A huge number of crimes fall under the “drugs and marijuana” umbrella. For the most part, these crimes are exactly what they sound like: crimes related to drugs and marijuana. Drugs and marijuana are separated because, in many states, marijuana offenses are prosecuted differently from more serious drug-related crimes. Offenses might range from violations to serious felonies. If you’ve been accused of a marijuana or drug charge, it’s important to get in contact with an experienced attorney who can help you understand your options.
Even though medical cannabis is currently legal in some form in 46 states, any cannabis is still illegal according to federal law. The Controlled Substances Act is a federal statute that regulates drugs, and this act draws no distinction between medicinal marijuana use and recreational marijuana use. However, these federal laws are usually only applied to people who are involved in the cultivation, distribution, or possession of a large amount of cannabis.
Federal law treats cannabis like every other controlled substance. It’s placed on the same par as illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law, which means that the federal government does not recognize its medicinal effects. Activists are working to change the law due to the multiple documented medicinal properties of cannabis.
In some states, such as New York, marijuana offenses are prosecuted differently from controlled substances. New York’s lowest marijuana offense is actually a violation rather than a crime. This means that it will not be part of a person’s criminal record.
If a prosecutor wants to prove that a person is guilty of drug possession, they must prove that the person knew that the relevant drug was a controlled substance, and that the person also knowingly possessed this drug.
Possession isn’t the only possible drug crime, though. People will face increased charges if they’re charged with the intent to distribute controlled substances or marijuana. Additionally, people can face both a possession and a distribution charge if they’re caught selling drugs to another individual.
Another possible charge is the possession of drug paraphernalia. A person doesn’t need to possess an actual drug to be charged with this crime. Instead, they must possess items related to the cultivation and distribution of drugs. These might include gel capsules and other drug packaging items.
Potential penalties for drug crimes are just as varied. The range of possible penalties for any one crime might change depending on the state in which it was committed. For example, a marijuana offense in New York might be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. But in states that don’t draw distinctions between marijuana and controlled substances, the same offense might be prosecuted as a major felony.
For the most part, the severity of a drug charge will depend on the amount of the drug that was involved. Charges will also be heightened if the defendant is a repeat offender. For example, a defendant might have sold enough of a drug to be charged with third degree distribution. But if they had a previous drug-related conviction, that charge might be heightened to second degree distribution.
It’s common for people to face several drug charges at once, especially when distribution or cultivation is involved. This is why it’s important to have your lawyer present at your arraignment. When the charges against you are read, your lawyer can help you understand your options based on your circumstances. Some states, like New York, have alternative drug courts that can process drug crimes.
Sometimes, enrollment in a rehabilitation program or a state-sponsored outpatient drug treatment program will lessen the severity of a sentence. Alternatively, the prosecution may offer you a plea deal in which you can plead guilty to lesser charges. Your attorney will advise you on the best course of action based on your goals.
If you’ve been accused of a drug or marijuana offense, get in contact with a lawyer as soon as you’re arrested.
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