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New law may have little effect on marijuana drug crime arrests

Lately, getting both houses of Congress and the president to agree on anything seems like a victory -- even a federal spending bill. However, when President Obama signed the latest federal spending bill on Dec. 16, it did more than avert another government shutdown.

Among the provisions in the bill was one that discourages federal agents from going after marijuana operations in states where it is legal. An official with the Drug Policy Alliance hails this provision as a "real game-changer," both in attitudes about medical marijuana as a valid treatment for an array of medical conditions and in efforts to legalize marijuana on a federal level.

The provision in the new law does not guarantee that those who grow and sell marijuana are free from legal worries. The drug is illegal under federal law, regardless of how individual state laws treat it. Federal drug agents have a number of tools to make it difficult, if not impossible, for cannabis-related businesses. As an official with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws notes, banks are discouraged from dealing with these businesses by federal banking regulations. It's also possible in some cases to prosecute these largely cash-only businesses for crimes involving money laundering.

Advocates of legalized marijuana also caution against too much optimism about changes in federal laws. While attitudes by politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to be changing, the Republican-led Congress that takes over in January is not expected to approve any of the 17 cannabis-related bills expected to come before it in 2015. Further, as one drug policy researcher says, "While the Obama Administration currently tolerates marijuana legalization in states with ‘strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems,' the next administration may have a different approach to marijuana."

North Carolina law enforcement officers and prosecutors take state and federal marijuana laws very seriously. People charged with any crime related to marijuana, whether it's possession, sale, distribution or cultivation should get experienced legal guidance. A drug conviction, even for marijuana, can have long-lasting consequences for your future.

Source: IVN, "Medical Marijuana Shops Still At Risk Despite Provision in Spending Bill" Glen Luke Flanagan, Dec. 19, 2014

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