As opinions concerning the legality of cannabis continue to change from one side of the spectrum to the other, marijuana attorneys become subject to constantly changing legislative acts of decriminalization and criminalization.
Following the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, there are twelve states that propose state-level decriminalization of non-medical cannabis. However, use of the psychoactive drug is still considered illegal under federal law. The current Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution gives the federal government the authority to ban the use of cannabis, including medical use, even if local laws allow it.
Most places that have decriminalized marijuana impose civil fines, drug education or rehabilitation in place of incarceration for possession of small amounts of the drug, or put marijuana-related offenses at the lowest priority for law enforcement. Some states, such as Colorado, require cannabis cultivators and dealers to register for a government-approved license to be able to continue their trade.
Marijuana attorneys need to be constantly updated on the stance of their jurisdiction on the legality of cannabis as this can largely affect their effectiveness at court. Just because the entire state proposes a decriminalization of weed does not mean every town approves.
In California, for example, several counties have passed their own ordinances concerning the distribution and cultivation of non-medical marijuana among its residents. Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz may both consider non-medical marijuana offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement, but the latter imposes a much stricter stance when it comes to the sale of the drug, especially to minors.