For 4/20, a Status Update on Pot Legalization

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on April 20, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While it's technically Easter Sunday, marijuana aficionados will also be celebrating "4/20" -- the (un)official high holiday for weed lovers.

Even though several states have legalized pot to some degree, there are still many legal issues to look out for.

So here's a status update on pot legalization:

  • Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Sorry to ruin your mellow, but marijuana is still illegal under federal law. This means that it's a crime under federal law to cultivate, possess, or use marijuana for any purpose. However, it seems like the U.S. Department of Justice is chilling out on its stance against marijuana. In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder contacted the governors of Colorado and Washington, where pot is legal under state law, to let them know that there will be a "trust but verify" relationship between the states and the feds.
  • Where recreational pot is legal (under state law), it's only for adults 21 and over. Residents and people visiting Colorado and Washington who are over the age of 21 will legally be allowed to partake in "4/20" activities. However, if you're 18 or older and have a medical marijuana recommendation from a doctor in either of those states, you can also consume weed legally for medical purposes.
  • There are limits to state-legalized pot consumption. Just because pot is legalized in a state doesn't mean you can toke up anywhere you want. For example, smoking weed in public is still illegal under Colorado law. Plus, if your state has an anti-indoor smoking law, you probably won't be able to smoke weed inside unless you're at home.
  • Drugged driving can result in a DUI. Both Washington and Colorado enforce a 5 ng/mL limit of THC in the body when it comes to getting a DUI. Drugged driving can get you arrested for a DUI, but in Colorado, defendants may introduce evidence that pot didn't impair their ability to drive.
  • Medical marijuana is legal in 21 states and Washington, D.C. Currently, medical marijuana has legal status in 21 states plus the District of Columbia, and it seems like other states may be added to the list soon. However, to legally smoke pot in those states, you'll need a doctor's recommendation.

So this 4/20, remember that even if pot has been in some way legal in your state, you may still land in legal trouble. Be aware of these laws and remember: They're probably not going to have your choice of munchies behind bars.

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