The years of high school and college can be some of the best years of your life; full of new experiences, adventures with friends and finding your way in the world. It is not uncommon during these years to push the boundaries, take risks and experiment with everything from new fashion trends to illegal substances disregarding of the significant risks and potential consequences that come with these substances. I have spoken to many teens who literally feel even if they get caught with Marijuana they will get away with it.
There has been a push across the country to legalize marijuana—medically and recreationally. While twenty-six states have legalized it in some form so far, it has led to a misconception that there are little to no legal consequences for using or possessing marijuana especially among teens. The specifics of the laws vary by state but, should you decide to use marijuana, there are costly consequences that could follow you for the rest of your life.
If you are a minor and are caught in possession of marijuana you could face felony drug charges; although they are often dropped down to a misdemeanor. In the juvenile system the goal is to rehabilitate not incarcerate; drug counseling by yourself as well as with your parents or guardians as well as being placed on probation and a requirement to check in with a probation officer and pass drug tests. Unless the drug charge was added to another violent offense, such as assault or armed robbery, you likely wouldn’t face incarceration. Considerations would also be made if this was a first offense or if there had been prior offenses.
If you are over the age of 18 marijuana possession becomes a more expensive offense. As an adult, marijuana possession is a felony. Depending on how much you have in your possession- less than 2lbs is considered for use and more than that is considered for sale— this will determine if you serve time and for how long. The minimum incarceration time is 4 months and the maximum is 3.75 years. They also carry fines of $1000, probation, counseling or treatment programs, and community service. For a first offense it is likely that the charges will be dropped to a misdemeanor and you likely won’t serve time but prior history and other charges at the time will be considered.
Being caught with marijuana as well as paraphernalia—including pipes, bongs, and even the baggie that it’s stored in—can double the fines as well as increase the potential time that you serve.
If you have a medical marijuana card it is important that you know and understand your state’s laws regarding the use and possession of medical marijuana. Most states require that you carry your medical marijuana card on you at all times when you are in possession of marijuana. Your marijuana also needs to be in a clearly marked prescription bottle with your name on it. Failing to comply with your states laws could lead to your card being revoked.
Once you are convicted of any charges—misdemeanor or felony—they remain permanently on your record. You can apply to have your record expunged so that the charges no longer appear to potential employers; however the process is lengthy and the charges as well as any fines or time served will remain on your record forever at a federal and law enforcement level. Each and every state is different in regards to their marijuana laws, what they will charge on, and how they will charge it. Most states are more lenient with the first charge; recommending treatment classes and counseling, especially if there are no other convictions. If you are caught with marijuana then it is recommended that you discuss the specifics of your case with a lawyer that has a good understanding of the laws in your state.
The time when you are getting ready to graduate high school and starting college is an exciting time. Your life is just beginning and new opportunities are on the horizon. Deciding to use marijuana, while exciting now, could lead you down a path you don’t want to go and could limit your potential in the future.