Marijuana Crimes

2017: all but four states in the nation have legalized some form of marijuana.

Prohibition has not been around long in human history — only since the early 20th Century.  It’s made the demand for Prohibited alcohol, later replaced by marijuana, increase.  And Prohibition made organized crime pay, everywhere.  As of mid-2018, ten of the fifty United States have repealed Prohibition of marijuana.  And more than half of the population of the United States now live in a state where medical marijuana is legal again.  But alas!  Minnesota, once a leader is currently a laggard when it comes to Liberty and marijuana Prohibition.

What to do if seized, searched, arrested, charged with a marijuana crime in Minnesota?   Considering the serious, lifelong consequences, it’s essential to have a good lawyer experienced in marijuana defense advising and advocating on your behalf.  You’ll want the right lawyer.  You deserve the best defense.

And it will help to understand more about marijuana criminal laws in Minnesota.  Here are some important aspects.

Quantity.  In general greater quantity is punished more severely.  Seems simple enough.  But there are only a few weight thresholds that matter.  If you catch a case where the quantity alleged is close to one of those thresholds, that can be the difference between a higher “degree” and a lower degree “Controlled Substance Crime.”

Identity of the alleged substance.  The government has the burden of proving it is what they claim it to be.  They usually don’t do a lab analysis until shortly before the scheduled trial date.  They’ve also enacted a highly questionable mixture” law which has been interpreted by some Minnesota courts to mean that tiny fractions of a percent diluted in bong water, for example, means the entire weight of the non-controlled substance “mixture” supports a criminal charge based on the total weight.

Plant-form and concentrates
In the 1970s the Minnesota legislature partially decriminalized marijuana, making a “small amount” of plant-form marijuana a petty misdemeanor violation.  Apparently the “resinous form” was to remain a crime even if within the small-amount weight threshold, due to greater potency.  But then, in the 2010s, the Minnesota legislature passed a limited medical marijuana law legalizing marijuana for medical use but only in the resinous form, or in the form of concentrates — based on the justification the concentrates were somehow safer due to cleaner smoke, vapor or edibles.  So, this raises the question” which is it?  Should plant-form be favored over concentrates?  Or should concentrates be favored over plant-form?  How about changing the laws to treat every form equally under the laws?

As a result of these distinctions in the current laws, it can matter whether we have plant-form vs. concentrates.  Plant-form marijuana is marijuana as defined in the statutory definitions.  Its identification should include plant morphology.  Concentrates include hashish, hash oil, wax, shatter and are the result of various methods using the plant as a starting point.

Sale and Possession.  The false narrative repeated about the Prohibition underground economy is that “drug users” are pathetic idiots lacking in self-discipline while “drug” sellers have horns and a tail.  Though, Governor Mark Dayton suggested in 2014, in an attempt to deflect mothers of sick children asking him to support a legal medical marijuana Bill,  that they could buy pot illegally on the street, or in another state, to treat their children.  True.  But are these underground economy marijuana sellers really “evil drug pushers?”  Or are they providing needed medicine to mothers of sick children on the advice of the Governor?  The basic difference between a sale and a possession marijuana crime is that the quantity threshold is lower for any given “degree” of “Controlled Substance Crime.”  For example Minnesota’s current “Third Degree Controlled Substance Crime” has a five kilo threshold for sale of marijuana and a ten kilo threshold for possession.

Growing.  Growing marijuana, if charged a crime, is charged as a felony.  These days more marijuana is grown in Minnesota rather than imported into the state.  Until relatively recently, Minnesota statutes criminalized growing based on weight.  Now, however, 100 plants or more can be used as a basis for a First or Second Degree “Controlled Substance Crime.”  What is a “plant?”  Sometimes the government overreaches in these cases and claims seedling are “plants.”  Any backyard gardener should understand the absurdity of the government when they torture the meaning of words like “plant.”

Those are the basic criteria for felony marijuana crimes in Minnesota.  The non-felonies are either a “small amount of marijuana” in plant form, or less than .25 grams (including “the resinous form of marijuana”) for first-time “controlled substance” offenders.  A “small amount of marijuana” is “means 42.5 grams or less” (other than the “resinous form”).  Possession of a “small amount of marijuana” is a petty misdemeanor violation, unless in a car (other than the trunk or another area of the vehicle not normally occupied by the driver or passengers if the vehicle is not equipped with a trunk.”)  A petty misdemeanor is “not a crime” but a guilty plea to a petty misdemeanor charge results in “a conviction,” as well as a public court record.  As a result, most people charged with that violation desire to avoid a public record with the word “marijuana” and petty misdemeanor “conviction.”

Marijuana in a motor vehicle is analogous to the “open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle” (open bottle law), for a “small amount of marijuana” (42.5 grams or less, not resinous form) in a motor vehicle (unless in trunk or equivalent).  Marijuana in a motor vehicle is made a misdemeanor crime.  In addition to wanting to avoid the public court record saying “marijuana” and “conviction,” most also strongly desire to avoid the conviction being also recorded on their drivers license record and that triggering a minimum 30-day drivers license revocation.

This article may also be of interest: How to Avoid a Marijuana Arrest in a Car in Minnesota: Top Nine Tips 

Federal or State.  Most marijuana criminal cases are charged in Minnesota state court.  But a few are charged in United States District Court.  Illegal drugs other than marijuana are likely to be viewed as a higher priority for prosecution by federal prosecutors.  But the United States Attorney’s Office does sometimes prosecute federal marijuana crimes.  When they do, it could be based on a jurisdiction with primary or more present federal jurisdiction (federal land); or in areas with dual jurisdiction with states, other factors that they view as more serious.   Federally prosecuted drug cases often tend to be criminal conspiracy cases involving multiple co-defendants.

Thomas Gallagher, Felony Defense Lawyer in Minneapolis
Thomas Gallagher, Felony Defense Lawyer in Minneapolis

Defenses.  Marijuana is no longer illegal regardless of circumstances in Minnesota.  Every year the cracks in the immoral Prohibition laws grow wider.  The majority of the People have supported legalization for years now — and this is our jury pool for our right to a trial by jury.  Defenses to ill prosecutions under the still remaining criminal laws to hurt people with marijuana include those that challenge whether there is evidence sufficient to prove the elements of whatever crime is charged.  The burden of coming up  with proof of claims made by the State, remains with the State.

In addition, there are affirmative defenses such as the medical marijuana necessity defense which can either negate or excuse guilt.  The defense must come up with at least some evidence to support an affirmative defense, and if we do the ultimate burden of persuasion will again be on the back of the prosecution.

Before trial defenses, we look to how evidence was obtained by the government.  If the government breaks the law, we are all at risk — for more so than if evidence relating to one person is suppressed from trial evidence.  Defense lawyers like Gallagher look to the chain of the investigation events for a break down of law and order by police.  Was the initial stop or Fourth Amendment seizure illegal?  Was the stop unlawfully expanded or the detention illegally prolonged?  Was the person, car or home search illegal?  Did police obtain an unreliable, involuntary statement?  Did police provide a Miranda rights warning prior to in-custody questioning?  These and other issues can be raised and litigated by the defense at a pretrial evidentiary or Contested Omnibus hearing.

374_NLCmember-smHave a question about Minnesota marijuana defense?  You can now call marijuana defense lawyer Thomas C. Gallagher to discuss.  Call 612-333-1500.