Charges in a Non-Medical Marijuana State Non-Medical Marijuana State
Published September 2013
Unfortunately, your state has not created laws that protect your medical use and you are subject to the penalties for general marijuana use, possession,manufacturing, and/or sales. However, you should talk to your attorney about asserting your medical use in your case either as medical necessity defense or as additional information for sentencing. There have been successful cases in individuals asserting a medical necessity defense in Florida (Jenks v. State, 582 So. 2d 676 (1991) and Sowell v. State, 738 So. 2d 333 (1998)) and Idaho (State v. Hastings, 1990 and State v. Tadlock (2001) ). There is also case law in Alabama, Georgia, and Minnesota where a medical necessity defense was expressly not allowed.
The medical cannabis movement was started by individuals that stood up in court and said “not guilty” to their charges. Many of these individuals were found guilty but the publicity of their trials sparked state referendums that protected other patients. For more information on these individuals and the history of this patient’s movement, please visit the Patient's History of Medical Cannabis.
Most marijuana cases in the US are handled through plea agreements, a process by which the defendant waives their right to a trial and pleads guilty to the charges. Depending on what state you are in, the severity of the charges, and other personal circumstances a plea agreement may be your best choice. For general information about what to expect in the legal process, please read our “Demystifying the Legal System”.
When deciding to fight your charges please consider some of the following questions:
- Do you have a community that will support you?
- What is the disparity in charges/sentencing if you loose in court vs taking a plea agreement?
- How will a trial affect your family?
- How will a trial affect your employment, child custody, housing?
- If you are not facing jail time, can you take the time out of my life for a trial?
- If you do not qualify for a public defender, can you afford a trial attorney?
If you do decide to move forward with a trial, considering organizing court support.
Some defendants choose to cooperate with the government, others take plea bargains but refuse cooperation, and some take their cases to trial. It is up to you as to if and when you accept a plea offer.