The Complicated Legal Position of Home Grown Cannabis In The USA
Apr 14, 2020 13:00
There have been some major changes in the USA in recent years with regard to the legalization of cannabis.
Whilst many people have a perception that cannabis is now mostly legal in the US, the truth is, less than half of America’s fifty states allow its citizens to grow cannabis themselves.
Several of the states that do allow individuals to grow their own marijuana at home, only allow them to do so for medical reasons and not recreational use.
Although cannabis use is legal for recreational purposes in 11 states and a further 33 for medicinal reasons, on a federal level the use and possession of cannabis is illegal under federal law for any purpose, by way of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Under the CSA, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance
But individuals are protected from prosecution by the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment though, which prohibits federal prosecution of individuals complying with state medical cannabis laws.
With the bulk of TV and movies being based and or created in California, (who have a famously relaxed view on cannabis use), it is easy to see why the perception that the whole of the US has been legalized cannabis is so pervasive.
In reality, though many individual states still criminalize the use of even small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes and are happy to enforce this prohibition through fines and even jail time.
A significant number of states also still criminalize home growers of cannabis, even in states where cannabis use is legal.
Many politicians, from both sides of the aisle, have stated that they would consider changing the law nationally to decriminalize cannabis use. Although it should also be said that several more politicians, (perhaps worried what backing cannabis use would do to their poll numbers), have insisted that it is up to each state to decide what the legal designation of cannabis is.
This has created a bizarre situation where legal cannabis growing (and conversely punishment for illegal growing) even differs from neighboring states.
As an example, Colorado law offers no distinction between homegrown cannabis for medicinal use or recreational purposes and yet is abutted on all sides (bar one) with states where it is illegal to grow cannabis even for medicinal use.
This radical difference in legality based upon state lines can even differ within that particular state.
Let’s take Wyoming as an example. Bordering Colorado, growing cannabis for any reason (medical or otherwise) is illegal.
However, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe will soon vote on whether to legalize growing cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes.
Many tribal leaders think the change in legality for pot could potentially make millions of dollars, which would be a sorely needed boon for one of the most impoverished places in the whole of the USA.
But If the measure is approved, and the home growing of cannabis is legalized this would mean that the Oglala Sioux Tribe would become the only Native American tribe to set up a cannabis market in a state where it's otherwise illegal.
To save losing any potential federal funding though, tribal leaders are keen for the prohibition still in force at a state-level still be in place.
This would mean that whilst growing your own cannabis on tribal land would be perfectly legal, there would still be a prohibition of people taking pot off the reservation.
Bizarrely growing your own cannabis on tribal land would also only be legal if you were a member of the tribe as state laws will still apply to people who aren't members of the tribe, even if they are on tribal land. What remains unclear though is if that would even be enforceable.
Many believe this legal quagmire that means cannabis legality differs nationally, state to state and even intra-state would only be able to be solved through either a national referendum or presidential decree.
What is clear, is that although there have been massive steps forward when it comes to legalizing the use of cannabis, unfortunately for those individuals who would prefer to grow their own, the law may take some time to change.
Many industry experts predict that it is likely this situation will change to the benefit of home growers over the next decade.
Whether the pace of these positive changes is increased through public pressure remains to be seen but many home growers believe coordinated grassroots campaigns as well as changing political priorities may make this a reality sooner rather than later.
This post was written by David Hyde an experienced home growing enthusiast and blogger.
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