More states have legalized marijuana, but taking it from one state where it is legal to a state where it is not could result in criminal charges. In some cases, it is legal to take marijuana and associated products across state lines, but you should be cautious before doing so.
Realize that, when you are in one state, only that state’s laws apply. Likewise, when you cross the border into another state, you are now under their rule. Therefore, if you take something legal in one state and move it to another where it is illegal, you have committed a crime.
Understanding the Complexities of the “Legal” Concept
Criminal law is defined by state statute. Therefore, what is considered “legal” depends on that particular state’s code. These codes will vary, and no two states have identical laws. In some cases, the laws vary so dramatically that you could face a harsher penalty for a crime committed in one state compared to another.
Marijuana Is Legal, But Only in Certain States
You must realize that not all states have legalized the recreational use or medicinal use of marijuana, and the federal government still considers it a controlled substance despite state laws. States that have legalized marijuana for recreational use allow you to purchase a specified amount and even grow it at home. But if you were to take that marijuana across state lines, you have committed a crime – and the punishment depends on the laws of the state where you took the marijuana and not where it originated.
Most states have held out on recreational use. While they have legalized it for medical purposes, most refuse to make recreational use legal. Therefore, you should never travel outside of the state with recreational use marijuana, because now you have technically committed drug trafficking.
Even if you have a valid medical use card from your state, if the state where you are visiting doesn’t recognize medical use, then you are committing a crime. For example, Wyoming borders Colorado, but they do not allow medicinal or recreational use of marijuana. Therefore, even with a valid medical use card, you could be arrested for bringing your marijuana into that state.
Neighboring States Often Give Harsh Penalties
In some states, it can be a misdemeanor for taking drugs across the line into their border, but other states will charge you with a felony – which means more than one year imprisonment. Depending on how much marijuana you have at the time you are arrested, you could spend more than one year in jail.
Sometimes, you have a minor fine and a few days in the county jail. Other times, you have committed an offense that will leave you in prison in another state for several years.
Charges for Distribution of Narcotics and Drug Trafficking
One of the biggest risks, when you take marijuana out of Colorado and into another state, is being charged with distribution of narcotics or drug trafficking. If you are stopped on the highway, the state’s laws no longer apply and now you are facing federal charges.
Federal charges are notoriously unforgiving, often carry longer prison sentences and would involve a felony offense rather than a misdemeanor. Depending on the amount you have at the time, you could spend over a decade in federal prison for taking marijuana out of the state.
What If the State Allows for Medical Use?
If you have a medical use card from one state, and the state you’re visiting also has medical use permission, you still cannot take your marijuana with you into that state. Instead, you must apply for a medical use card in that state, as each state has unique requirements for issuing these cards – and the state where you originate might not meet those requirements.
Other states where it is legal, such as California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington might be more forgiving, but you still have to cross states where the drugs are illegal to get there. For example, if you are driving from Colorado to California, you must pass through Utah or Arizona – both which only allow for medical use. Therefore, you will be breaking state laws and possibly federal laws if you are arrested on the interstate at the time.
Federal Law Sees Marijuana as an Illegal Substance
The federal government, despite state laws, does not recognize any legal use for marijuana. Instead, they treat it like other controlled substances in the category of heroin and cocaine. However, there are exceptions as long as the product contains under 0.03% THC. If the product has less than 0.03%, then it is not considered illegal to buy, sell, or possess.
The 2018 U.S. farm bill is what has allowed some states to decriminalize the use of marijuana, but it is a complicated legal issue when it comes to moving products from one state to another.
Bottom Line: Leave Your Marijuana at Home
While more states are allowing for recreational use, you are risking prison time and a permanent criminal record to take your marijuana out of the state. You are better off leaving it at home and purchasing some locally, as long as it is legal to do so, in the state you are visiting. By doing so, you are not breaking any state laws, and you are protecting yourself from years of consequences.
What If I’m Arrested for Transporting Marijuana
Whether you transported in or out of the state, the moment you are arrested, you must contact a criminal defense attorney. Charges for transporting drugs across state lines is serious, and it could result in long-term prison sentences and a life full of negative consequences.
No matter what, you should not try to negotiate a plea yourself or assume that, if you plead guilty, you will receive a lighter sentence.
After your arrest, contact an attorney that has experience handling marijuana cases. Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. can assist you with your legal defense. To get started, schedule a free case evaluation by calling today or contact him online with your questions.