Marijuana is still illegal in North Carolina, including Mecklenburg County and surrounding areas. While cannabis has been legalized for medical and recreational use in other states, here in Charlotte and the rest of the state, it is still illegal. You cannot grow it, possess it, distribute it, sell it, or ingest marijuana in any way. If you do, you could face serious penalties.
At Randall & Stump, PLLC, we know that people have many different views on marijuana. Legalization of the drug is growing in popularity across the country. Unfortunately, changing attitudes do not alter North Carolina’s Controlled Substances Act and other criminal statutes.
If you are arrested and charged with a marijuana offense, we recommend hiring a marijuana defense attorney. You cannot use a medical condition as a defense. You cannot say you purchased it legally in another state. You are going to need the help of a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer to build a strong defense and fight for the charges to be dismissed or for you to be acquitted at trial. An attorney can also help mitigate the consequences of a potential conviction.
Simple Possession of Marijuana
A simple possession charge is a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine, if you have less than 0.5 ounces of marijuana. You may have to pay a $200 fine and other fees, but you may be able to avoid jail time. However, this charge is often partnered with a marijuana or drug paraphernalia charge. With these two separate charges, you could be looking at time in jail and higher fines, depending on your criminal record.
When you have between 0.5 and 1.5 ounces, then misdemeanor possession of marijuana is a Class 1 misdemeanor. This can be punished with a fine and up to 120 days in jail.
You should know there are two ways in which prosecutors can prove you possessed marijuana. The first is actual possession. This means it is actually on your person, such as in your pocket. The second is constructive possession, which means it is in a place where you can access it, use it, or dispose of it. Another way to look at constructive possession is that a prosecutor will claim you had control over the drug.
The issue of possession can be much more complicated than you think. You may be charged with possessing marijuana you were unaware of. If you borrowed a friend’s car and they had marijuana under the driver’s seat, you could face charges despite not knowing it was there. In this type of situation, it is essential you call a marijuana defense lawyer for help. You can use your lack of knowledge as a defense to the crime.
Felony Marijuana Possession Charges
You will face felony marijuana charges if you possess 1.5 ounces or more of cannabis. This is true even if it is a first-time possession of marijuana offense. Your criminal background may impact your sentence, but your charge will be based on the amount of drug in your actual or constructive possession.
Between 1.5 ounces and 10 pounds of cannabis, you will face a Class I felony offense. Depending on the seriousness of the crime and your criminal history, you may be imprisoned for between three and 12 months. You can also be fined and sentenced to probation.
If you have more than 10 pounds of cannabis, you can be charged with marijuana trafficking, which is more harshly punished with mandatory minimum prison sentences.
Marijuana Paraphernalia Charges
If you possess tools that can be used to grow, harvest, manufacture, convert, produce, prepare, package, store, ingest, or otherwise partake of marijuana or other drugs, you can be charged with a marijuana paraphernalia offense or a drug paraphernalia offense. Under North Carolina law, these are two different crimes. Possession of marijuana paraphernalia is a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 20 days in jail and a $200 fine. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a fine.
If you are found to have items that are specifically related to the cultivation, packaging, or inhalation or ingestion of marijuana, you may face possession of marijuana paraphernalia charges. When tools associated with other controlled substances—such as cocaine or meth—are found, you may face the higher charge. However, officers often try to charge you with the more severe possession of drug paraphernalia offense instead of the lower level misdemeanor offense for possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
If you have been arrested on a paraphernalia charge, with or without an additional possession of marijuana charge, call a marijuana lawyer right away. There are many ways to defend you against these charges or to mitigate the consequences of a conviction.
Other Common Marijuana Charges in Charlotte
Our marijuana defense attorneys at Randall & Stump, PLLC are experienced in defending against:
- Possession With Intent to Sell and Deliver: You could also be charged with a crime for possession with intent to distribute. Under this offense, the quantity of cannabis is not always relevant. Instead, the arresting officer may base the charge on evidence that you could have distributed, delivered, or sold the drug. This may come from the possession of baggies and scales, the way the drugs were packaged, or communications regarding passing the drug between you and one or more other people. Possession with the intent to sell marijuana is a Class I felony or higher.
- Maintaining a Dwelling or Vehicle for Purpose of Distribution: You can be charged with an offense if there is evidence you used an apartment, house, boat, or vehicle to sell drugs out of. This charge is not based on the quantity of the drug, but instead, on the evidence, the officer has that you were using the dwelling or vehicle to store the marijuana. This does not have to be a home with your name on the lease or mortgage, or a vehicle with your name on the title. It could be a store you work at, a friend’s vehicle, a house or apartment you rent, or a family member’s home. You may be charged with a misdemeanor crime for knowingly using a vehicle or dwelling to distribute drugs. You can be charged with a felony if you did so intentionally.
- Marijuana Cultivation: If you are found to be growing or helping cultivate marijuana for consumption, delivery, or sale, then you can face more serious charges. Cultivation of cannabis is a felony and can be punished with months or years in prison.
- Marijuana Trafficking: North Carolina law regarding marijuana trafficking can lead to harsh charges and penalties. There are four levels for drug trafficking based on the weight of cannabis. It does not matter what you did with the drug or what you intended to do with the drug. Though you may face a felony charge, this is different than felony possession. Marijuana trafficking is subject to mandatory minimum sentences. Ten to 50 pounds of cannabis is a Class H felony, subject to 25 to 30 months in prison and a $5,000 fine; 50 to 2,000 pounds is a Class G felony, punishable by 35 to 42 months in prison and a $25,000 fine; 2,000 to 10,000 pounds is a Class F felony punishable with 70 to 84 months in prison and a $50,000 fine; and more than 10,000 pounds is a Class D felony, punishable by 175 to 219 months in prison and a $200,000 fine.
- Criminal Conspiracy: If the prosecutor believes they have evidence of your involvement with others in a marijuana crime, but not evidence of your committing that crime, you may be charged with conspiracy. Prosecutors will often charge you with criminal conspiracy in addition to other marijuana offenses, which can increase your potential term of incarceration.
If you face marijuana charges that are more serious than simple possession, do not try to defend yourself without help. You need to hire a marijuana defense lawyer to carefully review your case and build you a strong defense.
Federal Marijuana Charges
Marijuana crimes can be charged at the state or federal level. There are numerous ways in which a drug offense can become a federal matter. Two of the most common ways are to use the mail or moving a drug across state lines.
For example, you may go to Colorado or Washington for vacation. Recreational marijuana is legal in both states. You might lawfully purchase cannabis and related products, and then ship them back to North Carolina. By using the U.S. mail system—even if you use FedEx or UPS—you can be charged with a federal drug crime. Also, flying with marijuana from another country or state into North Carolina is a federal offense. Depending on the amount, you may be charged with a federal drug trafficking offense. This can be harshly punished.
If there is evidence you helped someone ship, travel with, or otherwise transport marijuana over state lines, even if you personally did not do so, you could be charged with a federal criminal conspiracy offense.
Federal drug charges should always be taken very seriously. They can result in you being incarcerated for months or years in federal prison. You need to work with an experienced and aggressive marijuana defense attorney to defend yourself in court.
Defending Against Marijuana Charges in Mecklenburg County
When you are facing one or more marijuana-related charges, it is essential that you contact a skilled and experienced marijuana lawyer. There are many potential defenses to marijuana crimes. However, determining the strongest defense for you requires an in-depth analysis of your case.
Depending on the circumstances, we may defend you against marijuana charges by demonstrating:
- You were subject to an illegal search and seizure—This may include a search of your vehicle or home without probable cause, permission, or exigent circumstances.
- The dogs used to sniff for drugs were unreliable—They may have a history of false positives.
- Your charges arose from an illegal traffic stop—The officer did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over.
- An unreliable informant lied about you to improve their own situation.
- The police officers improperly weighed the drugs—This can cause you to improperly face higher charges and potential penalties.
- Challenges to whether you knowingly and intentionally possessed the drugs