We’ve done it — weed is finally legal! Or is it? As legalization is spreading across the globe, current marijuana charges are now under review, making cannabis consumers hopeful for real change. Long are the days when you would get arrested for smoking a joint. But depending on where you live, you could get a penalty. So this means we’re not there yet. Here’s what’s new in marijuana charges that you need to know.
This new development of weed and law is new and can feel like walking on thin ice for avid cannabis users. And while some countries are lenient on marijuana use, the North has always been somewhere in the middle of illegal and medically legal. But with recent public acceptance and changes in marijuana laws, things are starting to shift for the better. The most important thing every cannabis user in the world should know is their local marijuana laws and know the answers to the following questions:
Can you still get arrested for possession of cannabis?
The short answer is yes, depending on where you live. Issues like possession, sale, or cultivating weed vary from state to state. In Canada, the minimum age to purchase weed is 19 except for Alberta and Quebec. In America, some states ban weed, and others like California and New York legalized it for medicinal and recreational use. But the fact remains that in the US, cannabis isn’t fully legal. “One thing everyone in the United States needs to understand is that cannabis possession is still a federal crime,” says Dustyn Coontz, a criminal defense lawyer and founder of Coontz Law in Michigan. “There are Department of Justice directives that instruct US attorneys and federal agencies like the FBI and DEA not to worry about it if the person is following state law, but that can change at a moment’s notice.”
How have the laws changed since then?
In Canada, the Cannabis Act took effect in 2018 creating a legal framework for citizens on production, possession, and distribution. In the US, cannabis legalization can be dated back to the 1900s. As politicians and public figures noticed an increase of immigrants (specifically Mexican), they also took note of their native customs, language, and medicines they brought when entering the US. One of them being cannabis. While the media and leaders spread fear on the usage of cannabis, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was put into effect, banning the use and sale of recreational cannabis.
Now fast forward to today’s modern world, US political figures view cannabis differently. Yet changes in marijuana law haven’t been as quick as expected. Canada passed their cannabis legalization in 2018, making them the second country to legalize medical and recreational use. In 2008, Michigan voted to pass Medical Marijuana Act for a citizen to obtain, possess, and grow weed. Until 2021 when the court of appeals finalized that judges can no longer sentence a person on probation for medical cannabis. “Cops can still use the smell of cannabis as a pretext for an arrest or a search of someone’s car under the theory that they might be operating while intoxicated,” stated Coontz. “Again, federal laws have not changed.” Cannabis has been used by people for centuries, but the official legalization of cannabis has taken years to happen.
What are the laws cannabis users should know?
It should go without saying that avid weed users should do their due diligence and get to know the laws in their current location. According to Rebecca Pirius, legal editor and attorney, most marijuana regulations are issued on a local and state law level. But the U.S. Congress can enact federal laws for acts that occur on federal property or transportation that affect any movement of goods or services crossing state lines. So make sure you check out your local laws on your state’s website, always stay informed, and use better judgment when using weed in public places.
“And for God’s sake,” says Coontz. “Don’t bring cannabis onto federal land.”