Possession of marijuana in Minnesota is sometimes a crime, sometimes not.
Lawful participants in Minnesota’s Medical Marijuana Program, under the administration of the Minnesota Department of Health, can legally possess marijuana provided to them in compliance with Minnesota law, from one of the two authorized providers of Minnesota Medical Marijuana.
Persons in Minnesota can possess a “small amount of marijuana,” defined as 42.5 grams or less of marijuana other than “the resinous form of marijuana,” without committing a “crime,” though it is a petty misdemeanor violation subject to a fine.
And hemp, defined as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis,” is not marijuana – though both are varieties of the cannabis plant.
Otherwise, possession of marijuana is still a crime in Minnesota.
Marijuana possession crimes are ranked in severity level mainly by weight. The Minnesota weight thresholds are:
- 50 kilos plus
- 25 kilos plus
- 10 kilos plus
- Any measurable amount, except “a small amount” of marijuana
- 42.5 grams or less but more than 1.4 grams of “marijuana” in a motor vehicle. Does not include “the resinous form of marijuana.”
- 42.5 grams or less “marijuana:” petty misdemeanor. Does not include “the resinous form of marijuana”
Plants – possession based on number:
- 500 or more “marijuana plants”
- 100 or more “marijuana plants”
Mixture – Bong Water Exception: 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree: the weight of fluid in a water pipe may not be considered in measuring the weight of a mixture except where four or more fluid ounces.
Possession as a legal fiction – “constructive possession”
First, in order to make possession of a thing a crime, there must be evidence proving criminal intent. The lowest level of criminal intent applicable to a possession of contraband case is “knowledge.” In other words, it’s not enough that some prohibited item is found near or on your person. There must be proof that the person accused actually knew it was there.
Where possession is the crime, frequently the central issue is whether the accused actually knew where the forbidden item was. If they did not know, they cannot be guilty of a crime of “knowing possession.”
This explains why one of the first questions police officers will ask suspects in a possession case are designed to gain an admission of knowledge. “Is this your marijuana?”
Circumstantial evidence of knowing?
The government will often attempt to prove knowing possession with circumstantial evidence (“constructive possession”). This is indirect evidence that they assert supports an inference of knowledge. But frequently circumstances also support an inference of a lack of knowledge. Where an inference of innocence is possible from circumstantial evidence the law requires the jury to conclude the accused is not-guilty.
A common misconception is that ownership is the same as possession. It is not. For example, if a child borrows and drives the car owned by the parent, the child is in possession of the car but the owner is the parent, who is not in possession of it.
Identification of the marijuana or THC
The government has the burden of proving in court whether the material claimed by them to be marijuana or THC, actually is. The statutes make a “mixture containing” marijuana or THC criminal to possess. But the definition of marijuana excludes parts of the cannabis plant form the definition of marijuana. Since the marijuana definition statute is more specific, under principles of statutory construction the more specific statute should be enforced over the more general “mixture” statutes.
Defending a marijuana possession case means helping the jury understand how the prosecuting attorney has failed to prove the elements of the crime claimed beyond all reasonable doubt. Sometimes we can assert what are termed affirmative defenses, as well, though this is not required and depends upon the specifics of each case.
Question about a Minnesota marijuana possession case? You can call Minneapolis Marijuana Lawyer Thomas C. Gallagher at 612 333-1500 for your personal consult.