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Which States Have Medical Marijuana Laws?

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on May 18, 2011 6:47 AM

Smoking medical marijuana can help cut down on your pain - especially if you have a terminal disease, or an illness that has painful side effects. State medical marijuana laws vary on how much a person can legally possess to how many plants you are allowed to cultivate.

Currently, there are 16 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that have now legalized medical marijuana. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Medical marijuana in most states is only for those patients who have a prescription or recommendation from a licensed physician. And, these patients are usually those that are suffering from cancer, AIDS, or other serious diseases.

And, make no mistake - the federal law on marijuana itself has not changed. Marijuana is still illegal, under all circumstances, under federal law.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, a federal law, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs are drugs that have a potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in the U.S., and cannot be safely used even under medical supervision. Of course, proponents of medical marijuana laws disagree with the federal government on its medical use and safety.

While marijuana may be legal in your state, you could still get into some hot water under federal law. When state and federal law contradict each other, federal law overrules the state law, and even if you are using medical marijuana under a prescription by your physician in a state that allows you to do so, you could still be prosecuted and investigated by federal authorities.

However, under the current administration, federal officials have shifted most of their attention away from enforcing federal marijuana laws against users of medical marijuana.

If you use medical marijuana, consulting your state medical marijuana laws is a good starting point to understand how much you can legally possess and what the penalties are if you violate the law. Consulting a criminal defense attorney or health care attorney can also set you in the right direction if you are concerned about medical marijuana and your legal rights.

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