All drug-related offenses in the United States are handled by the
Controlled Substances Act. The Controlled Substances Act does not
define any difference between marijuana usage for recreational or
medical use. All those within the nation's borders will be charged with
offenses but will vary according to cultivation offenses, possession
offenses, and distribution offenses. The severity of an offense will be
determined through the amount of marijuana at the time of the charge.
Federal law requires that marijuana offenses be treated equally to
cocaine, heroin, or any other controlled substance offenses. Each
controlled substance, including marijuana, is classified through the
government according to its addictive qualities. Marijuana currently is
classified as a Schedule I drug and is thus deemed very addictive and
without medical worth.
Under federal law physician may not "prescribe" the use of marijuana to
a patient for medical purposes. However physician may "recommend" that
a patient use marijuana for treatment, which is covered under the
Constitution's First Amendment. Because using marijuana is illegal at a
federal level, the Drug Enforcement Administration enforces usage
regulations for marijuana caregivers and patients. This administration
ensures that only certain amounts of marijuana are possessed at one
time and only a certain number of mature plants are possessed at one
Only seventeen states allow marijuana for medical purposes; however the
number of mature plants and the amount an individual may possess
depends on state laws. States with medical marijuana laws include
Washington, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan, Hawaii, Rhode
Island, Vermont, and New Jersey. States with decriminalizing marijuana
laws include Minnesota, Nebraska, Mississippi, Ohio, North Carolina,
New York, and Massachusetts. States that have both medical and
decriminalizing laws include Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada,
Colorado, and Maine.
Violators will be charged with marijuana offenses if amount regulations
are broken, despite having a physician's recommendation. Marijuana
offenses can earn fines between one hundred dollars and hundreds of
thousands of dollars and imprisonments between a few months and life of
prison. Probation, mandatory substance treatment, and community service
may also be included in sentencing.
The federal government has determined that marijuana for medical
reasons cannot be used as a defense in court. Whenever an individual
violates marijuana laws, he or she will be charged, according to
federal law, regardless of physician permission. There are currently
two forms of sentencing and are based on the 1986 drug bill and the
1987 sentencing commission. These regulations require that prior
marijuana offenses be taken into account in a current marijuana
offense. Violators will also have their charges increased if sales were
to a minor or on school property.
Federal versus State
In 2005 the Supreme Court stated that the federal government does not
view marijuana as a medicine. This means that the federal government
may arrest an individual even if he or she resides in a legal state and
is within his or her amount requirements. This is in conflict with the
seventeen states that allow marijuana for medical purposes. However
federal law does not require these states to prosecute certified users.
The state law versus federal law conflict is currently being resolved
by the Food and Drug Administration and Congress.