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How Marijuana Possession Can Be Both Legal and Illegal

Posted on in Drug Crimes

How Marijuana Possession Can Be Both Legal and IllegalIn many states, the difference between state and federal marijuana laws creates a bizarre contradiction. Possessing marijuana can at the same time be legal and illegal, depending on which level of government you are dealing with. The federal government is strict in its ban of buying, selling and possessing marijuana. Many states are more liberal with their marijuana laws and allow possession for medicinal and recreational purposes. However, state laws will not protect you against federal charges for marijuana possession.

Drug Schedules

The federal government’s classification of drugs is based on the Controlled Substances Act, which groups drugs into five schedules:

  • Schedule 1 is considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use;
  • Schedule 2 is considered to have a high potential for abuse but some accepted medical uses with severe restrictions;
  • Schedule 3 is considered to have a moderate potential for abuse and some accepted medical uses;
  • Schedule 4 is considered to have a low potential for abuse and some accepted medical uses; and
  • Schedule 5 is considered to have the lowest potential for abuse and some accepted medical uses.

Despite the prevalence of medical marijuana laws in states, the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, in the same group as heroin and LSD. By comparison, cocaine and methamphetamine are Schedule 2 drugs. The penalties for marijuana possession are not as severe as for other Schedule 1 drugs, but the classification shows that the federal government does recognize any justification for possessing marijuana.

Differing Penalties

Federal law enforcement often focuses its efforts on large-scale marijuana distributors and can choose whether to pursue full charges against low-level offenders. Illinois does not permit marijuana possession for recreational use, but there is a difference between being charged under state and federal law:

  • Illinois law treats possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana as a civil violation, with a maximum $200 fine; and
  • Federal law treats possession of any amount of marijuana as a misdemeanor, with a possibility of as long as one year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine for a first offense.

States have been quicker to pass laws that recognize that prosecuting people for possessing a small amount of marijuana is not worth the time and resources.

Defense Against Marijuana Charges

There is no reason that a simple marijuana possession charge should result in severe penalties that ruin your life. A McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can defend you against the charge or seek minimum penalties. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.



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