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While sixteen states have legalized marijuana, at least in its medicinal form as of 2014, North Carolina has not. Marijuana is still illegal, and possession of it is at least a class 3 misdemeanor. In substantial amounts – greater than 10 pounds – a person caught with marijuana can face a mandatory minimum of 24 months in prison for trafficking in marijuana.
Other charges can include misdemeanors or felonies, including Possession with Intent to Sell and Deliver (PWISD) marijuana, the sale or delivery of marijuana, felony maintaining a dwelling or vehicle purposes of selling the drug, or possession of drug paraphernalia.
In addition, a person charged with marijuana sale or possession with the intent to sell or deliver may be assessed a tax by the Department of Revenue, know as an unauthorized substance tax.
Having been charged with a crime involving marijuana, you face a number of options. First, you may be eligible, depending on the nature of the crime and the amounts, for a drug diversion program. These programs involve drug classes, sometimes community service, and the payment of court costs. If you decide to enter one of these marijuana diversion or deferred prosecution programs, your case will be marked as pending for six months or a year, during which you will be required to comply with the terms of the program.
If your case is strong enough, or if the police violated your rights in conducting the search or seizure of the evidence, you may have a viable defense or suppression motion. In that case, you may wish to have a trial or hearing on the matter, especially if the prosecutor assigned to your case is not offering you a reasonable plea offer.
No. North Carolina has not legalized marijuana. The federal government has not legalized marijuana. While some states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana in certain respects, the fact that you have a medical marijuana certificate from California or Colorado does not allow you to possess the marijuana in North Carolina.
Prosecutors here will not dismiss your marijuana charge because of an illness you may suffer that can be treated by the use of marijuana.
Marijuana edibles have grown in popularity. Brownies and baked goods are increasingly common, and may have fairly small amounts of marijuana in them. While North Carolina law allows the prosecutor to charge a person based on the entire weight of a drug plus the weight of non-active ingredients, that principle does not apply to marijuana. Law enforcement is not required to subtract out the brownie from the marijuana. The weight of the entire brownie including the marijuana will be used to assess the weights for legal purposes.
If you’ve been charged with a marijuana crime, you may be advised by a lawyer to get substance abuse assessment and comply with recommended treatment. Your lawyer should give you the names of approved agencies. Some of those agencies are listed on this website.
In drug cases, police often predicate a warrantless search by claiming that they smelled the odor of marijuana. If marijuana is found, it becomes difficult to contest the search – after all, even police were misleading in claiming they smelled the pot, they did in fact find it.
North Carolina appellate courts have generally given police very broad latitude to search if they smell the marijuana, and ultimately find it.
But what if police ultimately don’t find the marijuana? While police are not required to find the marijuana, if they don’t find any at all, then the issue becomes one of credibility – did they really smell what they say they smell. I’ve had fairly inexperience police officers assert that they smelled marijuana, ultimately to find none. If that happens, some DAs will recognize the weakness of their case. However, the failure to find marijuana doesn’t mean the ultimate dismissal of your case.
Law enforcement and the Supreme Court are adamant that dogs are good drug detectors, this in the face of the scientific literature that says that dogs are no better than a coin-flip at detecting drugs.
If police bring a dog to your vehicle within a timely fashion, and the dog “detects” marijuana, then ultimately it’s up to your defense lawyer to challenge the dog’s credibility.
North Carolina allows one expungement in a lifetime. If you were convicted of a marijuana crime that does not involve PWISD, sale/delivery or trafficking, and that conviction is more than 15 years old, you may be eligible for an expungement. You should seek the advice of a lawyer.
It is important that you never consent to a search. Consent is the permission you give if a police officer asks you if he or she can search your home, apartment, car, luggage, or pocketbook. Politely say “no.” You don’t need to give an explanation, and you shouldn’t give an explanation.
If the police officer insists on searching, or if the police officer has a search warrant, you should step aside, or turn over the pocketbook, but remind the police officer – politely – that you do not consent to a search.
Ultimately, whether the police officer had the authority to search depends on a number of factors. But, if you gave permission, you have very few legal grounds on which to challenge the search.
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