As most readers in Boston are aware, Massachusetts's medical marijuana law is now in effect, meaning that it is possible to buy marijuana from registered dispensaries with a doctor's prescription. In addition, there is a growing acceptance of marijuana for limited recreational use, especially following November's election and two states' referendums to legalize small amounts of marijuana. One day, similar legislation could appear at the local or state level in Massachusetts.
While ideas about marijuana are changing, the federal government is refusing to lower the restrictions on marijuana. More specifically, the Drug Enforcement Administration will not change marijuana's classification as a Schedule I drug. This means that having marijuana will still be considered a very serious federal crime, if federal law enforcement officials ever choose to prosecute.
So, what does this mean for Massachusetts residents with a prescription for marijuana? Though unlikely, they could be arrested for marijuana possession in violation of federal drug statutes. While the state will not arrest people for having some marijuana (as long as they have a prescription), there are no guarantees that the federal government won't.
After the DEA refused to change its categorization of marijuana, some people tried filing suit against the federal organization in court, asking a court to find the DEA erred in refusing to take the drug off of the Schedule I list. A U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled on the matter, declaring the federal government did not err. The court held that there was nothing in the record that demonstrated that the DEA failed to provide sufficient evidence that there were no studies demonstrating marijuana's medical benefits.
Source: NBC News, "Marijuana restrictions: Appeals court backs DEA, rejects pot advocates argument," Pete Williams, Jan. 22, 2013
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