Marijuana Sale & Possession

Marijuana Sale & Possession

In most instances, drug offenses are prosecuted by the state, but exceptions exist. There are over 4,000 federal crimes on the books today, and many of them involve the possession, manufacturing, distribution, and/or sale of illegal drugs.

Technically, any drug offense violates federal law, but prosecutions are usually prosecuted at the federal level if:

  • The person was arrested on federal property such as an army base or national monument.
  • The state and federal prosecutors have agreed to handle the matter in a federal court
  • Large quantities of drugs were being manufactured or sold
  • Drug trafficking activity crossed state lines
  • The person was arrested due to an informant’s input

For example, if you were caught smoking marijuana with friends at your local national park or picked up by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a federal law enforcement agency, during a drug bust at a party, you could be facing federal charges.

Marijuana offenses in New York

It is interesting to note that some federal drug offenses are actually legal at state level. For example, recreational marijuana is legal in states such as Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, but remains illegal under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, which regards it as a Schedule I drug with no medical use or purpose. Even in states that have approved the medicinal and/or recreational use of marijuana, you can be arrested for possessing or consuming it in national parks, on federal properties such as courthouses or army bases, and in front of monuments.

New York opened the first of its eight medical marijuana dispensaries on January 7, 2016, but state laws governing its use remain strict. It may only be recommended by doctors who have taken a course on medical cannabis and cannot be smoked. However, even if you are authorized to use marijuana for medical purposes under state law, you can still be arrested for possessing it on federal property.

Federal penalties for marijuana possession

The federal penalty for possession of marijuana depends primarily on the quantity found on you or under your control when arrested. These penalties also tend to be harsher than their state counterparts: for example, if your alleged crime involves less than 50 kilograms of marijuana, you could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If the charge involves 100 kilograms of marijuana or over 100 cannabis plants, you could potentially spend up to 40 years in a federal prison. Longer sentences and heavier fines could apply if you are caught distributing marijuana to minors, manufacturing it near an educational facility, or selling drugs that cause injury or death.

If you are arrested for possession of marijuana by federal authorities, contact an experienced federal defense attorney immediately. Federal authorities have large budgets and skilled prosecutors, so it is important to hire an attorney who has defended marijuana possession clients in federal courts before.

Your lawyer will review your case for irregularities such as inadmissible or insufficient evidence or unconstitutional search and seizure procedures, and weigh the possibility of moving your case to state court instead of federal court. With so much at stake, expert legal advice and support for a federal drug charge is indispensable. Julie Rendelman is a criminal defense attorney with over 20 years of experience, including experience as a prosecutor in the Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney’s office. She handles cases from throughout the New York City area and can be reached at 212-951-1232.