Limitations and Possibilities -- Cannabis Use, Medical Marijuana and the Law

For those of us in Missouri who have hoped to see medical and recreational marijuana legalized, there’s good news everywhere. Still, it's important to pay attention to where legalization runs into limitations.


California and Colorado led the nation with legalizing recreational use of marijuana, and other states have noticed the resulting positive economic impact. Now 11 states have legalized recreational use, and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states - one of the most recent our own state of Missouri! As legalization spreads, more states are considering taking the same path. In addition, cultural and societal acceptance is more prevalent, increasing the likelihood of federal legalization.


Still, there are some finer points of law of which everyone should be aware.


Driving In Legalized States


Can you drive legally while high?

No. Driving while high is not legal in any state, including states where cannabis has been legalized. There is no easy way to assess or document how stoned people are – there’s no equivalent of a breathalyzer for marijuana, and police can’t test blood samples on-site.

Some claim their ability to drive safely is improved while high. Despite this, and despite the current lack of tools for law enforcement to prove impairment levels, it is still vital for cannabis lovers to stay sober behind the wheel.


Law enforcement has the right to arrest anyone based on observed behavior, for example if someone is acting like they are stoned or high. Therefore, it’s best not to give police officers any reason to suspect being under the influence or impaired.


Can you have cannabis or related paraphernalia in your vehicle while driving?

In Missouri, you can’t have cannabis with a broken seal, or any evidence of usage, in the passenger seat of a vehicle. This also applies to cannabis paraphernalia.


Even if the items are still sealed from when purchased, it’s best to keep any cannabis-related items in the trunk until the destination has been reached.


Travels with Cannabis


It is legal to drive with cannabis in vehicles in states where recreational cannabis is legal.


Driving from one legalized state to another (such as from Missouri to Illinois) is where some gray areas are found. Crossing state lines could bring the possibility of federal scrutiny. (Illegal activity in more than one state means that federal law enforcement, like the FBI, could be called in.) It’s unlikely this would happen in the current climate. Still, extra care is needed when traveling between legalized states.


Driving from a state where cannabis is legalized to where it’s not (like from Colorado to Missouri via Kansas) is illegal. Even though there is a plethora of reciprocity between Missouri and Kansas, unfortunately medical marijuana possession isn't one of them.

The population of states where weed is illegal haven’t had the opportunity to learn about its benefits. Some still consider marijuana to be harmful, and even medical use is discouraged. It best to avoid carrying cannabis into any state where it has not been legalized.


Flying with cannabis is out of the question, no matter the starting point or the destination – even within Missouri or from, say Kansas City to Portland Oregon. TSA agents dispose of marijuana supplies, and all flights in the U.S. are under the purview of the FAA (the Federal Aviation Administration). Federal security agents will not look the other way when encountering illegal substances.


Flying with cannabis, CBD or paraphernalia is completely inadvisable, even more so for international flights. Have you ever seen 'Locked Up Abroad'??


Employment-Based Drug Testing in Legalized States?


CBD supplements won’t cause drug screening test failures, but CBD-THC products could. However, it’s unclear if Missouri companies are still testing to find cannabis use – and it is highly doubtful employers will disclose information on the specifics of drug-testing policy to employees.


A lot of Missouri companies like Hallmark, H&R Block and Edward Jones operate in several states and want consistent policies and procedures. Therefore, it’s likely that if the company is in a non-legalized state, the same policies applicable there would also be applied in states where cannabis has been legalized.


The best advice is to abstain from using marijuana in advance of drug testing – at least 30 days for moderate users and longer for heavy users.


Medical Marijuana and the Law -- Am I Able to Pick Up Medical Marijuana for Someone Else?


No. No state allows anyone but the intended user to pick up medical marijuana. There are other restrictions as well. For example, in California and Oregon, no one is allowed to accompany medical patients into the medical area of most dispensaries.


It’s unlikely that we will see any changes to these specific policies, even with ongoing advances in recreational and medical marijuana legalization. Nevertheless, medical marijuana and the law will see rapid developments, both with new and effective treatments and in legalization.


A Look at the Big Picture


Attention should be paid to the restrictions surrounding cannabis, both for medical and recreational uses. Still, the big picture shows that progress is happening at many levels. The stigma is still there in some areas, but it has been lessening steadily over time, especially in states with varying degrees of legalization.


More and more states have allowed medical marijuana use and are moving through the complex process of legalization and education. In some states, laws for implementation and enforcement still need to be written. As legislators and doctors learn more, the more possible it is that legal recreational cannabis can be ushered in. It is expected that the federal government will soon change the classification of cannabis from Schedule 1, which will make it legal nationwide. (It will still be necessary to check on state laws, however.)


In the meantime, medical and recreational cannabis users should play it safe, especially when traveling. Employment-based drug testing will continue to be an area for caution. While everyone needs to be careful, there are many reasons for optimism. It is a complicated vista, but paying close attention will lead to successful navigation of the new normal.


Stay tuned to this blog for more updated on Missouri medical marijuana and for updates on the federal approach to all-things marijuana.


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