Impact of federal law on California’s marijuana legalization issue remains uncertain

An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times challenges the contention that California cannot legalize marijuana because of conflicting federal law.

As our Los Angeles marijuana defense attorneys reported recently on our Marijuana Lawyer Blog, a federal crackdown could come if Proposition 19 passes and recreational marijuana becomes legal in California.

For starters, the U.S. has entered into treaties with other nations that require marijuana to remain illegal (an exemption exists for medical purposes). But, as a far more practical matter, marijuana legalization could significantly reduce the price of marijuana and a legal marijuana industry in California could fuel the illegal marijuana drug trade in much of the rest of the United States and Canada.

The U.S. Department of Justice has said enforcing federal marijuana laws are not a priority in states that have legalized medical marijuana. But that could change with the news that recreational marijuana is legal in California.

Hanna Dershowitz writers in the Times that it is incorrect to assume that federal agents will begin raiding farms and shops should the state pass Proposition 19. She argues that either the state or the federal government is permitted to outlaw marijuana but neither is required to do so. She writes that both New York and California repealed state laws abolishing alcohol, despite the continued existence of a federal ban during prohibition.

She claims federal agents attempting to enforce small-time marijuana violations would flood federal courts and require copious amounts of additional funding, while making virtually no dent in the use of marijuana in California.

She also points out that legalization would force the federal government to justify marijuana’s prohibition in the first place. And that the feds could respect state’s rights by amending the Controlled Substances Act to permit marijuana. But Dershowitz, who is a member of the Proposition 19 legal subcommittee, does not address the motivation that might be present on the part of the feds if large scale marijuana operations begin fueling the supply in states that do not wish to legalize it.

Nor is the federal government overly concerned with state’s rights, as has been evident with the recent lawsuit over Arizona’s immigration law.

The CANNABIS LAW GROUP is a law firm dedicated to the rights of medical marijuana patients, collectives and growers and has built a reputation for high-powered, aggressive legal representation of the medical marijuana industry in Southern California. Call 714-937-2050 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.