The relationship of the model bill and state law to federal law

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Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 6, 2005 (Gonzales v. Raich) that the federal government can prosecute patients in states that removed their criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana, the court did not question a states ability to allow patients to grow, possess, and use medical marijuana under state law.

Indeed, the medical marijuana laws that have been passed by voter initiatives in eight states and by three legislatures continue to provide effective legal protection for patients and their primary caregivers because they are carefully worded. MPP's model bill is based on those laws — primarily the Rhode Island law, because it is the most recent medical marijuana law that received majority support among state legislators.

Of course, the model bill only provides protection against arrest and prosecution by state or local authorities. State laws cannot offer protection against the possibility of arrest and prosecution by federal authorities. Even so, because 99% of all marijuana arrests are made by state and local — not federal — officials, properly worded state laws can effectively protect 99 out of every 100 medical marijuana users who would otherwise face prosecution at the state level.

In truth, changing state law is the key to protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest. To our knowledge, there has not been one documented case in which a patient has been arrested by federal authorities for a small quantity of marijuana in the 11 states that have effective medical marijuana laws.

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