Marijuana Possession Laws

Locate a Local Criminal Lawyer

Find Lawyers in Other Categories
Most Common Defense and Criminal Law Issues

Is Possession of Marijuana Illegal?

Possession of marijuana is a criminal offense in many jurisdictions. Marijuana is the most widely used illegal substance, tried by approximately 80 million Americans at least once.

Despite its widespread popularity, many states, as well as the federal government, vigorously prosecute marijuana possession. The reasoning behind this is that marijuana is seen as a gateway drug to other harder drugs like cocaine and heroin. In addition, marijuana is often associated with dangerous drug cartels and distribution rings. Finally, marijuana has the ability to severely affect one’s thinking processes and response time, resulting in delayed reactions and sometimes hallucinations.

Possession entails the deliberate and knowing possession of an illegal controlled substance. Possession can be actual or constructive. Actual possession occurs when the drugs are found on the person, such as in his or her pockets or hands. With constructive possession, the drugs are not on the person but are so close in vicinity that possession can be imputed on the defendant. To prove constructive possession, the government must prove the defendant had knowledge of the drugs, as well as the intent and ability to control them.

Marijuana Possession Prosecution

Marijuana possession enforcement varies based on:

Marijuana Possession Laws by Jurisdiction

The following 24 states have instituted a medical marijuana program that permits certain eligible residents to purchase, possess, or even cultivate marijuana for treatment of medical illness. 

Several states have also decriminalized marijuana by making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil infraction, punishable by only a fine. Other states classify possession of marijuana as a misdemeanor but only punish the offense with a fine. These states include:

Finally, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. have currently legalized adult possession of smaller amounts of marijuana, typically under one ounce, without the need for a medical prescription for it.

All other states, as well as the federal government, prohibit the possession of even small amounts of marijuana. Possession may be punished as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the amount and whether intent to sell exists.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Am Charged with Marijuana Possession?

A drug arrest has lasting consequences for your future and may affect your ability to secure a job, an apartment or even financial aid. A criminal defense lawyer can advise you on the marijuana possession laws in your state, investigate your case, evaluate whether your constitutional rights were violated, and assist you with crafting a defense strategy.

Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 04-05-2016 02:39 PM PDT

Find the Right Lawyer Now

Link to this page

Law Library Disclaimer

LegalMatch Service Mark