Legal Analyst Suskauer: Pot Legalization Is National Trend

Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 04:38 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Marijuana has been decriminalized in some shape or form in 26 states, and the trend is continuing to go in that direction, says legal analyst Michelle Suskauer.

"I was very surprised to look at that number, and we're not just talking – there's only two states where it's actually legal – but where they're decriminalizing it, where small amounts for personal use are actually legal in certain states, states that you'd be surprised about," she told Newsmax TV's John Bachman on "America's Forum."

But because pot is still illegal federally, law enforcement has to figure out how to handle these cases, said Suskauer, a criminal trial lawyer who practices in Florida.

She described situations in some states where people are "getting packages of marijuana where it may not be legal yet, or it may just be legal for medicinal purposes. But federally, it is still against federal law to possess marijuana. It's still a controlled substance, and it seems as though as long as the states are not thumbing their nose at the federal government, they are looking the other way," she said.

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Still, states should not look at local laws in a vacuum, said Suskauer, whose areas of concentration include DUI, domestic violence, juvenile offenses, and narcotics offenses.

"For example, in DUI cases, where it seems like since marijuana may be legal or decriminalized, how do states deal with people driving under the influence of marijuana?" she said.

"In California, they're one of the very few states that's trying to deal with it and come up with standards, and as opposed to having a portable Breathalyzer, where you can actually test somebody's breath, they're actually using mouth swabs, and that's something that hasn't really been tested legally yet, but we're going to be seeing this."

As for how marijuana can be detected compared to how alcohol is detected, Suskauer said, "When you have a drink, certainly, you're looking at it, it says 6 percent alcohol or 14 percent alcohol. But when somebody is smoking a marijuana joint, it's not labeled saying, oh, by the way, this is extra-potent. "

"Now, Washington state, which is one of the two states where marijuana's legalized, they actually have a standard parts THC, parts per milliliters, where they've actually been able to put that into place. But most of the states have not done that yet, and we're seeing a rise in DUIs, a rise in drivers who are driving under the influence of THC," she added.

Asked whether she thought the country is moving toward handling nonviolent drug offenders separately, Suskauer responded, "We are. That's why you're seeing so many states going in the direction of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

"So, it's not a free-for-all even in the states that, right now, are legalized. But the governors and legislatures are realizing that we should not be locking up folks that are involved using small amounts of marijuana. We just don't have the money, we don't have the time in the court system to litigate these cases," she said.

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