The laws involving marijuana are varied and ever-changing across the country. Here in Connecticut, as in a number of states, it is legal for medical purposes, although with numerous regulations attached. However, even in states where it has been legalized for recreational use (with possibly more to come after the November election), it's still completely illegal under federal law.
It looks like that's not going to change any time soon. This month the Drug Enforcement Administration announced that it would continue to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance. Drugs with this classification under the Controlled Substances Act are deemed to have no medical value. They are also considered to have a "high potential" for abuse and dependence. Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy) and bath salts.
In its report, the DEA said that "the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits." Of course, many patients who say they've found relief from a variety of conditions and symptoms would challenge that assertion.
Despite its concerns about abuse and dependence, the DEA report did debunk the view held by some that marijuana is a "gateway drug" According to the report, "Little evidence supports the hypothesis that initiation of marijuana use leads to an abuse disorder with other illicit substances."
The federal government has not made it a priority to go after individual marijuana users, even though they are technically violating federal law. However, if states are not properly regulating the drug under their own laws, the Department of Justice can take action.
It's essential to know the marijuana laws not just in Connecticut, but in any state where you're traveling. Don't count on the fact that police won't take any use or possession seriously. Some law enforcement agencies, individual officers and prosecutors take marijuana offenses very seriously. If you or a loved one is charged with a marijuana or other drug-related crime, it's important to seek legal guidance to help ensure that your rights are protected.
Source: USA Today, "Marijuana to remain illegal under federal law, DEA says," Donna Leinwand Leger, Aug. 11, 2016