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Felony drug charges for 1 man, even though pot is legal

State law has decriminalized marijuana in Colorado, so that means that no one can get in trouble for using it, right? Not so fast; scores of residents in Washington are having to mount a criminal defense because the federal government is targeting them for drug offenses. Washington decriminalized pot around the same time as Colorado did, which is leaving some people fearing that additional raids could soon strike our state.

One Spokane man who has been using marijuana to treat chronic pain from gout could face 10 years in prison if he is convicted on federal charges in Washington. He had been using marijuana for several years before his farm was raided in 2012. During that raid, 44 pot plants were confiscated, in addition to the man's vehicle, cash and his firearms. The man said he is confused by the charges because he was in possession of a medical marijuana card at the time of the raid.

Now, that man is facing six felony charges, including distribution and manufacture of marijuana and possession of a firearm to further a drug-trafficking crime. Several others have also been charged in connection with the raid, including the man's son and wife. Activists who are trying to change federal law have called the plan "out of whack" and discriminatory against those who need marijuana for medicine. Others say that it might be better for the federal government to fund more research grants to help industry develop cannabis-based medications that could be more effective than traditional prescription drugs.

No matter your reason for using marijuana, the fact remains that you could face felony drug charges for possessing the drug. That fact persists even though Colorado has fully legalized marijuana, and the federal government is ostensibly supporting the state's plans to tax the drug's sales. It remains to be seen whether federal administrators truly intend to leave pot users alone in the wake of these revolutionary state-level legislative changes.

Source:  Idaho Statesman, "When pot cures pain, prison still can follow Even in Washington state" Rob Hotakainen, May. 11, 2014

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