When I was talking to my family, they asked some interesting questions about cannabis. I spend a lot of time in the pro-cannabis bubble, so it’s easy to forget that we’re building a brand new industry. Naturally, many people will have questions about cannabis, and we’d love to help people learn more. We’d like to make this a regular feature here at Medicine Box, so leave a comment if you have questions.
Why Do You Keep Calling it Cannabis?
Over the years words like pot, weed, ganja, etc. have come to mean illicit, recreational drugs. The word cannabis doesn’t have that stigma, so it makes it easier for people to see it as a drug with the potential to help people, not just get them high. I also use the term medical marijuana to refer to something used to treat a medical condition. I use adult use rather than recreational because some adults use cannabis to treat medical problems, but choose not to pay for a prescription. Obviously, plenty of people use cannabis recreationally and will continue to do so no matter what it’s called.
Is Cannabis Legal? What’s the Difference Between State and Federal Law?
Twenty-eight states have legalized cannabis in one form or another but, despite overwhelming public support, it remains illegal at the federal level. However, the DEA can’t use federal funds to interfere with cannabis businesses that are legal at the state level. That amendment must be renewed every year and there’s no guarantee that Congress will do so in 2017. Hopefully, the federal government will continue to respect each state’s right to regulate cannabis for itself. Even with a hands-off approach from the federal government, prohibition is causing real harm.
Under federal law, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, which means that, in spite of overwhelming evidence, the DEA believes it has no medical use and a serious risk for abuse. This classification makes it incredibly difficult for scientists to do the research that will help us better understand the real potential of cannabis. Most scientists depend on federal funding, which means they have to follow federal laws regardless of what state they work in. The federal government actually grows some cannabis for researchers.
Unfortunately, it’s very different than what you’d find at a dispensary, so what little research can be done isn’t always relevant to how people are actually using cannabis. No research can be done with edibles, concentrates, or other forms of cannabis — things people use every day. Since it’s illegal at the federal level, it’s also illegal to move cannabis across state lines, even from one legal state to another. Federal prohibition also makes it very difficult for cannabis businesses to have bank accounts, which means most of them are cash-only. This means there are large quantities of cash floating around, leaving those businesses vulnerable to theft. The banking issue has actually become a public safety problem.
Fascinating. What Does That Mean for Me?
Image source: Abbie Winters
In spite of the federal ban, you should be safe if you are complying with the laws of your state. Here are a few tips to help you avoid legal misunderstandings:
- Take the time to familiarize yourself the laws of your particular state regarding how much cannabis you can possess.
- Learn where you can legally buy cannabis if you don’t grow it yourself. Most legal states require you to buy from a licensed dispensary, collective, or caregiver.
- Find a way to store it so children and animals can’t get into it. Make sure it’s clearly labeled so no one accidentally eats an edible.
- Pay attention to when laws go into effect. For example, in California it’s legal for adults to possess, share, and grow small quantities of cannabis, but until 2018, dispensaries can only sell to medical patients with a doctor’s recommendation.
- Do not drive while you’re high. Most states specifically prohibit this, even if they’ve legalized cannabis.
- Do not use cannabis in public, unless it is explicitly legal to do so.
I hope this answered some of your questions about cannabis, but if it didn’t, please get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to do some research for you!