Marijuana laws have grown increasingly unclear, starting with medicinal marijuana in the state and now with the legalization of recreational use in California. As both medicinal and recreational laws have been modified at the state level, marijuana remains a federally controlled substance.
Generally speaking, the federal government deferred the issue to individual states during the Obama administration. In 2017, current attorney general Jeff Sessions suggested that might change, startling a growing industry in states like Colorado, Oregon and California. Just last week, though, President Trump said there would be no change at the federal level.
Under the new 2018 laws in California, individuals can purchase legal marijuana at dispensaries. There are limits on the amount you can purchase, where you can consume it and the age of consumption – 21 years old. Only marijuana from a state-licensed dispensary is legal, and with these stipulations.
Users cannot use marijuana on public property, drive a car, or bring it to a university or airport. Landlords and property managers can also tell tenants not to use it on their property, such as in an apartment lease agreement.
In addition to these limitations, employers can ban use. This means drug testing is still a viable reason for termination even though the substance is now legal in the state. Unlike alcohol, which can be measured by breath or blood testing, marijuana intoxication is difficult to measure. Many places have zero tolerance policies to minimize confusion.
While the current administration suggests they will leave state laws alone, it is possible for federal law to overstep local rules. This might happen in cases where large purchases are made, where individuals are cultivating their own marijuana, using the street market instead of licensed dispensaries, or if someone is trafficking the drug across state lines. Marijuana may be legal in California now, but that doesn’t mean consumers can do whatever they please.
More changes are expected as states and the federal government review marijuana policy. At present, federal law and state laws are notably different and it’s possible to violate one or both legal systems. Given the changing environment and uncertain federal approach, anybody facing marijuana charges should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to make sure that your rights are upheld amid the conflicting laws between different levels.