Pubdate: Wed, 14 May 2014
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2014 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


People in Colorado have a medical-marijuana law and a
recreational-marijuana law. They also have the law of unintended

For example, businesses that legally sell marijuana under state law
sometimes have to spray their cash with air freshener or the banks
won't accept it - because the money smells like marijuana and selling
pot remains illegal under federal law, which regulates banks.

A medical-marijuana patient in Colorado can't legally buy a firearm,
faces potential eviction from federal housing projects and might be
prohibited from receiving veterans benefits.

The ins and outs of marijuana legalization were discussed in Ohio
Supreme Court chambers last night as part of a series of court forums
on legal issues. Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor moderated a panel of
David Blake, a deputy attorney general in Colorado; Douglas Berman, a
law professor at Ohio State University; and Dan Riffle, director of
federal polices for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.

Ohioans could vote in the next two years on an issue to legalize
medical marijuana and hemp. But supporters remain far short of having
the necessary signatures and financial backing to mount a full-scale

Blake, a former prosecutor who said he "adamantly opposed" the
marijuana issues when they were approved by Colorado voters, now must
make the laws work. He acknowledged that it is a big headache because
of the conflict between state and federal law.

"We're making this up as we go," he said. "It really has created some
true challenges. We're litigating cases all over the state."

Riffle, a Capital University Law School grad and former assistant
prosecutor in Vinton County, said the clash "puts a lot of people in
the crosshairs."

He said businesses that dispense marijuana have trouble finding banks
to take their accounts because, under federal law, such transactions
could be considered illegal money-laundering of drug profits.

Nevertheless, the pot business is booming. Now, consumer-protection
issues are cropping up, such as the appropriate marijuana content of a
chocolate bar or a gummy bear.

Colorado collected $7.3 million in taxes on recreational-marijuana
sales in the first three months of this year. That amount is expected
to rise. Medical marijuana is not taxed.

Berman, who conducts a college seminar on marijuana laws, said several
states are looking at easing the door open by legalizing "Charlotte's
Oil," an extract containing marijuana components found helpful in
relieving seizures in children.

As more states legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use -
there are 21 now, with campaigns expected in a half-dozen others - it
becomes "awfully hard to defend the status quo," Berman said.
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