Marijuana Still a Federal Crime Even if Ohio Legalizes It

Posted On: November 13th, 2015 by Bradley J. Groene

The Ohio marijuana legalization measure may not have passed this year, but advocates are already preparing a new measure for the ballot next November. With the larger voter turnout expected due to the 2016 presidential election, many say that legalization has a good chance of passing — at least in some form. This is especially true as support continues to grow for making cannabis a legal substance for adults.

While changing Ohio state drug laws to legalize marijuana could help many adults avoid needless conviction, it’s important to note that marijuana legalization in Ohio would not change the legal status of marijuana on a federal level. This tension has caused problems for other states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use and would likely come up in Ohio as well.

The Controlled Substances Act federally classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, which means that federal agents have the authority to crack down on businesses selling marijuana and individuals using it. While federal authorities say they have no intention of prosecuting those businesses and individuals that follow state law, some reports have indicated otherwise and the federal approach could change with a new incoming administration in 2017.

In the meantime, you can continue to be charged for possession, cultivating, manufacturing, selling, or distributing marijuana in Ohio or federally. If you’re facing marijuana charges, you should seek the help of a team of skilled Cincinnati criminal defense attorneys who can help you fight the charges.

Challenges Faced by Legal Marijuana Businesses

Under the Controlled Substances Act, Schedule I drugs are considered drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other drugs in this category include heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, and these can be subject to some of the harshest federal crackdowns. For this reason, there can be serious federal consequences for the legal marijuana industry that would develop if a 2016 measure for legalization passed.

First, federal enforcement would still be a threat to burgeoning marijuana dispensaries. This means that Ohio will have to put in place strict regulations for companies selling marijuana recreationally. This could delay and limit growth.

In addition, it can be very difficult for marijuana businesses to use banks. Since selling marijuana is federally classified as an illegal activity, banks opening accounts for dispensaries could be prosecuted for money laundering under the Patriot Act and Bank Secrecy Act. Many banks therefore refuse to serve marijuana businesses. As such, this is a cash-based industry, causing problems for proprietors. While regulations to change this have been proposed, the inability to obtain bank accounts adds yet another challenge for proprietors of legal marijuana businesses.

Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Fight Your Marijuana Charge

Of course, Ohio has at least another year before this will become an issue, but regulators and potential investors have all of these concerns in the front of their minds as they push forward with proposed 2016 ballot measures.

Until such laws do pass, you can be prosecuted both in Ohio and federal courts for using or selling cannabis products, and the penalties for a conviction can be harsh. If you are arrested for an Ohio marijuana offense, it is still a serious charge no matter the stance of public opinion about marijuana and whether it should be legal.

If you’ve been charged with an Ohio marijuana offense, you should call the Cincinnati criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates right away at (513) 338-1890 to set up a free consultation. We will do everything we can to help you fight the charges and get the optimal outcome.