Minnesota law lists marijuana and direct derivatives such as waxes and oils used in vaping as Schedule 1 controlled substances. Possession of a small amount of marijuana (less than 42.5 grams (about 1.5 ounces) is a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to a $300.00 fine. First-time possession of more than 42.5 grams is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a up to 1 year in jail and a fine up to $3,000 or a felony punishable by 5 or more years in prison and a $10,000 or more fine (depending on the amount). Larger amounts are considered felonies, bringing large fines and serious prison sentences. Even the possession of marijuana consumption paraphernalia likes pipes or smoking devices is considered a petty misdemeanor and can mean a fine of $300. If you possess more than 1.4 grams (only .05 ounces) in a vehicle, it is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000 and possible jail term of up to 90 days (with all the life-stopping force of a criminal record). As of September, 2017, it appears the Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL), running for state offices in Minnesota are going to be pushing for legalization of marijuana for the state.
Minnesota does have a medical marijuana program, enacted in 2014. Medically qualified and vetted patients with a range of diagnoses including ALS, cancers, post-traumatic stress disorder, Tourette’s syndrome and seven other conditions are eligible to receive small quantities of medical marijuana derivative in capsules or other non-smoke-able forms. As of last count there were approximately 5,137 registered patients in the program–obtaining supplies of medical marijuana from one of eight regulated state dispensaries. When a patient obtains a medical marijuana certification card, that card protects him or her from prosecution (especially by federal government agents because marijuana possession in any form remains a federal offense).
How are marijuana users caught?
The day medical marijuana was legalized in the state has become known as #420. The number also symbolizes the time of day many marijuana users do their smoking. Across the state, #420 has become something of a time of celebration. Last April, the police force in a small Minnesota town, Wyoming, Minnesota set traps around gaming machines and snack counters using undercover officers. The operation is described as “luring users with snacks.” This tactic is typical of the methods police use to snare marijuana users. The police used a twitter account to inform people of the raids, saying, “if you need help with substance abuse issues please contact us and we’ll find resources.” They emphasize that this does not mean jail time.
Marijuana arrests are considered easy arrests. According to The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) figures, possession of marijuana accounts for more arrests than any violent crime. At least 137,000 people sit behind bars on simple drug-possession charges, about two-thirds of them in local jails. The Washington Post reported that last October, one 81-year-old woman was arrested because the police found a single marijuana plant in her garden. She was using the plant to ease the pain of arthritis and had not applied for a medical marijuana card.
Legal defense against drug possession charges
A good criminal defense attorney will determine which defense might apply to your case. If you are arrested and appearing before a judge, you should plead not guilty. Some defenses challenge the stated facts in the case, challenge testimony or evidence. Other defenses look for procedural errors, often search and seizure violations.
- Search and seizure issues under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution are quite common in drug possession cases. Drugs in “plain view” on the dashboard of a car during a routine traffic stop may be seized and used as evidence. Drugs found in the trunk of a car after prying it open with a crowbar without the suspect’s permission, cannot be used as evidence. Without their key evidence in the trial, the prosecution may have no grounds for conviction.
- The drug possession version of “I didn’t do it” is to claim that the drugs belong to someone else and you were not aware they were in your apartment or on your property. Prosecutors have to prove that the drugs belong to the defendant, not someone else in the home or car at the time.
- The prosecution has to prove that the stash they found is actually an illicit substance like a marijuana derivative. The lab analysis has to meet high standards to assure a judge that the specimens were not contaminated or manipulated.
- The prosecutor has to assure the court that the drugs presented in evidence are the same drugs the police found in their search. Seized drugs often make their way through several pairs of hands before ending up in the evidence locker.
Segal Defense, P.A. operates on the principle that the lawyer must tailor your defense to address your specific needs in addition to your specific facts. I will to get to know you and your personal situation before defending you in court. Please contact me to learn more.
The information presented in this article is not considered legal advice. Please contact our law office to speak to an attorney about your case.