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States legalize marijuana. What about Minnesota?

In November, Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana, making them the first states to allow the possession of a small amount of pot. Since then, the federal government has said it will continue to uphold federal marijuana laws (marijuana possession is illegal under federal law) but there have been indications that it will move away from prosecuting marijuana possession crimes in those states.

Other states have either legalized medical marijuana or have bills in progress to do so. There is some speculation that a number of states will follow Colorado and Washington with initiatives to legalize pot in the near future.

It does not appear, however, that marijuana will be legal anytime soon in Minnesota. That is because not only is there opposition in the legislature, but Governor Mark Dayton has said he will not sign a law that does not have the backing of Minnesota law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement continue to be strongly opposed to legalizing marijuana, including medical marijuana. Part of the reason is that it conflicts with federal law.

States can choose not to prosecute their residents under state laws, but they cannot prevent the federal government from prosecuting crimes under federal laws. Therefore, even if marijuana possession is legal in some states, the federal government can still prosecute individuals for marijuana possession.

We can expect to see marijuana use and arrests continue to spike as marijuana laws and perceptions about the drug change around the country. In fact, a study released this week by the National Institutes of Health found that less than 50 percent of eighth graders believe that occasional marijuana use is harmful. More than 6.5 percent of 12th graders smoked marijuana daily in 2012.

If you or your child is accused of marijuana in Minnesota, remember that Minnesota law enforcement and prosecutors will not take your charges lightly and do not have the same popular perception that it is "just marijuana." You or your child could face fines, time in jail and, perhaps the most worrisome, a criminal record. That is why it is important to fight marijuana charges as you would any other criminal charge: aggressively.

Learn more about marijuana defense by visiting our drug crimes defense page.

Source: StarTribune, "Medical marijuana faced tough road in Minnesota," Associated Press, Dec. 12, 2012

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