As of November 2020, four states, New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana, have joined the movement to legalize and sell recreational marijuana. Mississippi will be implementing a system for medical marijuana. As more and more states make it legal to buy marijuana for personal use, you should read up on what that really means for you.
Here are four essential things to understand before you buy marijuana.
1. The Laws Are Tricky
The legality of marijuana is different from state to state. As of late 2020, 20 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and 15 (plus Washington D.C.) allow it for recreational use. However, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you can use it however you want.
In states that allow you to buy marijuana for recreational use have restrictions in place. In most areas, you can’t smoke (or use edibles) in public, you can only keep a certain amount of plants in your home, and you can only buy and possess so much.
Federal vs. State Legalization
From the federal perspective, marijuana is still regulated under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I substance, like cocaine or heroin. But, as we already said, marijuana is legal in states. So how can it be illegal and not at the same time?
Due to a clause in the Constitution, states have control over their marijuana laws. However, so long as it remains a Schedule 1 substance, people can still face serious charges for breaking federal laws. These laws prevent:
- Money from sales going to fund “criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels”
- Sales to minors (anyone under 21 years old)
The crossing of product between state lines
- A rise in DUIs
- Possession of marijuana on federal land
2. Buying at a Dispensary
Due to the federal restrictions on marijuana sales, dispensaries almost exclusively accept cash as their only form of payment. This is because federal banking institutions aren’t allowed to participate with vendors selling an “illegal” product.
When buying at a dispensary or from a “bud-tender,” you need to show a form of ID that proves you are 21 years old or older. This can be a driver’s license, passport, state-issued ID, just so long as it proves your age. You won’t be allowed through the doors of the dispensary without it.
Dispensaries don’t allow returns and often work exclusively on a cash-based system.
3. How Much You Can Possess
The question of how much marijuana you can buy or possess is a common one; the answer is different depending on the rules of your state, but they all follow the same federal guidelines. No moving with the product to other states, smoking in public, selling to minors, and so on.
So, while federal laws dictate that you are not allowed to take any type of cannabis products across state lines, you do not need to live in the state you are buying from. Some states have capitalized on this and promote “cannabis tourism.” Whatever state you are in, you need to be aware of marijuana laws for possession and consumption.
For example, in some states, like Michigan, adults have access to recreational cannabis. Still, they cannot have more than 10 ounces of marijuana in homes or carry more than 2.5 ounces while traveling.
You are also permitted to own up to 12 marijuana plants in your home, out of the view of the public, in Michigan. Other states, like Washington, forbid the growing of the plants for personal use.
While you can sell and even grow your own marijuana, selling it as an individual is a punishable offense. Having a large number of marijuana plants or an excessive amount of cannabis is a criminal offense.
Carrying more than one gram or owning more than six plants in California is considered a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of $500 and/or as long as six months imprisonment.
Possession of more than 10 ounces of cannabis (but less than 4 kilograms) in Michigan is enough to warrant a $20,000 fine and a prison sentence as long as four years. If you own more than the legal amount, you could be seen as having the intent to distribute marijuana.
4. Drug Testing
If you consented to random or scheduled drug tests when you were hired at your job or are required to take them as an athlete, you should know how recreational marijuana affects you. In states where marijuana is completely legal for medical and personal uses, it is still legal to be tested for cannabis use. For example, if you live in Virginia, you can take a look into getting a Virginia medical marijuana card. Certain areas have protections in place if you have a medical card and use it for a chronic illness; however, the laws are not clear everywhere.
No laws forbid employers or coaches from giving drug tests for marijuana use in legal states. This is because cannabis, medical and not, is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government. Most patients are protected, but recreational users who use it in their free time are not exempt.
States like Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Alaska have zero-tolerance drug policies despite being legal states. This means they can fire employees who smoke or take cannabis outside of work. Additionally, anyone suspected of showing up to work high is allowed to be drug tested, regardless of whether they are a medical cardholder or not.
Know the Laws in Your State Before You Buy Marijuana
As you can see, the laws and regulations surrounding the legal use of cannabis are complex. Not only do the rules change from state-to-state, but they also conflict with the federal government. It is absolutely essential to read up on the policies in your state before you buy marijuana.
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