Marijuana Laws: Some New, Some Old
January 08, 2018

The murky rules regarding marijuana enforcement that emerged last week from the Trump administration created uncertainty in a fast growing legal industry that emerged on the U.S. market less than a decade ago.

The new rules raise a question some have been asking for years. Is marijuana legal?

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona declined an interview and spokesman Cosme Lopez said in a statement:

"Our office is committed to the enforcement of federal law and does not have anything to add to the Attorney General's announcement at this time."

Which doesn’t answer the previous question.

Former Phoenix prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney Michael Harwin elaborated.

"Given the enforcement priorities here in Arizona, a border state, I’m hopeful that the line assistants together with the next appointed U.S. Attorney would use their discretion and focus on crimes that need to be prosecuted," Harwin said.

But he cautioned the new potential to prosecute a legal grower could have a chilling effect on states looking to copy Arizona’s medical industry model.

The largest federal law enforcement agency in Arizona is the U.S. Border Patrol. That agency said its policies have not changed.

"Right now, Border Patrol agents, when they come upon subjects in possession of medical marijuana, they seize the marijuana pursuant to federal law," Harwin said. 

Under some circumstances, people can also be charged, fined or even have their vehicle seized. Those same rules can apply, not just at a highway checkpoint, but crossing a port of entry into the United states as well.