Marijuana was legalized in California this past November, but the laws around legal weed are anything but straightforward. For weeks now, we've been fielding and answering listener questions about the new legal pot landscape.
Is it true that the federal government can deny your right to bear arms if you smoke pot?
Yes. If you want to purchase a firearm and you're a marijuana user, you can be turned away.
When you buy a gun, you have to fill out a federal Firearms Transaction Record before you're approved for your purchase. On that form you have to check yes or no to the following question: "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?" If the answer is yes, then you will be denied the purchase.
That's because the federal government lists marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, which means that they don't consider it to have any medical benefits, putting it in the same category as heroin and LSD. The difference between how the federal government and state governments classify marijuana is behind a lot of the tension around the legalization of cannabis.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives clarified their stance in a 2011 letter, stating, "Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition."
How they would find out if you're a user in unclear, as drug tests aren't required prior to the purchase of a weapon. However, if you check "no" on the form and it's discovered that you’re lying, that can result in a 10-year prison sentence and/or a fine of $250,000.
There was a case in Nevada where a gun salesman knew that a woman who wanted to purchase a gun from him was a marijuana user. He turned her down and the woman challenged the decision in court. This September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the decision to deny her right to purchase a weapon.
Do you have to disclose possession of marijuana during a traffic stop if it's inside of your vehicle?
Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney Eric Shevin said, "Marijuana doesn't have to be disclosed on a traffic stop, and in fact nothing other than your name, driver's license, registration and insurance has to be disclosed. The safest rule is to be cooperative, but to make clear that you are not willing to waive any of your important constitutional rights and you would like to be on your way as quickly as possible."
But, this question raises another...
Can you carry marijuana in your car?
Yes. According to Proposition 64, it's now legal for anyone over 21 years of age to "possess, process, transport, purchase, obtain, or give away to persons 21 years of age or older without any compensation whatsoever, not more than 28.5 grams of marijuana not in the form of concentrated cannabis." The same rule applies to edibles and up to eight grams of marijuana concentrate.
It's a different question if you're transporting a large amount of marijuana for business purposes. If you're carrying more than an ounce with you, under the new law you need to have a special license to do so. That licensing system hasn't been built yet, leaving those who transport marijuana for medical dispensaries throughout the state in legal limbo.
If you're caught with more than one ounce of weed, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and a fine.
And as a reminder, don't smoke and drive. It's illegal and dangerous.
If you have a medical marijuana card and you're applying to jobs, will potential employers be privy to that information?
According to Shevin, "Physician/patient privilege extends to a medical marijuana ID card and the State's voluntary ID card system is 100 percent confidential."
However, while they might not be able to peek into your medical history, employers can still require drug tests. And under current law, it's still legal for employers to fire employees who test positive for THC.
Now that it's legal to grow your own marijuana, if you want to grow your own pot, can you order seeds through the mail, as they're available online?
No. Even though there are a number of websites that you can order cannabis seeds from, it's illegal to have them shipped to you through the mail.
Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, you can't ship them through the United States Postal Service, which adheres to federal law. I asked both FedEx and UPS about their policies and they told me that they both follow federal law and strictly prohibit the shipping of any marijuana products, even if the shipment never crosses state lines.
There are options for people who want to grow their own plants. You can be gifted seeds by friends, and if you have a medical marijuana recommendation, there are stores that sell seeds.
Series: High-Q: Your California pot questions answered
This story is part of Take Two's look at the burgeoning, multi-billion dollar marijuana industry in California, with audience Q&As, explorations of personal narratives and an examination of how the industry is changing the world around our audience.