Marijuana is Legal For Medical Purposes, How That Affects Related Laws

Despite the DEA classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug along with drugs like heroine, peyote, and LSD, and claiming schedule I drugs have no medicinal purposes and a high potential for abuse, twenty three states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes over the last decade. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Washington D.C., and Alaska allow for recreational usage as well. This is despite decades of anti-marijuana campaigns and bans placed on schedule I drugs disallowing their use in laboratory or clinical studies.

States with medical marijuana laws in place

All laws and statutes passed thus far are state or local, which are superseded by federal regulations, which still list marijuana as a banned substance. Federal DEA raids have occurred on state licensed medical marijuana distribution centers and patients. The DEA has engaged in an aggressive smear campaign in an effort to keep marijuana illegal. A vote by the House of Representatives in May aimed to put a stop to those raids and prohibit the use of federal funds from being used to target facilities that are legal at the state level. This initiative still needs to go before the Senate, but it passed the House with bipartisan support.

The largest issue facing medical marijuana usage is the federal ban. As detailed by the Inquisitr, the DEA and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) won’t lift the ban or admit that there are medicinal benefits to marijuana without placebo controlled double blind studies, but researchers can’t get FDA approval to design the studies. It’s a classic catch-22 and it’s frustrating many researchers. Small scale studies done by independent physicians and researchers, and anecdotal data gathered from medicinal users, show great promise for a multitude of conditions to be treated, alleviated, or mitigated by marijuana or its derivatives.

Other large looming issues for state legalized medical marijuana users are employment laws. Marijuana is very dissimilar from alcohol. While the effects fade in a reasonable amount of time, usually around four hours, the substance isn’t cleared by the body nearly as quickly as alcohol is dissipated. Testing is more difficult as well. Breathalyzers — a machine that can measure blood alcohol levels by extrapolating the alcohol content exhaled in the breath — can be used to test for alcohol impairment and have a very defined action level. THC can only be detected with a blood test but action levels are debatable, largely due to the federal bans on studies. A urinalysis can only detect the metabolites of THC, and those can remain present for three to twelve days after use. Many employers require employees to be sober while on the clock, which isn’t unreasonable. However, testing methods generally used for employment sobriety screenings only measure the metabolites in the urine and positive results often result in termination, even if the state has laws in place for medical use.

The newness of these laws, while great strides forward for advocates, have not been tested and defined by the courts. It’s nearly impossible to determine if the courts will follow the federal lead and continue to uphold bans or follow the will of the people and a number of medical providers who continue to vote in new laws that end the seven decades of prohibition.