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Marijuana has been proven to help treat the symptoms of some illnesses including AIDS, cancer and arthritis. Because of its uses, several states have passed laws legalizing use of marijuana by ill patients. It comes as no surprise that legalizing marijuana for medical purposes has sparked public controversy and has brought about confusion as to what exactly it means.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced, Oct. 19, 2009, that under new policy, it will back off on making arrests involving patients and their caregivers who use cannabis as a way to treat symptoms. The department said it plans to focus on illegal trafficking of the drug, rather than on individual patient use and growth.

Where is Marijuana Legal?

The following 14 states have adopted medical cannabis laws:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Maryland
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

The announcement made by the U.S. Justice Department means that each state is no longer in threat of interference by the federal government. During the Bush Administration, more than 200 federal raids occurred the state of California, alone, as law enforcement was advised to follow federal law.

Cannabis State Laws Vary

Although the department’s decision rules in favor of medical marijuana patients, there is still confusion among growers and users of the medicinal herb. And, in some states, the laws are still undefined. For instance, the Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley announced that he is not going to give up on medical marijuana dispensaries. He announced that he will continue to crack down on the some 800 dispensaries who are illegally making profit on marijuana sales.

Dispensaries are facilities that grow and sell medical marijuana to patients who cannot grow it on their own. Cooley claims that the dispensaries are in violation of the compassionate Use Act, a voter initiative that legalized medical marijuana in 1996. In response to arguments from medical marijuana advocates, Cooley said he plans to arrest those in violation of the law.

If you’re unclear about the medical marijuana laws that govern your state, or if you have been arrested for marijuana possession, growth or distribution and are in need of a strong defense attorney, please contact a criminal defense attorney at Imhoff & Associates today.