Fifteen states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, with many more legalizing medical marijuana. However, more states are pushing for recreational use to be legal. With a new bill to legalize marijuana, parties for and against legalization are making their arguments.
While more states are starting with marijuana legalization, this does not mean other laws such as driving under the influence and possessing marijuana in other states are legal. Additionally, the federal government has failed to pass any legislation making recreational use legal. As such, the use and possession of marijuana is still a violation of federal law and thus a crime.
House Bill 32
While House Bill 32 focuses on marijuana legalization, the effects of the new law could be far-reaching. The bill allows for possession and personal growing of small amounts of marijuana. Additionally, the bill would expunge past criminal records related to marijuana, allowing these people to have a better chance in the job market.
There is no question that marijuana legalization brings in large amounts of cash. The bill plans for historically black colleges and universities to receive a portion of the revenues generated from taxes on marijuana sales. Additionally, under the bill, communities impacted by the former drug laws will receive a portion of the tax revenue
It’s Not All Positive, AAA Says
As House Bill 32 makes its way towards Annapolis in a push for legalization, AAA Mid-Atlantic strongly opposes the new legislation. AAA’s argument is not on marijuana, but instead targets safety on the road. They are concerned that legalized marijuana will lead to more impaired driving and an increase in traffic accidents.
AAA highlights the increase in accidents and rising insurance rates where marijuana is currently legal to support their position. Since legalization in Washington state, fatal car accidents have doubled. Additionally, increases in accidents in Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada have occurred since legalization.
Should the bill be passed, AAA is advocating to include additional safeguards in the legislation. These requests include an update to the open container laws to restrict marijuana use in a car.
According to the public, AAA is in the minority when it comes to opposing legalization. A study at Emerson College found 61% of voters support legalizing recreational marijuana use. According to a national poll, legalized marijuana had more support than the $15 an hour minimum wage.
Legalization Of Marijuana
Enforcement Of Driving Under The Influence
The legalization of marijuana does not mean people can ignore the rules of the road. While there may be an increase in accidents after the legalization of marijuana, drivers can still be arrested and charged with impaired driving. Similar to alcohol, it is against the law to drive while under the influence of marijuana.
Legal marijuana use is not a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to driving high. “Should recreational marijuana use become legal, it is still a crime to drive while high and the defendants are subject to jail and losing their license,” said Attorney Matthew Wilson of Matthew Wilson Attorney at Law
When Possession Of Marijuana Is Illegal
Despite recreational marijuana use being legal in some states, this does not mean it is okay to possess in others. When traveling to another state, the laws of the state the person is in governs their behavior.
A person arrested with marijuana in a state where it is illegal faces potential criminal charges. They could be charged with possession or possession with the intent to sell. As a result, the defendant faces fines and possible jail time.
Marijuana Use Is Against Federal Law
While each state is allowed to legalize marijuana, the federal government still considers it a banned substance. As such, possessing marijuana is a violation of federal law. Therefore, even if an individual purchases marijuana in a state where it is legal, a federal police officer could still arrest the defendant for violating federal drug laws.
A defendant becomes subject to federal law by either carrying or shipping the drugs across state lines. Also, if a defendant violated the drug distribution law on federal land, they are subject to federal law. National parks and federal buildings are both considered federal land.
Marijuana Legalization Is Not A Free Pass
When a state legalizes recreational marijuana use, there may be a misconception that all marijuana laws are gone. However, marijuana users still have a duty to refrain from driving while high and not bring marijuana into another state. Failure to recognize this could lead to jail time.
The legalization of marijuana can greatly benefit society by providing money to universities and neglected areas. Yet, as AAA pointed out, there is a fine line between balancing policy initiatives and the public’s health and safety.