Although marijuana has been legalized for recreational and medicinal use in several states, other states in the U.S. still have strict penalties for possession of marijuana. Possession of marijuana can be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the amount, and in certain states where it has been decriminalized it may even be considered an infraction. States are responsible for prosecuting offenders in most cases, but federal jurisdiction may prevail in some cases.
Federal Possession of Marijuana Laws
Individual state laws surrounding possession of marijuana may vary significantly, but possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law. This means that under certain circumstances, offenders may be prosecuted to the fullest extent of federal law, even in states where charges may typically be lesser. This is usually only used in cases of extremely high quantity or where other factors, such as trafficking or distribution may have been taking place.
The Controlled Substance Act
In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act. This Act works to regulate controlled substances by classifying each substance into one of five categories, called Schedules. Schedule 1 is reserved for drugs that are the most harmful, have the highest potential for abuse and addiction, and have no medicinal value. In 1970, marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 drug and is still scheduled as such under federal law.
Possession of Marijuana Charges
In states where possession of marijuana is still aggressively prosecuted, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana may be considered a felony which is punishable with up to five years in prison. Possession of less than twenty grams is a misdemeanor, but can be punishable by up to a year in jail in the offender has prior offenses. Possession of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school or playground may also carry higher penalties than simple possession of marijuana charges.
If convicted of possession of marijuana, defendants may face penalties including:
- Suspension of driver’s license
- Community service
Marijuana Charges Consequences
If convicted of possession of marijuana, individuals may also face other hardships in addition to those imposed by the law. Some individuals may be faced with potentially losing employment or being ineligible for hire at certain jobs. Those convicted of possession of marijuana will also have a criminal record, which may affect reputations, trust, and credibility. Loss of a drivers’ license can also make working difficult and cause financial hardship, as well as being costly to reinstate.
Orlando Marijuana Defense Lawyers
With the laws surrounding possession of marijuana shifting quickly, it is more important than ever to hire a marijuana defense attorney. An attorney that has experience dealing with marijuana laws is an expert at determining what steps to take to form a solid defense to protect individuals that have been accused of possession of marijuana. Marijuana defense lawyers are very familiar with the most current laws surrounding possession and will be able to provide the best advice for defendants.
Illegal Search and Seizure Defense
In some cases where marijuana has been seized, law enforcement has acted outside of the law in order to find the drug. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of property. If a marijuana defense attorney can prove that evidence was obtained without probable cause to perform the search, or that the defendant was coerced into allowing a search, the evidence is deemed to be unlawfully obtained. Evidence that is unlawfully obtained is typically considered inadmissible.
Lack of Knowledge Defense
If a defendant was unaware that the substance which was seized was marijuana, or was unaware of the illegal nature of the drug, possession of marijuana charges may be dropped. Defendants may have a difficult time proving this lack of knowledge without a defense attorney. Defense attorneys will be able to assist defendants in following the proper steps to prove a lack of knowledge prior to the possession of marijuana arrest.
Questionable Possession Defense
In many cases, marijuana is seized from a location that many different people have access to. Depending on the scenario, defense attorneys may ask prosecutors to prove that the marijuana belonged to the defendant and not someone else that had access to the location. This can be difficult to prove, but police testimony may serve as evidence. A defense attorney will understand the proper steps to take to uphold the defense.
Medical Marijuana Defense
In states where marijuana is legal, a doctor’s prescription will often be required to prove that the patient legally possessed marijuana. However, in some cases proof of a medical illness that is typically treated with medical marijuana in the state may work as a defense. A marijuana defense attorney may be able to assist defendants in obtaining the necessary documentation to prove medical necessity.
“Statutes & Constitution: View Statutes: Online Sunshine.” Statutes & Constitution: View Statutes: Online Sunshine. The Florida Legislature, 20 May 2014. Web. 21 May 2014. <http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String&URL=0800-0899/0893/Sections/0893.13.html>
“The Controlled Substances Act of 1970.” Summary of Federal Laws. The Catholic University of America, 9 Aug. 2010. Web. 21 May 2014. <http://counsel.cua.edu/fedlaw/csa1970.cfm>