What Is Drug Legislation?
The state or federal governments form drug legislation or drug policies. These policies then control and regulate which substances are considered illegal, addictive, or dangerous. They also dictate how these drugs are handled, the punishment for ignoring legislation, and which government agency oversees their distribution in the United States.
Laws on drug use, manufacturing, possession, distribution, and dispensing have been around for decades, and they are not just federal laws either – state and local governments have their set of drug legislation that can apply to residents within that state. Some of these legislations go against federal government laws.
For example, states that legalize marijuana while the federal government still classifies it as an illegal substance.
What Drug Laws and Policies Affect New Mexico Residents?
If you reside in New Mexico, you have state and federal drug legislation that might affect you. Therefore, you should understand these laws, especially when it involves drugs that are addressed differently between the federal government and state level.
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA)
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was given the task of enforcing Title 21 of the United States Code, “Controlled Substances Act” by Congress.
Under the CSA, all substances are regulated in some way based on their categorization. The federal law has five schedules; each schedule has distinct rules for distribution, possession, manufacturing, and dispensing. Not all substances in the CSA are illegal either, but selling them or using them without a valid prescription, in some instances, can be.
The purpose of the CSA was to create a legal outline of which drugs require control and which can be sold over-the-counter. Drugs are then monitored and changed by the DEA as they see fit along with assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
When considering to which schedule a substance belongs, the DEA must consider:
- The chances of abuse
- Scientific evidence of any pharmacological effects
- Existing scientific knowledge on the substance
- The history and pattern of abuse for that substance
- The duration and significance of abuse
- The risk to public health (if any)
- The dependence liability of the content (both psychologically and physiologically)
- If the substance can serve as a precursor of another controlled substance
The federal government lists substances in five schedules, with Schedule I being the most serious. Drugs in Schedule I have no medicinal purpose (according to the government), have a high potential for abuse, and are a serious health and safety risk to the public. One substance in Schedule I is marijuana, but some states have already legalized it for medical and recreational use, which means state legislation goes against federal in this case.
Schedule V drugs are those that have low to no potential for abuse and often include drugs sold over-the-counter.
What If the State Reclassifies a Substance as Legal?
If the state legalizes something that the federal government makes illegal, residents must follow the legislation within their state. However, if they were to take that substance into a neighboring state, that state’s laws would apply. If that state does not have any legislation in place legalizing it, then the federal government’s laws would take over. Also, even though two states might have legalized a substance that the federal government classifies as illegal, transporting it across state lines is illegal – which means you could be arrested for drug trafficking a substance you legally purchased and used in your state.
New Mexico Legalizes the Medical Use of Marijuana Only
Under the Lynn and Erin Compassion Use Act, residents in the state of New Mexico will not face criminal penalties for the possession or use of marijuana when it is used for a legitimate medical reason. A physician must diagnose the person with a debilitating medical condition that justifies the use of marijuana. Likewise, the use of that substance is monitored by a licensed physician.
Medical conditions that do qualify for medical marijuana include epilepsy, glaucoma, cancer, HIV, and multiple sclerosis.
SB 323 Decriminalizes Up to a Half Ounce of Marijuana
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed bill SB 323 in April 2019 that decriminalized up to a half-ounce of marijuana, and the bill takes effect July 1st, 2019. While it is decriminalized, the penalty of $50 applies for the possession of up to a half-ounce but the defendant would not serve jail time.
When residents hear “decriminalization,” they think it means that they can grow, sell, use, or distribute a drug in their state, but this is not always the case. It is critical to understand the nuances of these laws because, while it might be decriminalized, restrictions apply. These restrictions can include how much a person can legally possess, reasons for possession, and where they are at the time they are arrested in possession of that substance.
A person in possession of up to one ounce of marijuana can still face up to 15 days in jail and a civil penalty of up to $100. For a second offense, a person can serve up to one year in jail under New Mexico Statute Section 30-31-23.
Arrested for a Drug Crime? You Need an Attorney
Understanding the differences between federal and state legislature is complex, especially when they contradict one another. Likewise, knowing the limits of medical use of a substance like marijuana can be highly complex.
If you or a loved one was arrested for a drug crime in the state, it is imperative that you hire a drug crime defense attorney.
The attorneys at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices understand how frustrating it can be to understand the law and how stressful it can be when you are accused of breaking that law. Let our attorneys help defend your rights and clear your name. Drug offenses can be severe, and they could affect you for the rest of your life. To avoid serving time in jail or having a permanent criminal record, contact one of our attorneys now for a free case evaluation at 505-200-2982 or request more information online.