As people in Washington state begin to celebrate pot legalization, many of those who want to buy it have yet to get their hands on a piece of paper that gives them a legal basis to do so.
But legal experts and pot supporters say that the legal system has a long way to go to make sure pot is a safe and legal substance.
“People should be able to legally purchase marijuana, but the way it is now, it’s really a gray area,” said Mary Anne Franks, executive director of the Maryland chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a marijuana legalization group.
Franks, who has been advocating for marijuana legalization since 2008, said the system has been “very slow” to catch up.
“The current system in Maryland is so slow,” Franks said.
“I don’t think we’ve really caught up with how the state handles things.”
The marijuana industry in Maryland has been growing quickly over the past few years.
Maryland is now the nation’s sixth largest marijuana producer, according to the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
The state’s first legal marijuana store opened in July, with four more planned in 2018.
But while the new stores are open, they are not regulated by the state or the feds, meaning they are mostly operated by small-scale growers, mostly in rural areas.
And the legal weed industry has not yet figured out how to set up a national registry of marijuana dealers.
That has left pot sellers to navigate the complicated legal process of getting a license to sell pot to people in states that don’t have it.
“I think the federal government is probably going to be on the backfoot,” said Adam Cohen, a senior fellow at the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based marijuana policy advocacy group.
“There are some states that are going to have to come to grips with that, but I think the state has a really hard time putting its finger on that.
It’s just really unclear.”
Law enforcement officials say that even if Maryland and Washington legalize recreational marijuana, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“If there are no federal restrictions, the only thing we can really do is work with the state and work on how to deal with the regulatory framework that’s going to come out of the states, and we’ll see where that goes,” said Mark Hoffman, the Maryland deputy attorney general.
“We have to figure out how that is going to work, because we’re not going to solve all of these problems on our own.”
Legal marijuana advocates are hoping that the legalization effort in Maryland will help ease some of the regulatory problems that have plagued the industry.
“The state has not done a good job of creating a framework for the industry,” Franks argued.
“It is a challenge, but that challenge is not insurmountable.”
For now, Marylanders have the option of purchasing pot from licensed marijuana shops, which will have to follow the same rules as medical marijuana dispensaries.
The state has also created an online marketplace to buy pot from other states.
But many of the state’s licensed pot shops have not yet opened.
The Maryland chapter for Americans for Legal Medicine, a nonprofit that advocates for medical marijuana, says that the federal Justice Department will continue to try to block the legalization of marijuana.
And many advocates in the state believe the Justice Department is using its authority to force states to comply with federal drug laws and the federal Controlled Substances Act.
“We’ve seen the Justice department’s push back on marijuana laws, and the push back is not going away, so we think the DOJ will continue this,” said Frank.
But it’s unlikely that the Justice or DEA will be swayed by Maryland’s decision to go ahead with legal marijuana.
“They’ve been going after medical marijuana for years, and they’ve never actually done anything,” said Tom Angell, the head of Marijuana Majority, a Marijuana Policy Group group that has advocated for marijuana reform.
“They’re not really going to change their mind on this issue until they actually see the effects of it.”
Still, many advocates have been impressed with Maryland’s new marijuana legalization laws.
“These are the laws that are coming from the state, and I’m very pleased that Maryland is leading the way in this area,” Hoffman said.
Frank said that the state could have made a big difference if it had done more to help marijuana patients.
“If they’d done their homework, they would have seen that there are not a lot better ways to get pot from a dispensary than by mail,” she said.
But some lawmakers have also been pushing to give patients in Maryland more choices when it comes to medical marijuana.
A bill introduced last month in the House would have made it easier for patients to access medical marijuana from a licensed dispensary.
The bill has been criticized by some medical marijuana advocates, who say that while it does provide relief to patients, it could be confusing for patients who may be confused about the process of obtaining medical marijuana and who