Reefer, loud pack, jays, and Mary Jane have been a few of the names that the popular green stuff, grown from the earth, has been called. Formally, it’s known as Marijuana, and has been widely popular amongst teenagers and young adults; hell, even some grandparents still enjoy the recreational use of marijuana. Although the general public has become more liberal in their views on the use of marijuana, it still is considered a criminal offense in the majority of states. With the move to decriminalize marijuana, and with a few states actually making it no longer a criminal act to possess, this topic has become a popular one with stoners and non-stoners alike. But, before you go out and get your hands on that “purple haze” or that “banana kush”, let me answer nine of the most common questions I get regarding marijuana and its legal implications.
Q. IS MARIJUANA LEGAL?
A. It is true that the United States Federal Government still classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, similar to heroin, meth, and crack. Marijuana is generally not legal for recreational use except for the possession of small amounts in the States of Colorado, DC, Oregon and Washington. Several other states have special laws that allow people to use marijuana as medicine with a prescription.
Q. WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR MARIJUANA POSSESSION?
A. This answer can vary from state to state. In Maryland, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is viewed as a civil offense, and carries a maximum fine of $100 for a first offense. For possession of 10 grams or more of marijuana, the maximum penalty is one year in jail or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both. If a person is caught with a really large amount, such as an ounce or more or has items accompanying the “green”, such as small baggies or a scale, Possession with Intent to Distribute may be the likely charge, and we enter into a whole new arena that can be discussed in a separate post.
Q. BUT, WHAT IF I HAVE A PRESCRIPTION FOR MARIJUANA?
A. There are reduced criminal penalties for someone with a “debilitating medical condition”, as documented by a physician. It is necessary that you show that you (1) have a debilitating medical condition that has been diagnosed by a physician with whom the defendant has a bona fide physician-patient relationship; (2) that the debilitating medical condition is severe and resistant to conventional medicine; and (3) that marijuana is likely to provide the defendant with therapeutic relief from the medical condition. If the court finds that you used or possessed marijuana because of medical necessity, on conviction of a violation of this law, the maximum penalty that the court may impose on the person is a fine not exceeding $100. Keep in mind that you cannot use the defense of medicinal marijuana if you are found using marijuana in a public place or if you are found in possession of more than one ounce of marijuana.
Q. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM ARRESTED OR GIVEN A CITATION FOR POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA?
A. If an officer approaches you and asks you questions about marijuana, you should always tell the officer that you do not want to answer any questions; that you wish to remain silent and that you would like to speak with a lawyer. I’m going to keep it 100 with you though… at this point, if you have already been stopped and questioned about marijuana, there is nothing you can do or say that will help your situation other than what I outlined above. You cannot talk your way out of the charge. Officers can be very misleading by asking you seemingly innocent questions like “Where are you going?” I’ve even seen situations on a routine stop where an officer will act like they are buddies with the defendant and even admit that they have smoked marijuana in the past or that they disagree with the marijuana laws. Don’t get caught slippin. These are tactics used by the police to gather information to help convict you on the charge. Please be clear, DO NOT GIVE THEM ANY INFORMATION THAT YOU DO NOT NEED TO. Give them your name and ID, and ask to call your lawyer.
Q. WHAT IF I GET PULLED OVER FOR DRIVING AFTER SMOKING A JAY?
A. Driving while impaired on drugs, just like driving under the influence of alcohol, is considered a serious offense. If you are pulled over by the police and they question you about marijuana use or even alcohol use, it is better to be polite and cooperative, but assert your rights to remain silent and to speak with a lawyer. The State must prove that you were too impaired to drive due to the use of a drug or alcohol or they must prove that you are above the legal limit of alcohol in your blood, which is .08% BAC. Officers usually prove this by observing your behavior, your appearance, your speech pattern, your ability to perform satisfactorily on standardized field sobriety tests, breath tests, and possibly blood tests.
Some states have adopted limits of allowable marijuana metabolites in your blood to operate a vehicle. For example, Colorado has adopted the standard of 5 nanograms per milliliter of active THC in your blood as the limit for driving. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on which side of the glass you’re on, Maryland has not developed such a standard.
Q. DO I NEED A LAWYER FOR POSSESSION OF A SMALL AMOUNT OF MARIJUANA?
A. Of course, my answer is always “yes”! Whenever you are accused of a crime, especially a drug crime, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney. There are long-lasting consequences to a drug conviction. If you have a “guilty” on your record for even a small amount of marijuana, you may be prevented from receiving federal benefits, such as student loans and financial aid, you may lose welfare benefits, you may be prevented from working with children and becoming a teacher, if you wanted to join the military or have a career in law enforcement or law, you may be forever answering for this charge, and if you hold a green card, you may be deported. Without proper legal advice, you may not really know the consequences of what you are doing. As always, just remember, #Dontgetcaughtslippin.
Prince Williams, Esq. is an AVID Lawyer with AVID Law Firm, LLC; the premiere DUI, and criminal defense firm in Maryland.
Call today at 240-561-7433.