Criminal Law

Can I Be Arrested for Drug Possession if I Have Medical Marijuana?

Although you can use medical marijuana legally in a number of states, there are circumstances where you may be charged with possession of marijuana for having it, even if for a medical use. Your state's medical marijuana laws do not give you unlimited rights to use, possess, transport, or distribute marijuana. Depending on where you live and other factors, this may lead to a misdemeanor or felony possession of marijuana conviction.

In many states, each jurisdiction (like a city or county) that allows the use of medical marijuana has its own laws and regulations on how you can grow, sell, and consume it.

However, marijuana use of any kind is still illegal under federal law, which creates more circumstances that can lead to a drug possession charge. So even if a doctor legally prescribed it to you, understanding your state and local laws is essential to ensure you avoid any criminal charges. Working with a criminal defense attorney who understands cannabis law may also be key in successfully resolving criminal charges.

State Medical Marijuana Laws and Possession

A growing number of states allow doctors or medical providers to prescribe medical marijuana for specific conditions. However, it is not always as simple as obtaining a prescription or authorization. Each state has its own laws that impose additional guidelines and restrictions on possessing medical marijuana as well. This can typically be found in the state statute or code.

Oftentimes, state statutes dictate how much medical marijuana you may legally possess, or the amount you can carry before it becomes illegal. Depending on your jurisdiction, the law may consider any quantity above the legal limit as criminal drug possession. Some states define the quantity of marijuana you may possess by a 30-day supply, while others use ounces or grams as limits.

Other state laws provide restrictions on the form of medical marijuana or cannabis, so the amount that you can have of the flower may differ from the permissible amount of edibles you may possess. A few states even forbid patients from growing their own marijuana, so the cultivation along with possessing any marijuana you grew on your own for medical use may lead to legal troubles as well.

A number of states require medical marijuana patients to register with the state and carry a medical marijuana card. Patients use these cards to purchase medical marijuana at dispensaries. Additionally, if police accuse you of illegal drug possession, you can use this card as a form of identification to show law enforcement your status. But failing to comply with your state's registration requirements might lead to criminal charges like drug possession if police ever pull you over.

Differences in State Medical Marijuana Laws

It is important to remember that not all states have the same regulations and restrictions on legally possessing medical marijuana. The amount of marijuana and the form it takes are both common differences, so it is important to research the laws in the states you are traveling to.

Carrying a valid medical marijuana prescription card or another document approved by your state may allow you to avoid an arrest on marijuana possession charges, provided you are in compliance with your state laws. You should not count on this, however.

Not all states recognize out-of-state medical marijuana cards when it comes to making purchases from a medicinal marijuana dispensary. Typically, these states allow out-of-state medical marijuana patients to use recreational dispensaries if recreational or personal use is legal. However, failing to abide by the restrictions in place for recreational marijuana may also lead to a drug possession charge.

It is also essential to remember that not all states allow medicinal marijuana. This means, regardless of your prescription, that it is still marijuana possession if you live in a state that does not allow medical marijuana.

Federal Law and Drug Possession

While medical marijuana may be legal in some states, marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana is a Class I controlled substance under federal law, which comes with some serious penalties for a marijuana possession conviction.

One common instance where possessing medical marijuana may lead to a federal criminal charge is interstate travel. Driving across state lines with a controlled substance is illegal, which may lead to a federal criminal drug possession charge if you are pulled over by law enforcement. Another time you may run into this issue is when traveling on an airplane or by boat with marijuana or any kind of other controlled substance.

Defending Against Drug Possession Charges

Even in some states where medical marijuana is still illegal, people who are charged with illegally possessing the drug may be allowed to raise a medical need as a legal defense against a drug charge.