In 1996, California became the first state to approve marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Other states including Colorado followed and recently Arizona became the fifteenth state to pass legislation legalizing medical marijuana. While voters in some states are becoming more accepting of marijuana use, a recent case in Montana demonstrates that views on marijuana are changing in unexpected places as well.
According to The New York Times, Teuray Cornell of Missoula, Montana, faced felony charges of marijuana distribution and also a misdemeanor charge related to possession of the drug. As the judge attempted to seat a jury, five of the 27 potential jurors raised questions about convicting someone possessing a small amount of marijuana.
A report in The Missoulian notes that the judge in the case, Dusty Deschamps, wondered if he could find enough jurors to fill out the panel. The prosecutor, Andrew Paul, on the other hand, realized that he would likely not be able to find enough jurors to convict Cornell. During a brief recess to assess the issue, prosecutors quickly cut a deal with the defendant - Cornell would plead guilty to the felony charge and have the misdemeanor dismissed.
Colorado's Medicinal Use and Dispensary Laws
Colorado's first step towards permitting medicinal marijuana use came in 2000 when voters approved a ballot initiative amending the constitution specifically for that use. In June 2010, legislation was signed by Governor Bill Ritter enacting regulations for the medical marijuana industry. The Associated Press notes that the regulations permitted doctors in good standing to prescribe medical marijuana and also set up regulations for marijuana dispensaries and growers.
Many advocates believe that the growing number of states permitting medicinal use of marijuana and the near legalization of recreational use in California point to a growing tolerance to marijuana use. As Colorado proves, the states that legalized medical marijuana are not without benefits either. According to The Denver Post, Colorado collected over two million dollars in sales tax revenue from medical marijuana in 2010.
Working With an Attorney
Despite the recent shift in marijuana attitudes and growing tolerance for the drug, these are crimes that law enforcement agencies take seriously. If you are under investigation for any sort of drug crime, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.