The national attitude toward marijuana has undergone a massive shift in recent years -- but that doesn't mean that people aren't being prosecuted for marijuana crimes. It's important to remember that state laws regarding marijuana possession vary considerably, even in states where some versions of the drug are legal. In addition, marijuana possession still remains a crime under federal law, no matter what state law may say.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is drawing attention to the case of one 46-year-old man who has recently been handed an eight-year term in a Mississippi prison for drug trafficking as an example of how inconsistent the marijuana laws are between states -- and what can happen if you fail to understand your danger.
The Oregon native uses medical marijuana regularly. He legally purchased less than three pounds of marijuana in Oregon and was traveling with it in his possession through Mississippi. A simple traffic mistake, crossing a lane line, gave police all the justification they needed to pull over his vehicle -- an act the ACLU believes was motivated by racial profiling. Once the marijuana was discovered, the man was charged with drug trafficking despite a total lack of evidence that he intended to use the drugs for anything other than his personal consumption.
Mississippi is not alone in its approach to marijuana prosecutions. Legislators in Texas have recently introduced a number of measures that would give medical marijuana patients the ability to mount an affirmative defense to possession charges -- as well as provide other relief measures designed to further decriminalize marijuana possession -- but those are not yet law.
Right now, Texas law is still very restrictive regarding marijuana possession, even through the Compassionate Use Program. Many marijuana products available to medical users in other states are still illegal in Texas. Nor will a medical marijuana card from another state protect you from prosecution. Possession of marijuana in any significant quantity can -- just like in Mississippi -- lead to charges of drug trafficking even if you had no intention of selling the drug to others.
If you've been charged with drug trafficking or another drug crime due to marijuana possession, you need to understand that your situation is serious. Talk to an attorney about protecting your rights and your future.