Legal Marijuana: What Does Legal Actually Mean?

Quite a few people throw around the term “legal marijuana” but this term is something of a misnomer. What exactly does it mean and how applicable is it to today’s medical marijuana industry?

Legal Marijuana: What Does Legal Actually Mean?

When people refer to medical cannabis or medical marijuana, they often use the term “legal marijuana”. Although this may seem as though it’s the correct term, it’s actually far from correct.

The Definition of Legal

Let’s begin with the definition of legal.

Something that is legal is permitted by law.

Things get a little confusing, however, when you consider that there are multiple sets of laws to consider. In the U.S., for example, we have both federal and state laws. It is possible for something to be legal by one set of laws and illegal by the other. Medical marijuana is a perfect example of that.

The Legality of Medical Marijuana

So, Florida Title XXIX Public health Chapter 381, Section 986 outlines the permissible use of medical marijuana in the state of Florida. This statute covers everything needed to establish permissible use of medical marijuana including which conditions qualify someone for medical cannabis use, who can prescribe medical marijuana, and how medical marijuana prescriptions should be filled. Now, according to this statute, so long as the regulations outlined are followed, qualified residents of Florida may use medical marijuana to treat symptoms of illness.

The Illegality of Medical Marijuana According to Federal Law

Contrary to state law, federal law classifies marijuana as a schedule one controlled substance. Schedule one controlled substances are “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” according to federal law. Other schedule one controlled substances include heroin and methamphetamine.

Although federal law states that there are no accepted medical uses for medical cannabis, many research studies have shown otherwise. Many people are hopeful that this pool of research will grow so that the beneficial medical applications of marijuana are recognized and marijuana is decriminalized.

So, what happens in the meantime?

The Doctrine of Pre-Emption and The Supremacy Clause

With marijuana being approved for medical use in the state of Florida but illegal according to federal law, what does that mean?

To find this out we turn to the Doctrine of Pre-emption and the Supremacy Clause.

The Supremacy Clause is a part of article VI of the U.S. constitution and it outlines what happens when state and federal laws disagree. Within the Supremacy Clause is something called the Doctrine of Pre-emption. The Doctrine of Pre-emption says that in the event that state and federal laws conflict, the federal government “wins”.

So, why is medical marijuana legal in some states if federal law deems the use of marijuana illegal?

Well, the wording of the Doctrine of Pre-emption states that the Federal government CAN enforce federal law. So, in the case of Florida, the state believes that medical marijuana has beneficial applications in various illnesses, so, they have permitted regulated use. This means that IF you are in the state of Florida and you qualify for use according to Florida law, you CAN use medical marijuana in the state. But, while you are obeying state law, you are disobeying federal law. However, while federal law has the ability to pursue charges for anyone using medical marijuana even in states where use is approved, they rarely do.

And Then…

The simple fact of the matter is that the federal government does disagree with states that have approved medical marijuana use, but there is a looming sense that the legalization of marijuana will soon take place in all states at which point the federal government will be forced to re-evaluate their stance.

In the meantime, in the very rare event that the federal government does see fit to pursue charges in relation to medical marijuana, they tend to focus on the supply chain rather than the users.

Our Thoughts

Obviously, we believe that there are many beneficial uses of medical marijuana and we believe that there is plenty of medical research that supports that belief. It is our hope that eventually, the federal government will realize the potential of medical cannabis and all of the states in the United States can offer patients relief that they have otherwise been unable to find.

Do You Have Questions About Medical Marijuana?

If you have questions about medical marijuana or if you would like to see whether you are eligible for a medical marijuana prescription for your medical condition, set up an appointment today using our online medical marijuana appointment tool!

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