Colorado and Washington appear to have been just the beginning as lots of other states are starting to move closer and closer to the legalization of recreational marijuana. All told seven states now allow (or have at least voted to allow) recreational marijuana.
Given the fact that our state has decriminalized most possession of marijuana, you might think that North Carolina is well on the way to joining the trend and following suit. Don’t expect this to happen any time soon, though. A recent multi-county drug bust reveals a lot about the way local officials feel about marijuana.
Still Illegal – and Possibly a Gateway to Other Criminal Activity?
Earlier this month, law enforcement officers from Columbus, Brunswick, and New Hanover counties arrested two men for multiple drug charges. One of the men is accused of traveling throughout the counties to set up drug deals. The other allegedly drove marijuana back from Colorado in order to fulfill those deals. When officers arrived to arrest the men, they seized over $177,000 in cash and a large amount of marijuana worth tens of thousands of dollars.
When a press conference was given about the drug bust, the sheriffs present addressed concerns about their focus on marijuana. While it is a commonly espoused belief that police should focus on “harder” drugs that create more harm, the sheriffs disagreed, stating that marijuana was still an illegal drug, and traffickers tend to be involved with other illegal activities, including “violence, drive-by shootings, robberies.”
If the opinions of the sheriffs are any reflection on North Carolina law enforcement as a whole, then it doesn’t appear that laws will be softened for marijuana crimes any time soon. In other words, if a cop catches you with marijuana here, don’t expect them to just let you go.
What You Can Expect If You are Caught with Marijuana
Most possession of marijuana is decriminalized in North Carolina. Having less than .05 oz. is just a $200 fine, and up to 1.5 oz. is a misdemeanor crime. Even the felony charges for marijuana possession (holding between 1.5 oz. and 10 pounds) will only put you behind bars for up to eight months and rack up fines no higher than $1,000.
A big reason these changes were made was to make it easier for addicts and drug users to get help, rather than punishing them for their habits. Individuals who are selling or trafficking marijuana, however, still have to watch out.
Most sale of marijuana is a Class I felony. If the amount of marijuana seized is over 10 pounds, or the defendants are found to be moving the drugs across county or state lines, then trafficking charges come in.
Marijuana trafficking starts at a Class H felony with up to 30 months in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. However, when 10,000 pounds or more is involved, the state could charge a defendant with a Class D felony. Upon conviction, a class D felony warrants up to 219 months in prison, without even considering other crimes that might be related.
The bottom line is that you can’t base your actions here on what other states are doing. If you have been charged with marijuana or other drug crimes, contact a North Carolina defense lawyer immediately.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense. He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.