Marijuana laws have been changing rapidly in New York state and across the country in recent months and years. It brings to mind the phrase, "May you live in interesting times" - a contemporary English expression that may or may not be derived from a traditional Chinese curse.
Widespread change may be as much a blessing as a curse, but it is also confusing. In this post, we will focus on the often-confusing changes in federal and New York state laws on growing marijuana.
If you are intending to participate in New York's medical marijuana program, or have other interests in New York's growing laws, you will want to read this piece.
New York's Medical Marijuana Program
Nearly half of the states (23) now have medical marijuana laws. New York changed its law in July 2014 to join this group. The goal is to have the program operational by early January of next year.
The state health department has chosen five companies to manufacture the medical cannabis that will be used in the program. There will be five manufacturing facilities and 20 dispensaries.
Many questions remain, however, about how the program will be implemented. For example, patients have not yet been told how to apply for the certification cards from the state that they will need to participate in the program. These cards are supposed to be available to approved patients for a $50 fee, though that fee may be waived due to financial hardship.
New York's law includes limitations on how the medical cannabis can be consumed. Smoking will not be allowed. Edible pot-based products, such as brownies, are also prohibited. But certain cannabis-based oils and liquids, as well as pills, will be allowed.
State and federal laws on Cannabis Cultivation
Meanwhile, even as medical marijuana nears implementation, New York's laws against marijuana possession and marijuana cultivation remain on the books. So do federal laws that make marijuana a controlled substance.
Cultivation of cannabis in any amount is a misdemeanor under state law. It is punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
New York also has some peculiar case law on marijuana cultivation. That law came from a case called Parmeter v. Feinberg. It allows the state to potentially charge someone who is caught growing marijuana to with possessing that marijuana. This opens up the possibility of a more charge that becomes more severe with larger amounts.
There are numerous proposals before Congress to change federal marijuana laws. For example, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has sponsored the CARERS Act. The full title is Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act of 2015. It would reclassify cannabis from a Schedule 1 (illegal) substance to a Schedule II. But neither CARERS nor any other proposals to dial back federal marijuana prohibitions have passed.
Change, Confusion and Potential Charges
In short, current laws on growing or possessing marijuana are marked by considerable change and confusion. If you face charges, or are concerned about staying in compliance with the law, it's important to get the legal counsel you need.
As a veteran lawyer who is experienced in defending clients against marijuana and other drug charges, Michael Spano can help you cut through the flux and confusion about cannabis to a clear focus on your rights. In these interesting times, you don't want to deal with a cannabis curse.