Locate a Local Criminal Lawyer
What Is Marijuana?
Marijuana, derived from the cannabis plant, is typically ingested through inhalation. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug according to the federal government, but many states have begun a process of decriminalization, typically through medical marijuana initiatives.
Federal Marijuana Prosecution
Like most other illicit drugs, marijuana use is not usually prosecuted under federal law. However, over recent years, the federal government has shifted considerable attention on the international and domestic marijuana trade. This focus is aimed primarily at disrupting domestic growers and distributors, as well as stopping importation of marijuana from foreign countries.
State Marijuana Prosecution
States all have their own set of fines and penalties for anything from mere possession of marijuana to the sale of large quantities. Marijuana related crimes are often wobblers, and may be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the case and any aggravating factors. The following is a general breakdown of the parameters of state prosecution:
- Minimum/Maximum Fine - $100-$150,000
- Minimum/Maximum Jail Time - 3 days-5 years
- Minimum/Maximum Fine - $100-$500,000
- Minimum/Maximum Jail Time - 6 months-Life in Prison
Keep in mind that some states, like Washington and Colorado, have recently legalized marijuana for recreational use. This does not, however, exempt a person from crimes that may result from the use of marijuana, such as driving under the influence.
Are There Any Defenses I Could Use If I Am Accused of Possessing or Selling Marijuana?
The defenses to possession or sales of marijuana are typically the same as most illegal drugs. The only differences between marijuana and other drugs may be that marijuana can be used for medical purposes. Note that medical use of marijuana is not a defense under federal law.
Defenses to Marijuana Possession
- The Substance Must Actually be Marijuana – This one may seem like a no-brainer, but the defendant must actually have marijuana to be accused of its possession.
- Lack of Knowledge – The defendant must know that marijuana was under the defendant’s control.
- Lack of Control – The defendant had control over the marijuana, either because the drug was in the defendant’s physical possession, or the drugs were within the defendant’s constructive presence; the drugs were inside the room with defendant or the defendant had another person holding the drugs for defendant.
- Medical Use – A permit and a doctor’s written note are essential.
Defenses to Marijuana Sales
- Actually Marijuana – Like possession, defendant must actually be carrying marijuana for the sales of the drug to be a crime. However, depending on the laws of your state, a prosecutor may be able to establish intent to distribute or the sale of marijuana even if the defendant is selling what they believe to be marijuana or if the marijuana is not currently in the defendant’s possession, but in some other location.
- No Possession – Possession is intertwined with sales of an illegal drug: Selling a drug often means having possession over the drug.
- No Intent – The defendant must have the intent to sell the drug. This can be established by circumstantial evidence, such as the presence of cash.
- Medical Use – This defense will not work if you are not a medical professional licensed to distribute marijuana; note that it is the distributor’s intent that is measured, not the users.
Should I Hire an Attorney for Marijuana Issues?
If you have been accused of or arrested for possessing or selling marijuana, you may find the aid of a criminal defense attorney extremely helpful. The advice of a defense attorney may help you understand both the procedural aspects of criminal prosecution and local attitudes in your jurisdiction toward prosecution for possession of this drug.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 03-05-2014 12:50 PM PST
Link to this page