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Federal marijuana policy: will it change?

Earlier this year, Connecticut joined the list of states with medical marijuana laws. That groups now numbers 18, plus the District of Columbia.

In this month's election, two states - Washington and Colorado - went to the next level. Voters in those states decided to legalize recreational use of marijuana outright. No more jail, fines or probation simply for going "one toke over the line."

Yet even in Washington and Colorado, a measure of ambiguity remains. This is because marijuana is still classified as controlled substance under federal law. It is still defined this way despite the growing trend towards tolerance across the country

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan calls this trend a "cannabis spring" - a time ripe for renewal and reform. With the election behind it, how will the Obama administration respond?

Certainly it would free up scarce federal resources to no longer prosecute pot dispensaries. Those savings could help address the nation's fiscal crisis.

Indeed, if marijuana were legalized, it could be taxed and even become a revenue enhancer. In Washington State, authorities estimate that taxation of marijuana in licensed retail stores could bring over $500 million a year to state coffers.

Regarding the availability of medical marijuana, a uniform, supportive national policy would surely be in the interest of people with medical conditions whose doctors have prescribed therapeutic marijuana use. At present, even states with established medical marijuana laws patients often struggle to get access to the cannabis they need.

In short, there are many reasons why, after the inaugural, President Obama and Congress could consider an overhaul of federal drug policy. Will they do so?

Source: "Give Pot a Chance," New York Times, Timothy Egan, 11-22-12

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Bridgeport marijuana possession page.

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