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What are the penalties of marijuana possession?

With marijuana usage becoming legal in many parts of the country, many people may be under the misconception that Maryland has followed suit. However, this is not the case -- marijuana possession and distribution remains a crime and depending on the amount possessed, carries with it a varying range of serious penalties.

Marijuana is in the Schedule 1 of controlled hallucinogenic substances in Maryland. There are two categories under which marijuana usage and possession can be divided -- personal use and intent to distribute.

Simple possession for personal use -- that is, possession without intent to distribute -- of less than 10 grams of marijuana is treated as a civil offense and a fine of $100 is imposed. Between 10 grams and 50 grams of possession for personal use is treated as a misdemeanor, with a one-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $1,000. If more than 50 grams of marijuana are possessed, it is treated as a felony, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum fine of $100,000.

Possession with intent to distribute are always treated more seriously, with the mandatory minimum sentence ranging from five years (less than 50 grams of marijuana) to 20-40 years (more than 50 grams of marijuana, or a drug kingpin). In addition to this, if a minor is involved or the drugs are found in a school vehicle or near a school, the mandatory minimum sentence and the maximum possible fine are even more.

The authorities treat drug crimes seriously and a felony on the record remains there forever, impacting the accused's life in many ways for years to come. Mounting a strong defense is one way to fight these charges and an experienced defense attorney may be able to suggest others, depending on the individual facts, including a plea bargain.

Source: General Assembly of Maryland, "s.5-402," Accessed on January 19, 2016

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