Experienced Defense Counsel Serving Clients Throughout Central Pennsylvania

Photo of Matt M. McClenahen
Photo of Matt M. McClenahen
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Marijuana-Related Offenses

Protecting Your Rights When Charged With Marijuana Offenses

Marijuana is widely used throughout the world, and Central Pennsylvania is no exception. The only intoxicant in the United States and Canada more popular than marijuana is alcohol. Of course, the big difference between these two drugs is that one is legal but tightly regulated and the other remains illegal in most states. Alcohol has been legal in the United States since 1933, while marijuana has been illegal in every state between 1937 and 2012, with Washington and Colorado becoming the first two states to re-legalize cannabis for recreational purposes since the Marihuana Tax Act banned the plant on a national level.

Marijuana-Related Charges May Be A Felony, Misdemeanor Or Local Ordinance Violation

Marijuana offenses in Pennsylvania fall under three categories: felony, misdemeanor or local ordinance violation. If you sell marijuana or the evidence suggests you possessed marijuana with the intent to sell it, then you will be charged with a felony. If all the evidence suggests that the marijuana in your possession is for personal use, then you could be charged with a misdemeanor under The Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device, and Cosmetic Act or with a local ordinance violation. Items like bowls, vaporizers, bongs, rolling papers and digital scales are known as “drug paraphernalia,” and possession of drug paraphernalia is also a misdemeanor charge.

Some Pennsylvania municipalities, including State College, have enacted local ordinances banning marijuana. Although marijuana possession for personal use is already illegal pursuant to antiquated and unjust Pennsylvania and federal laws, municipalities have enacted their own laws banning marijuana in order to lower the grading of the charge to a summary offense. Thus, if you are caught with a small amount of marijuana in the borough of State College, the police have the option of charging you with a summary offense instead of a more serious misdemeanor charge.

Needless to say, the direct and collateral consequences of a felony are far more severe than they are for a misdemeanor, and a summary offense conviction is not as damaging as a misdemeanor conviction. The grading of your marijuana-related offense will determine which approach is needed to reduce your direct and collateral consequences. In many situations, we can avoid a conviction, leaving you free of a damaging criminal record.

Many Penn State Students Are Charged With Marijuana-Related Crimes

The majority of my clients charged with marijuana-related offenses are Penn State students, and this is true of both misdemeanor possession for personal use and felony delivery or possession with intent to deliver marijuana. This is not because Penn State students are the only people smoking or selling marijuana in Central Pennsylvania. Like alcohol, marijuana is a drug widely used by a variety of age groups and socioeconomic classes. The reason I represent so many Penn State students in marijuana cases is because they are the group most likely to be caught.

A 50-year-old husband and wife smoking in their home are rarely going to be hassled by the police. The old adage is that if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound. Penn State students, especially those living on campus, do not have the benefit of privacy and seclusion. If you smoke marijuana in the dorms, you run a substantial risk of a visit from the Penn State Police. Even if you are smart enough to not smoke in the dorms, smoking in other areas of the campus is not exactly safe either, as the police know all the spots favored by tokers.

Penn State students are far more likely to be caught selling marijuana than nonstudent dealers here in Central Pennsylvania. Quite frankly, students are the “low hanging fruit” that is easiest for the police to pick. Students who sell marijuana in State College tend to be quite amateurish and are thus more likely to make mistakes, which makes it easy for them to be caught. Professional dealers, which are usually nonstudents, have been schooled in the ways of the criminal underworld and, as such, are less likely to make mistakes. Also, many students charged with delivery of marijuana are not even dealers at all; they are gullible, nice guys who think they are doing a “friend” a favor by hooking him up with a bag of weed. When that friend turns out to be a confidential informant working with the police, this middle-man nice guy who made no money on the transaction ends up being charged with delivery of marijuana, just as if he were an actual dealer.

Call For A Free Initial Consultation

If you are charged with a marijuana-related offense, you need a good criminal defense attorney. In some cases, we engage in “harm reduction” by achieving a positive outcome for your case through a plea agreement. In other cases, we can seek to have illegally obtained evidence “suppressed” by a judge, meaning that the evidence cannot be used at trial. This effectively ends the ability of the Commonwealth to prosecute the case. Sometimes we can proceed to trial and argue that the marijuana was not yours or that it did belong to you but was for personal use and not intended for sale. Sometimes we can even get you into a program, which would allow you to avoid any damaging criminal record. The goal and direction we take will depend upon the facts of your case.

Please call our State College law office today for a free initial consultation at 814-308-0870. We take calls outside of normal business hours. You may also complete the online contact form.