoking holiday. People from all over, especially now in states such as Washington and Colorado that have legalized marijuana usage at the state level, await this holiday all year and will celebrate by…well, getting high.
Federal Versus State Law
4/20 enthusiasts should take pause before deciding to light up in the state of Florida. While Florida law may permit the use of medical marijuana for a limited number of purposes, this is a far cry from marijuana being legal. Even the use of medical marijuana is at odds with federal law on the matter. The Controlled Substances Act governs penalties for the possession, distribution, and sale of marijuana and other controlled substances in the United States.
The Controlled Substances Act, then, is a federal law. In all instances, federal law trumps any state law on a similar matter. That is, if a state passed something in conflict with federal law, the federal law would still be the governing law. Often, the federal government will pass a law on a matter setting a minimum standard for something; in that instance, a state is free to make their standards higher than that prescribed by federal law, but cannot be in conflict or fulfill less than the minimum requirements. With marijuana laws, states can pass legislation making marijuana illegal. This means that you cannot be prosecuted for possession, distribution, etc. of marijuana within the bounds of the law (considering quantity, acquisition, age requirements, etc.) at the state level.
Regardless of the word “legal” thrown around by the states and the media, marijuana is still unlawful under federal law by the Controlled Substances Act. The federal government, however, has issued numerous memorandums, comments to laws, and official opinions indicating that when a state decides to legalize marijuana, federal drug enforcement agencies will not interfere with a person’s possession at the state level. So far, these guidelines have been honored. This essentially means that, yes, marijuana is illegal, but no, the DEA probably is not going to come after you for smoking a joint in your house in Washington or Colorado. For now, recreational marijuana use remains illegal in the state of Florida.
Marijuana . . . Not Just Legal Troubles
While the legal consequences of a marijuana possession conviction can be detrimental to your future, mere use can also have a significant impact on your life. Drug use can affect your ability to get a job, maintain a job, bear children, or have a healthy life. Lawyers and doctors take oaths and are not permitted to violate laws, federal or state. Government employees and private employers are often, sometimes required, to take drug tests as a condition of their employment. Professional and collegiate athletes have strict parameters regarding what they can and cannot put into their bodies and marijuana is one of these banned substances, even in states where marijuana has been legalized. It is important to realize that the consequences of marijuana use can go far beyond those at the legal level.
Orlando Criminal Drug Defense Attorneys
If you or anyone you know has been charged with a drug-related crime whether at the state or federal level, you need to act fast to ensure your legal rights are protected. Our experienced drug crimes defense attorneys at Moses & Rooth will help you navigate the criminal court system to ensure that you are being treated fairly and that all of your legal options are explored, including looking into a dismissal of charges. Contact us at our Orlando office to learn more about state and federal drug crime laws and your rights and responsibilities under these laws.