Over the last several years, the nation has been engaged in conversation about how law enforcement treats marijuana. Several states have legalized medical marijuana to varying degrees and two states have even legalized recreational use. This could be viewed as an overall shift in attitudes toward marijuana as it relates to public policy.
In fact, Iowa's governor recently signed a bill into law that allows a specific type of cannabis oil to be used in medical contexts. The law is designed to provide treatment for severe epilepsy.
Despite evolving laws and views on marijuana, federal law enforcement still takes a very hard line.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has a system for classifying all drugs, including prescriptions. They are divided into five "schedules," with Schedule I drugs considered to be the "most dangerous." Additionally, those who are facing charges related to Schedule I substances generally face the harshest of penalties when being prosecuted by federal officials.
Interestingly enough, the DEA considers marijuana to be a Schedule I drug. Methamphetamine and cocaine, on the other hand, are both Schedule II, which means they considered to be less dangerous.
Additionally, the DEA indicates that marijuana has no accepted medical uses. This is interesting when juxtaposed with state policies permitting marijuana used as a treatment for medical conditions.
Dealing with federal drug charges is obviously a very serious matter. Until there is widespread changes in federal law, those who are suspected of possessing or distributing marijuana could be facing the specter of jail time.
Meanwhile, others are allowed to possess and use the same substance in other parts of the country without penalty.
Source: U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, "Drug Scheduling," accessed June 27, 2014