Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A. - Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer

Will federal laws against marijuana be enforced under Trump?

Laws regarding the use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes vary by state. Here in Florida, it is legal for medical purposes. However, it still remains illegal under federal law.

While under the Obama administration federal laws were generally not enforced if they usurped state law, that may be changing under the Trump administration. Recently, Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, indicated that the U.S. Department of Justice would ramp up enforcement of federal laws against marijuana, even in states where it's legal.

Spicer seemed to indicate that federal enforcement of laws against marijuana use for medical purposes would not be impacted. He said, however, that "there's still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature."

Newly-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a longtime opponent of marijuana use. However, he's also been a proponent of states' rights. During his congressional confirmation hearing, the former Alabama senator said that while he would not "commit to never enforcing federal law" regarding marijuana, he admitted that "it's a problem of resources for the federal government."

The marijuana industry has been profitable in states where its recreational use has been legalized. It's also expected to create over 283,000 jobs within the next three years and is bringing much-needed tax revenue to states. Further, public opinion has become increasingly favorable regarding legalization of the drug.

The messages sent by the new administration are mixed and confusing to many. As one official with the Marijuana Policy Project notes, "To have Mr. Spicer say in one sentence that they're a state's rights administration and in the very next sentence say they're going to crack down...it just defies logic."

It remains to be seen if or to what degree the new administration cracks down on marijuana use or possession. As the head of one marijuana market research firm said, "People don't respond well to having freedom taken away."

It's essential to know the laws regarding marijuana here in Florida and in any state where you may be traveling. Even states where it's legal for recreational use have legal restrictions. If you find yourself charged with a marijuana-related crime, you should seek legal guidance.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Marijuana industry angered by White House reversal," Jennifer Kaplan and Polly Mosendz. Bloomberg, Feb. 27, 2017

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