In states that allow marijuana for medical use, patients can possess weed without fear of prosecution from state and local authorities. However, the amount of marijuana that you can have may be limited, depending on the state where you live.
Possessing more than the legally allowable amount of marijuana could lead to criminal charges, even if you have a medical card. If you have questions about medical and recreational marijuana limits in your state, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for legal advice.
It was only about 20 years ago that marijuana was illegal for any purpose in almost all states. California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996. As of early 2021, 36 states already have or are creating a medical marijuana program, in addition to the District of Columbia.
In states with legal medical marijuana, patients and caregivers can get a prescription or medical marijuana card from a qualified healthcare provider. Qualifying medical conditions that could benefit from the use of marijuana may include:
Medical marijuana possession laws vary by state, and the laws surrounding amounts are evolving. Some of the states that have passed medical use legislation are still in the process of determining how to make state-licensed medical marijuana available to patients. Some of the states that may allow medical marijuana include:
Most states limit the amount that a medical marijuana patient can possess. Generally, the limits are in ounces of usable marijuana or the number of days the marijuana would supply the patient. Not all states allow patients and their caregivers to grow their own pot. In states that do allow cultivation, possession may also be limited by the number of mature and immature marijuana plants.
A medical marijuana card or prescription does not allow for unlimited possession of medical marijuana, even if it is just for personal use. If you are found to be in possession of more than the allowable amount, you may face criminal charges. The criminal offense you face may depend on whether the prosecutor charges you with drug possession or drug distribution. Other factors that could impact the criminal penalties may include the amount, if there was evidence of sale or trafficking, and your prior criminal record.
Drug possession charges for getting caught with marijuana may be charged as an infraction or as a misdemeanor crime. As an infraction, the penalties usually include paying a fine, like a traffic ticket. A misdemeanor drug possession conviction could mean up to a year in jail and a fine.
With larger amounts of marijuana, you may face felony drug distribution charges. Possession with the intent to sell is generally a more serious crime, punishable by up to five years in jail or more. There are also consequences of a felony conviction that can follow long after serving the criminal sentence, limiting housing options and gun ownership.
Prosecution for possession with the intent to distribute does not have to necessarily include proof that you actually sold drugs. Evidence that could indicate packaging for sale may be used to convince a jury that you planned to sell the drugs. This could include scales, baggies, and large amounts of cash.
There are several legal defense strategies available to those facing charges related to medical marijuana. If the police conducted an illegal search of your home, car, or person, your lawyer may be able to suppress any evidence gathered to keep it out of court. This is known as the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine.
Unfortunately, the police do not always understand how important medical cannabis is for patients who need relief. The police may seize your state-licensed medical marijuana without taking into account your medical exemption, but a medical marijuana card or prescription should allow you to possess a limited amount of medical marijuana according to state law. Contact a criminal defense lawyer for advice.