The first federal marijuana possession case prosecuted in Oregon in five years involves a teenager who is facing up to one year in prison for having just a single gram of the plant.
According to The Washington Post, the 19-year-old recent high school graduate is preparing for college this fall. But at the same time, he’s facing down a possible federal prison sentence that could derail his future.
Bear in mind: This is the state where the drug has been legal for adult recreational use since 2014. But state law has never reconciled with federal law, which still classifies it as a Schedule I narcotic, which means it’s on par with heroin. Back in 2013, the U.S. Justice Department issued a memorandum that announced a hands-off policy with regard to state-level cannabis laws. However, that memo included a provision that directed prosecutors to continue taking on cases that involve distributing marijuana to minors. And that’s where this case picks up.
The criminal defense attorney representing the 19-year-old defendant says it started when a student at a small high school was caught with marijuana in his backpack. That student informed authorities that it was defendant who had sold it to him.
The amount was just 1 gram, enough for one typical marijuana joint, maybe two at the most.
For this, federal prosecutors filed charges against the teen for knowingly and intentionally possessing marijuana. He was not charged with sale of the drug to a minor, presumably because there wasn’t enough evidence. However, the federal charges stem from the fact that the reported possession took place at a boarding school for Native American students that is operated by the federal Bureau of Indiana Education.
Federal and state lawmakers are now weighing in, calling the prosecution’s efforts an overreach. For example, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, (D-Ore.), chastised prosecutors by asserting these types of situations were better left in the hands of the state. U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, also of Oregon, said that while he doesn’t like it that minors use marijuana, a situation like this, with federal prosecutors getting involved over a single gram of pot, is a “misallocation of resources.”
Federal prosecutors haven’t spoken about the issue, citing the ongoing investigation, but his defense attorney noted prosecutors had expected the teen to simply plead guilty and enter into a drug treatment program that would last six months. However, his lawyer announced he and his client would fight the charges.
Our California marijuana lawyers know that this decision could be risky, given the fact that a conviction could result in a maximum one-year prison stint, plus a federal criminal conviction, which could affect the teen’s ability to get a student loan, find a place to live or land a job.
Indeed, much of the harm caused to youth by marijuana comes not from the actual drug, but from the punishment meted out merely for possession of it.
It was reported last year by the federal Monitoring the Future survey that approximately one-half of U.S. high school seniors have used marijuana at some point in the past. Of those, very few are actually arrested or criminally convicted of a marijuana-related charge. Even more rare is it for them to face down federal marijuana charges.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
An Oregon teen is facing federal drug charges over a single gram of marijuana, Aug. 3, 2016, By Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post
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Lt. Gov. Newsome: Campaign for Cannabis Legalization in November, July 9, 2016, California Marijuana Lawyer Blog