Marijuana is illegal under federal law even in states that legalize it.
The federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, (CSA), (21 U.S.C. 811), having a high potential for abuse and having no medical value. It does not recognize the difference between medical and recreational use of cannabis. This classification puts marijuana in the same category as heroin and a more restrictive category than schedule 2 drugs like cocaine and meth. Who are we to argue? This is federal law.
Federal cannabis laws are very serious and punishment for people found guilty is frequently very steep. Federal law applies throughout the United States and Washington, D.C. not just on federal property. Federal law enforcement officials may prosecute medical marijuana patients even if they grow their own and even if they reside in a state like Massachusetts where medical marijuana use is protected under state law.
Your state laws won’t be a defense in federal court. You can run into trouble with the CSA even if you are not directly involved with the marijuana industry. If you provide services to a business that operates under state marijuana laws, you may also be violating federal law and subject to prosecution.
For example, if you run a janitorial services business and have a client that operates a dispensary, you may be profiting from illegal drug trafficking. The CSA also makes it unlawful to “knowingly open, lease, rent, maintain, or use property for the manufacturing, storing, or distribution of controlled substances.” So landlords that have tenants involved in a state-permitted marijuana industry may risk federal asset forfeiture or other criminal fines.
Simple possession with no intent to distribute is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a minimum fine of $1,000.00. That’s for starters. Employment, you can be fired from your job for your off-the-clock use of marijuana. So stated by the Supreme Court in Coats v. Dish Network, (2015), a case where an employee sued for wrongful termination after testing positive for marijuana. Under federal law, the use of marijuana can be prohibited by an employer.
Doctors cannot legally prescribe marijuana since it is a schedule I drug under CSA. Some doctors have lost their license by doing so.
Lawyers also risk their licenses when advising clients in the marijuana industry since they are providing advice on how to violate federal law.
Many banks and credit card companies are reluctant to provide accounts to participants in the marijuana industry for fear of prosecution under the federal CSA.
So what impact does this have on the Town of Fairhaven by trying to push this through? Can the Town be held liable under CSA for having such establishments in town? What lawsuits could be used against the Town that taxpayers would have to absorb the costs for?
Until the state and federal government can come to terms with working this out, it’s best to extend the moratorium to June 2019 and say No to the proposed overlay district and incomplete marijuana bylaws.
Karen A. Vilandry, Fairhaven resident and taxpayer
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