Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to jump leaps and bounds in 2024. As a lawyer, I’m always curious about how to integrate AI into my practice in order to better serve my clients. And now and then I check in with this seemingly omnipotent technology to ask what it deems top of mind for the cannabis industry. Given that we’re fresh into the new year, I logged into ChatGPT to ask it “What are the most asked questions about cannabis law”, and its answers honestly surprised me. Mainly because, after almost 14 years of practice in this area, it seems that the same questions remain despite all of the legal progress and reform in the area state by state.
ChatGPT Tells me the Top 10 Most Popular Cannabis Law Questions Right Now
Below are the allegedly top ten questions about cannabis law. I didn’t use ChatGPT’s answers though. My value add here is to lend my personal analysis to these answers (and maybe ChatGPT will catch up one day!):
- Is cannabis legal in my area? Yes, folks are still asking this question, which is indicative of how commonplace cannabis legalization is now. Of course, the answer depends on the state but, at last check, well more than half the states have legalized cannabis in some form for adult and/or medical use.
- What are the medical marijuana laws? Again, depends on state jurisdiction and even local laws. Of course, allowing medical cannabis has become the stepping stone to adult use, but that doesn’t occur in every single state. The most recent example is Florida, which has years behind it now as a medical cannabis state. Voters in the Sunshine State have tried again and again to get adult use on the ballot but they cannot seem to get passed ballot box barriers to entry.
- What is the legal age for cannabis consumption? The general rule of thumb in adult use states is that you cannot purchase adult use cannabis unless you’re 21 or up. And for medical cannabis, rules vary, but you can generally secure medical cannabis in the back of a physician’s recommendation (not prescription) if you’re 18 and up (with certain exceptions for minors with parental consent).
- Can I grow my own cannabis plants? Depends on state and even local laws, but most states allow for some form of home grow for both adult use and/or medical cannabis use. The more touchy area is the delivery of cannabis (from licensed retailers) with certain states still barring the practice (like Washington) while others embrace it wholeheartedly (like California).
- What are the possession limits for cannabis? This is another legal standard that’s all over the place depending on the state. For adult use though, you typically see the possession limitation of one ounce (although daily purchase limits do exist). For medical cannabis, possession limits vary widely by state.
- Can I travel with cannabis? Overwhelmingly here the answer is no when we talk about crossing state lines or using federally-regulated transportation (like airlines). Why? Because there is no lawful interstate commerce or movement since cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance. The intrastate movement is a different story because of state legalization. However, if you take your cannabis on a plane or buy your cannabis in Illinois (legal state) and take it into Indiana (no legalization), you do so at your own risk with no legal protections.
- Are there restrictions on where I can consume cannabis? This is another universal standard by state. Yes, there are going to be strict limits on where you can use cannabis. State law and regulators usually have a “no fly” list of places where cannabis cannot be consumed, and it usually includes things like public places and/or federal lands (for instance).
- Can I be fired for using cannabis? This one is a mixed bag of cannabis law depending on the state. It used to be the case in all states that using cannabis was an offense that could subject an employee to termination even if the consumption was done on a person’s own time off the clock in the event they tested positive on a drug test. However, laws have begun to shift in certain states that now have some employee protections in this area, like in California and Washington.
- What are the penalties for cannabis-related offenses? The answer to this one is that it depends on what we’re talking about–there are two worlds of cannabis penalties now in states with legalization. Commercial and personal. For cannabis businesses that violate licensing laws and regulations, there are a slew of penalties, fines, suspensions, and licensing revocation consequences that apply depending on the conduct. And, overall, if we’re talking about personal offenses, like possessing more cannabis than allowed by the law, in most states those offenders (depending on number of offenses and level of offense) are looking at more civil-type consequences like tickets and nominal fines.
- How are driving under the influence of cannabis (DUI) laws enforced? Personally, I feel that this area of cannabis law has confounded everyone in legal states from the inception of legalization. Most states essentially prohibit driving while under the influence of cannabis in any capacity and for any reason (including medical cannabis use). What mainly changed in states with legalization was the amount of THC in your system that could trigger a DUI. For example, in both Colorado and Washington, if you have five or more nanograms of THC concentration per milliliter of whole blood, you can be charged with a DUI. Cannabis DUIs are still definitely enforced, but the inference of actionable impairment is based on THC.
Relevant Questions that Didn’t Make the AI List
Top cannabis law questions that didn’t make the list (in my opinion) are: Will the Drug Enforcement Administration reschedule cannabis to schedule III? If rescheduling occurs, what happens to adult use cannabis states? What bills are currently in Congress to legalize cannabis? What is happening with cannabis banking? And what are the consumer protection issues with cannabis? The fact that these questions didn’t make the AI list tells me one important thing–voters care way more about the personal consequences of cannabis use than they do about the fate of the legal industry as a whole. However, now that we’re in a presidential election year, maybe this list of top questions will evolve and we’ll finally see if cannabis really is the bi-partisan secret weapon that sways voters. So, stay tuned!