A federal judge in Maryland cited changing public attitudes on marijuana when he recently gave two marijuana traffickers sentences that were much shorter that what prosecutors requested. He said that sentencing guidelines that treat convictions for marijuana like those for cocaine and heroin are outdated.
The judge cited both the recent legalization of pot several states as well the federal government’s decision to look the other way with regard to legal marijuana dealing. He said that the sentencing guidelines used today were written 20 or 30 years and that the offense isn’t regarded with the same seriousness was it was at that time.
One of the men, age 32, could have faced eight to 11 years under the guidelines. The judge gave him a five-year sentence. The other man, 43, got an 18-month term instead of 33 to 41 months. However, the judge also rejected the defense lawyer’s request for greatly reduced sentences. The judge said that no state had legalized the activity to which these men, who were involved in a drug smuggling ring with links to Maryland, California and New Jersey, pleaded guilty.
The decision by this judge is one of many positive signs that the country may be reducing the extremely harsh punishments for marijuana offenses that are still on the books. Even though there are promising signs, the guidelines are still used in many cases. Those who have been charged with crimes related to marijuana should take steps to protect their rights and their futures. An attorney may help ensure that someone who’s been accused of marijuana crimes doesn’t have their rights violated and help them determine if mounting a strong defense or attempting to negotiate a plea deal is the best option for their situation.
Source: The Daily Chronic, “Maryland Judge Rejects Marijuana Sentencing Guidelines, Gives Shorter Terms”, October 30, 2013