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The Will of the People vs. the Federal Government

On February 26, 2015 Cannabis possession became legal in Washington D.C. under local laws. The Initiative was titled "Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014". In November voters overwhelmingly approved the right of their citizens to possess small amounts of cannabis for personal use. When the final votes were tallied 70% of voters agreed that an adult should have the right to possess a drug that is considerably safer than alcohol. The law allows for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use. It also allows an individual to grow three adult blossoming plants in one's personal residence. Our capital was the fourth such jurisdiction to legalize possession of recreational marijuana, following in the footsteps of Colorado, Washington, and Alaska.

But there is a catch. There is always a catch these days when dealing with the inept bureaucratic Federal Government. The problem is possession of any amount of marijuana is a violation of Federal law and subjects a citizen to incarceration if in possession of the smallest amount of marijuana. Admittedly the Feds have had little interest over the past decade enforcing the law but nonetheless it still exists. Therefore it is only logical to ask why? Why would the Federal Government not move to abolish a law that the citizens of the United States don't approve of? In 2013 Gallup released a poll that showed 58% of Americans favored legalizing marijuana. Only 39% were against legalizing marijuana. Just 20 years ago the numbers were dramatically different. In 1993 25% of citizens were in favor of legalization versus 73% against. What has changed? That's a very simple answer. Research involving both science and medicine have provided extensive studies on the affects of cannabis on humans and the risks associated with consumption. No longer can the conservative masses claim that cannabis is a self-destructive narcotic and a gateway drug to "hard" drugs. Certainly some of those that recreationally use cannabis will inevitably move on to harder drugs. That's in their predisposition. Cannabis didn't cause the risks taken by these users. The majority of cannabis users started their mind-altering journey consuming alcohol in their teens. Yet we don't hear the screams of the anti-cannabis establishment arguing that alcohol was the gateway drug to cannabis and then to harder drugs. The reality is truly human nature. The majority of humans seek a way of release from the everyday stress of life. Whether that's consuming a glass of scotch, a hit of cannabis or the ingestion of cocaine, the mind-altering effects of these drugs is the intended goal. A way of forgetting the troubled relationships we have with our spouse, the constant belittling at work, or in many cases the pain our bodies endure from previous reckless behavior or the natural disintegration of our physical abilities. For whatever the reason most reach out for the release, albeit it momentary, of that stress or pain. It's found in the drugs we consume.

Which brings me back to the issue at hand. As I write this blog the Federal Government has done nothing to deal with the paradox at hand. As States continue to legalize cannabis both recreationally and medicinally the Federal Government has done nothing. Cannabis is still banned under the United States Controlled Substance Act of 1970. It is by definition a Schedule 1 drug that is claimed to have a high potential for abuse and has no acceptable medical use. Think about that as you read it. HAS NO ACCEPTED MEDICAL USE. How is it possible that the Federal Government still hangs onto this mantra. How is it possible, that after years of scientific study and the general acceptance by both the scientific and medical field that it does have medicinal value, that the Federal Government has done nothing. Your guess is as good as mine. It seems that Congress just seems to brush aside the will of the people. One can argue whether the majority of Americans want to recreationally legalize cannabis throughout the country. Many polls have been done and the results vary greatly. One cannot argue the pulse of the nation when discussing legalization for medicinal purposes. Almost every poll or vote taken has overwhelmingly sided in the affirmative. There are very few people who are against medical marijuana. I suspect those that are have never had a family member affected by Glaucoma, Cancer or HIV. If they had they would know that cannabis is wildly successful in treating pain and nausea in those patients. It's just a matter of time before those that fight against medical marijuana affected by someone close to them and realize the benefits versus the risks.

I must say hope is not lost. The tide is turning and the Federal Government is now under attack to address the problem. The reality is that the federal Government is basically turning their backs on the violations of the Federal law against Cannabis. The President and Attorney General have basically ordered the DEA to not enforce the law. This however is not practical. It causes those that sell or possess cannabis legally under state law to live in a constant state of fear. They don't know if the Federal directive could change at any time and that they could be arrested and prosecuted under the archaic Federal Law. As stated earlier there is hope. House Resolution Bill 1013 has been introduced by Democrat Jared Polis of Colorado. The bill titled the "Regulate marijuana Like Alcohol Act" removes Cannabis from the United States Controlled Substance Act. It also removes enforcement power from the DE and hands it over to the States for regulation. In addition House Resolution 1014 introduced by Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon seeks to impose a federal excise tax on the retail sell of recreational marijuana once the Federal Government has defederalized marijuana prohibition. So there are members of Congress that see the writing on the wall and are trying to take a common sense approach to the paradox. It seems like a no brainer however there is still opposition to this. How our Representatives and Senators cannot support these bills and fast track the process of passage is beyond my comprehension.

Many people have been charged with possessing or growing marijuana in order to medicinally medicate themselves because the Federal Government legally won't allow it. Just this year a Florida citizen was charged with cultivating marijuana to help ease his physical suffering. The defendant, a 50 year old man from Fort Lauderdale, suffered from chronic anorexia which caused nausea, vomiting, weight loss, insomnia and lack of appetite - and had found relief from marijuana that he was growing himself. His attorney defended the case based on the defense of necessity. The jury found the man not guilty. This gigantic victory - however - came only after the man's life was upended, as he was arrested and no doubt spent thousands of dollars to defend himself in a jury trial. Additionally, his ability to get access to the medicine he needs was interrupted. These are the type of cases that should not happen. The majority of United States citizens agree with the legalization of medical marijuana yet the Government continues to charge people who posses or grow it clearly based on medicinal needs.

So as I sit down and write this blog we have good people all over the Country legally possessing marijuana under state law to help with their physical limitations and pain. Yet they are all criminals. At least according to Federal law. They could be arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated. They could become convicted felons. All because our Federal Government has fallen behind the eight ball and has yet reacted to the will of the people. With all the chaos around the world and problems in this country from terrorists, illegal immigration, and mass shootings one would think this is a softball issue. An issue that everyone in Congress could resolve swiftly and permanently. The people have spoken and spoken loudly. It should be a State issue that is ultimately decided by those voters that live in each and every state. The Federal Government should wake up, realize what the voters have said, and get the Hell out of the way!

At Delgado & Romanik we aggressively represent those charged with possession, sale or trafficking in marijuana. If you find yourself being prosecuted for these types of charges or any drug related crimes please feel free to contact us to discuss your options. We are very passionate about the inequities in the State and Federal drug laws and do our best to get through this unfortunate time of your life.

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