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Why Does Everything Around Pot Legalization Have To Be So Confusing?

Maureen Meehan

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Let’s say you owned a dispensary or other pot-related business in one of the 23 states with legal adult-use or medical marijuana and wanted to advertise your merchandise in a newspaper or magazine.

Think twice—because your ad would be in violation of federal law. And the publishers who accept such ads may also be exposed to prosecution.

You would think a more coordinated effort between states and the federal government would be an improvement over current policies and the failed War on Drugs that has resulted in the U.S. having the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Think again.

Last week, Forbes reported that eight congress members asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to reassure newspaper publishers that they won’t be prosecuted for accepting pot ads and to clarify how the Department of Justice will respond when the U.S. Postal Service refers newspapers, with such ads in them, to her office.

In other words, refrain from prosecuting individuals “who are placing advertisements for marijuana products in accordance with state law.”

When State Law Collides with Federal Law

While states are treating marijuana businesses as legitimate, the federal government still sees them as criminal enterprises, which is why banks are so reluctant to accept their money.

For newspapers and magazines, there is an additional concern—the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) makes it a felony and punishable by up to four years in prison to “place in any newspaper, magazine, handbill, or other publications, any written advertisement knowing that it has the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance.”

Who Rules?

In issues that are supposed to be decided by states, such as gay marriage and medical and recreational marijuana, one would assume that state law rules. However, you’d be wrong. A federal law applies to the nation as a whole and to all 50 states, whereas state laws are only in effect within that particular state.

If a state law gives people more rights than a federal law, the state law is legally supposed to prevail, which means state law will always supersede federal law when the person in question stands to gain more from the state law, right?

Wrong again.

If a federal regulation prohibits the use of medical marijuana, but a state regulation allows it, the federal law prevails.

This begs the question: Why, when 58 percent of the country backs legalization for a third straight year, according to Gallup, is the federal government standing in the way of states rights?

President Obama, feel free to comment.

(Photo Courtesy of Inquisitr)

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