Are Marijuana "Sharing" Programs Legal In The Nation's Capital?
If you're a resident of the District of Columbia, you may have trouble reconciling the city's recently relaxed laws on marijuana possession and consumption with the federal government's strict view of marijuana as a dangerous and highly illegal substance. In an effort to get around the city ban on the sale of marijuana, some enterprising companies are coming up with programs that provide a "gift" of marijuana along with a harmless and completely legal consumer item. Read on to learn more about the legality of these marijuana sharing programs, as well as what you can do if you're charged with a violation of D.C.'s marijuana laws.
Why are marijuana sharing programs so popular?
Under D.C. law, the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana or cultivation of up to 6 marijuana plants (with only half these plants being mature) is legal. D.C. residents over the age of 21 are also permitted to transfer (without payment) up to 1 ounce of marijuana to another resident who is over the age of 21. The sale of any amount of marijuana is still illegal under both city and federal law.
In an effort to bypass the restrictions on the sale of marijuana, some companies have established marijuana "gift" or sharing companies. These delivery companies carry an inventory of items ranging from toothpaste to orange juice, and provide quick delivery to your door at any time of day or night. You have the option of paying the list price for the item and a delivery fee or purchasing a higher-priced package that includes a "gift" of marijuana. In other cases, you may pay a membership fee (similar to the membership offers of online food or shopping companies) in exchange for periodic deliveries of "free" marijuana.
These companies' practices may seem like a relatively transparent way to get around the restrictions against selling marijuana in D.C. city limits. Local prosecutors agreed, and one company owner recently found himself facing criminal charges in D.C. court, eventually pleading guilty to distribution of marijuana and sentenced to 6 months of probation. A similar case in Colorado also resulted in criminal charges for the company owner.
What are your options if you've been charged with a marijuana-related crime in D.C.?
Because D.C.'s more relaxed marijuana laws directly conflict with the federal ban on the sale or use of marijuana, there is always a risk that you could be apprehended and arrested for violating federal law, even if your conduct falls well within that prescribed by the city-wide law. Because of this conflict between laws, appealing any criminal conviction you may receive could render your case eligible for transfer to your local federal district court, or even the U.S. Supreme Court, to address the issue of whether D.C.'s law is constitutional.
Another option that may allow you to avoid a criminal conviction entirely is to negotiate a deferral agreement with the prosecutor. These agreements are commonly used to help first-time or minor offenders avoid a criminal record. By entering into a deferral agreement, you'll agree to stay out of trouble for a prescribed period of time. Once this deferral period has ended and you've adhered to the terms of the agreement, your criminal case will be dismissed and no judgment will be entered against you.
With the increasing conflict between many states' and cities' more relaxed attitudes toward marijuana use and consumption and the federal government's blanket restriction on both, more and more attorneys have turned their focus to defending clients against marijuana-related criminal charges. Seeking the assistance of someone who is experienced in this rapidly-changing area of law can be your best option to avoid a permanent mark on your record. If you've been charged with a crime related to the possession or sale of marijuana, contact a marijuana defense attorney for help with your case.