The Confusing Landscape of Medical Marijuana Permissions

Back in the mid-1990s, the issue of the medical use of marijuana came to a head and ultimately saw approval through an electoral initiative in California, legalizing at the state level the use of the substance for medical purposes. The law was passed in 1996, which was followed up soon after with regulations creating the first medical marijuana use card for patients. This was in response to continued activities by law enforcement to restrict usage based on existing drug laws.

While at the state level, the criminal legal side of things had been relaxed, federal law enforcement was still very active. The medical marijuana card concept was created in part to identify users who had a viable medical reason for having marijuana on their person, thereby negating or diluting any potential criminal charges the person might encounter.

Where California Goes So Does the Country

Since that time, multiple states followed California’s example and came up with their own medical card program as well. At the same time, a number of states eventually legalized recreational use along with medical use as well. Colorado has been a prime example of this change pattern.

Today, some 40 states across the U.S. have legalized the use of marijuana in small amounts or in medical conditions, but it is still technically illegal under federal law. No surprise, the current status continues to maintain confusion for users, especially when traveling from one jurisdiction to another. Similar to gun laws, a person literally has to map out and anticipate legal changes from one state to the next if traveling with marijuana on their person.

Who’s on First?

Marijuana dispensaries have also been caught up in the mix, expected to follow regulations as a business and enforce distribution requirements that vary from state to state and town to town.

Operations like Mountain Annie’s Dispensary and others have found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to see proof of a medical marijuana card and verifying its authentication, similar to a bar having to check for valid ID before serving alcohol. Some shops will have had the option to go fully recreational at one point as Mountain Annie’s has, but not every town allows recreational cannabis, and some don’t allow medicinal either. It’s an ugly mess of conflicting laws and regulations that have dispensaries and consumers caught in the middle, or driving miles to get a legal pickup.

It has created a unique means of being competitive in Colorado, these differences in views between state, county, and city lawmakers. Dispensaries that are as close as possible to areas where recreational sales have been disallowed often reap the benefit of those willing to make a drive. Too bad for those losing out on tax dollars that are just driving away. Hear that Montrose County?