Lawmakers in South Carolina and throughout the country continue to make changes to marijuana laws.
ABC15 reports the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act continues to work its way through the state legislature. The South Carolina Compassionate Care Alliance contends the measure would allow specific patients with debilitating conditions access to marijuana for medical purposes.
Evolving statutes is one of the reasons marijuana defense in Columbia remains a complex area of law. Conflicts between state and federal law is another, as the Trump Administration recently announced a reversal of the Obama Administration policy of largely leaving enforcement to the states.
Marijuana remains illegal for all uses and distribution under federal law.
Marijuana Laws in the Carolinas - Consequences and Penalties
The National Council of State Legislatures reports 29 states have now enacted some form of protection for the medicinal use of marijuana. However, while measures continue to course their way through legislatures in both North and South Carolina, neither state has enacted protections for medical-marijuana patients.
Thus, for criminal defense attorneys and defendants, at least in the Carolinas, not much has changed. You can still face criminal marijuana charges under either state or federal law, even in cases where a patient has a valid medical-marijuana card in another state.
Under South Carolina law (Section 44-53-10):
- Penalties for possession include up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Penalties double for a second offense. Additionally, possession of an ounce or more of marijuana is considered evidence of intent to sell.
- Sale of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Penalties double for a second offense.
- Those charged with trafficking in marijuana can face 10 to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000.
Motorists are not immune. One of the unanticipated consequences of states' legalizing medical marijuana is the increased focus on finding and arresting motorists suspected of driving under the influence of cannabis. However, unlike alcohol which dissipates from a person's system in a matter of hours, cannabis can often be detected for weeks after use.
The result has been a drastic increase in the number of motorists blamed, often unfairly, for using cannabis behind the wheel. As NPR reported last summer, police continue to undergo new training that purports to allow them to identify a driver operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, even as scientists work to develop roadside tests.
However, neither effort has produced any real "evidence" of motorist intoxication that would withstand the scrutiny of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Marijuana Defense in Columbia - Protect your Rights
Being convicted of drug charges can have a lasting impact on your career and your future. Unfortunately, one of the primary consequences of state medical-marijuana laws is that too many defendants fail to take marijuana charges seriously. In the majority of states, simple marijuana possession is still likely to result in criminal charges. Meanwhile, the federal government still lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance with no redeeming medical value.
As for the Carolinas, residents as of yet enjoy no legal protection by claiming medicinal use. If you have been charged with possession of marijuana in South Carolina, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.