You may have heard that the federal government has recently changed its policy toward marijuana use at the state level, decided to leave their “hands-off” approach behind and start enforcing the laws more strictly.
Much has been said about how this could impact those states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, but could other states be affected as well? Here in Minnesota, there are worries that medicinal marijuana could come under fire.
Rep. Tim Walz says that the new change may present a risk of too many prescriptions for dangerous opioids to treat medical conditions, and many see medical marijuana as less dangerous than opioids.
In this post, we’ll detail the changes to policy, the current marijuana laws and their penalties, and what you can do if you are facing charges.
Federal Marijuana Laws
The federal government views marijuana primarily as a drug with dangerous capabilities that is linked to many crimes. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made this clear recently when he turned back a policy which had previously given states protection from federal laws prohibiting marijuana use.
Under the five-year-old policy, if a state had laws in place that legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, federal prosecutors could not press charges. Now, federal prosecutors aren’t required to prioritize state laws for use or possession.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that federal law enforcement officials will crack down in states where marijuana has been legalized. In the past 10 years, federal prosecutions for marijuana use have been unusual, and one report indicates that in 2016, only nine people were convicted for a federal marijuana offense.
However, the signals they’ve been sending out recently certainly make it seem like this is a likelihood.
Minnesota Marijuana Laws
Our state is not one of the eight across the country that have legalized recreational marijuana use. However, marijuana has been legalized here for medical use in certain situations.
People can take medical marijuana in pill or oil form, but they cannot smoke it. They are limited to keeping no more than a 30-day supply on hand. Only certain conditions qualify for medical marijuana use, including the following:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Sleep apnea
- Intractable pain
- Muscle spasms: severe and persistent only
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Terminal illness
Additionally, over 1,000 health care providers in Minnesota are approved to prescribe medical marijuana use, two manufacturers are authorized by the state to provide the marijuana, and more than 8,000 Minnesota residents currently use medical marijuana.
Because of all this, Minnesota lawmakers are unhappy with the recent policy change at the federal level, and state cannabis suppliers and dealers are frustrated and worried. Since 2014, Minnesota has experienced protection under a congressional amendment that stopped the federal government from spending tax dollars on prosecuting state-level medical marijuana initiatives, but even that is at risk now.
Criminal Marijuana Offenses and Penalties
When the medical marijuana legislation was enacted in Minnesota in 2014, possession laws became somewhat more lenient. However, recreational marijuana use is still prohibited in Minnesota, and criminal offenses for use and possession occur quite frequently.
Here is a breakdown of penalties for marijuana possession:
- Possession of 42.5 grams or less will result in a $200 fine and will be charged as a petty misdemeanor.
- Possession of between 42.5 grams and 10 kilograms will result in a felony charge, with penalties of a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
- If you possess between 10 kilograms and 50 kilograms, you could face fines of $250,000 and/or a prison term of up to 20 years.
- If you possess between 50 kilograms and 100 kilograms, you could face fines of $500,000 and/or a prison term of up to 25 years.
- Those who are convicted of possessing over 100 kilograms of marijuana face the stiffest penalties of $1,000,000 in fines and up to 30 years in prison.
Subsequent possession offenses will result in various upcharges. You may be required to attend treatment and education programs. You may face an enhanced misdemeanor charge if over 1.4 grams are found in your vehicle, other than the trunk, which will result in a fine of $1,000, up to 90 days in jail, or both. Some offenders will be required to attend drug education classes.
Sale and distribution result in similar penalties for similar amounts, including stiff fines and several years in prison. Enhancements exist for selling drugs in a park, school, or public housing district, or for selling to a minor. Drug paraphernalia charges are generally various levels of misdemeanors, resulting in fines and possible jail time of up to one year.
If you are facing marijuana charges, you need the help of a skilled Minnesota drug crimes attorney. An experienced attorney will review all the details of your case and look for the best possible strategy to defend against your charges.
Reach out today for your free case review.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).