A friend of mine recently shared a conversation he was having with his 18-year-old, as he was preparing to go to the beach for spring break 2017. The story is quite common, as most of you have had the same one with your kids.
As a parent, it is proper procedure to warn your kids of the consequences of bad behavior. You know the drill; you list all the things you did or saw from your own teenage years and then you add some more for this new generation.
This is where the conversation took a turn and a funny one at that. And, I say funny, because my kids are still too young to think about stuff like this, but I know my time is coming. As this father was going through his list of warnings, he of course, mentioned marijuana or as your kids may know it; weed, pot, reefer, grass, dope, Mary Jane and my favorite, “the devil’s lettuce”, to name a few. It was at this point that the teenager exclaimed, “Oh, it’s not illegal any more. The worst you will get is a ticket, if anything.”
Now, my friend was a little put back that his son would be so callous about, what he knew to be illegal. But, unfortunately, this is the way a lot of people feel these days. I should know. As a criminal defense attorney, serving all of the South Alabama area, I see it all the time.
The legalization of marijuana for either medical or personal use in states, other than ours, is in the news all the time. So, it is no surprise that kids are much less worried about being caught smoking.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, by the time a high school child reaches the 12th grade, about 50% of them have tried an illegal drug. And, that drug of choice is overwhelmingly marijuana. Marijuana is relatively inexpensive and much easier to conceal than a six pack of beer. An article from USA Today says that 1 in 15 high school seniors smoke marijuana and 80% of High Schoolers think occasional use is fine.
For this article, I will not enter the debate over the risks and, or benefits of marijuana. What I will talk about is the status of the law in our state. Per Alabama Code Section 13A-12-231 section 1, the use of marijuana, for anything other than medical benefit, is, in fact illegal. So, my friend’s son is, in fact, wrong.
So, now that we have established the legality of marijuana. Let’s talk about what you need to know if you or someone you know, gets arrested for possession of this “crazy little plant”.
First, there are two common types of possession that I deal with the most:
- First Degree Possession of Marijuana, which is a felony – This is the more serious of the two types and generally speaking, it is simply possessing marijuana “for other than personal use”.
- Second Degree Possession of Marijuana is a misdemeanor and, again–generally speaking usually applies to a small amount, which is for “personal” use.
Both offenses can include jail time. A misdemeanor can carry up to one year and up to a $6,000 fine. While a felony charge can have a possible 1 to 10-year prison sentence and a $15,000 fine. The felony possession is regulated by the state and as such an arrest for this level will land you in a county court. Cities usually maintain their own code and a misdemeanor can result in an appearance in a City Court if within a specific city’s jurisdiction.
With all the information about states legalizing marijuana, kids can get confused. It seems that if it’s legal in one place why shouldn’t it be legal everywhere. But that deals with state vs federal laws and is a topic for another day. All I can say is, talk to your kids. Make sure they know the facts. Maybe your child is stopped by a police officer that will simply take their pot and call their parents. But, if they get stopped by an officer that has just about had his or her fill of spring breakers, then you need to keep my number handy, 251-441-7772.
My office is in downtown Mobile and I handle criminal defense matters in Mobile, Foley, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fairhope, Daphne and Spanish Fort.
If you need legal advice, call our office today. We would be glad to speak to you.