Despite the decriminalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes in 25 states and the District of Columbia, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently announced it will maintain cannabis classification as a Schedule I drug. Under federal law, marijuana is categorized with controlled substances such as cocaine and heroin, meaning the federal government views cannabis as "highly addictive and of no medical value."
Prosecution increases at the state level
As the movement to legalize cannabis continues to grow, with five states considering full legalization on November's ballot, this ruling couldn't have come at a more pivotal time. Despite legalization on a state level, states that allow marijuana for medical or recreational use remain in defiance of federal law. Although federal law takes precedence over state law, the DEA has loosened their grip on prosecuting in states that have opted to legalize marijuana, deferring to prosecution on a state level.
Travelers at risk for marijuana charges
Until legalization expands to all 50 states, those who use marijuana are at risk of criminal charges, particularly when traveling from a state that has decriminalized to one that has not. If you are found with marijuana in Kansas or another state that has not decriminalized, you are subject to prosecution under state guidelines. And it's important to know that a vast majority of those states, particularly in the areas bordering Colorado, have experienced an increase in marijuana charges.
A closer look at Kansas
Garden City, Kansas, has reported a rise from 258 drug arrests in 2013 to just over 365 in 2015. The increase has been attributed to the opening of dispensaries across Colorado. Kansas state lawmakers indicate they are opposed to the legalization of marijuana and do not anticipate the Legislature favoring decriminalization in the near future. While marijuana laws in Kansas were reduced in July, charges still come with stiff penalties, including jail time.
Due to the varying laws from state to state, coupled with the fact that it is still illegal in federal court, individuals detained for marijuana possession are urged to seek legal representation immediately. As voters go to ballot to determine the fate of its legality, your attorney will have the most up-to-date information regarding penalties and any revisions in state and federal law.