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Leaving California with legal weed could mean federal charges

California was the first state to create a medical marijuana program, and now they've joined the growing number of states who allow adults to purchase, grow and use marijuana for recreational purposes. There is likely to be an increase in tourists visiting California, at least in part, to enjoy legalized marijuana. However, if you try to take that marijuana home with you, it could cause serious legal issues.

While California has legalized adult use of marijuana and many other states also permit or regulate the drug for medical or recreational purposes, the federal government still considers marijuana to be a Schedule I substance. Even those who comply with state laws inside states with legalization laws could face federal prosecution for anything from possession to sales. Trying to leave a state like California with large amounts of marijuana in your vehicle or in your possession could also cause issues.

You could face federal trafficking charges for taking marijuana out of state

Attempting to cross state lines while in possession of any kind of drug typically turns the issue from a state crime to a federal crime, as the federal government overseas all interstate commerce. No matter how carefully you comply with state laws, you could find yourself at risk of federal prosecution if you try to move that legal marijuana across the California border, even into another state where it's legal in some form.

Simply driving or carrying the marijuana into another state could result in claims of importation, which could quickly lead to charges involving trafficking. If you have any kind of criminal record involving the sale of drugs, that could make it harder to argue that the marijuana was only for personal use. Similarly, owning scales to make sure the weight of the marijuana was accurate could provide grounds for trafficking or sale charges.

Federal law trumps state legalization

No matter how liberal or forward-thinking a state's new marijuana legalization law may be, these laws simply do not take legal precedence over the federal laws that prohibit the cultivation, possession, sale or use of marijuana. You need to inform yourself carefully about the potential risks involved with using marijuana in a legal state on vacation, just like you would about any law that could create risk for you.

For those who hope to benefit from lower enforcement efforts in states that have legalized marijuana, it's important to remember that those changes do not extend to other states or protect you from any kind of federal charges. Facing federal marijuana trafficking charges could result in jail time, a serious criminal record and ongoing issues such as difficulty finding good jobs in the future. You should always err on the side of caution when it comes to federal drug laws.

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