Sara Snowden

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“Hot Potato is a very different game when the people playing are starving.” In the context of federal marijuana legalization, various branches and agencies within the government have long engaged in a game of political hot potato—tossing responsibility for legalization off into the hands of someone (anyone) else. These evasive maneuvers are not victimless. As an overwhelming majority of states have taken actions to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, unsuspecting citizens have been caught in the crosshairs between conflicting state and federal laws.

Take for example David Doe, a resident of Colorado, who suffered many afflictions. Three years ago, he was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor which not only caused chronic pain but also epilepsy as well. To alleviate his symptoms, his oncologist prescribed medical marijuana. Faced with impending death, David packed his medical marijuana and drove to the neighboring state of Kansas to visit family. Shortly after crossing into Kansas, David was arrested and charged with violating federal drug laws. David protested that he had a valid prescription and a medical marijuana card, but these defenses were unavailing. Though some states, like Colorado, have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use, it remains illegal under federal law and, therefore, David was subject to federal criminal prosecution. David was a starving victim of the federal government’s hot potato approach to marijuana legalization.

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