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CT defense lawyer UPDATE: It has been a decade since Connecticut decriminalized marijuana, but in 2021, lawmakers voted to make additional changes to the law. Some of those changes have already taken place, while others will be taking place in 2022 or later.

In July, the law was changed so that adults who are 21 years of age or older are now able to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis on their person or up to five ounces in a locked container in their home or a locked glove compartment or trunk in their vehicle.

As of October, any adults 18 years or older who have been issued medical marijuana cards are allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants inside their residence. Beginning in July 2023, any adult who is 21 years or older will be allowed to grow up to six plants indoors.

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stamford criminal defense lawyerAs of this writing, 36 states allow for the medical use of cannabis products, and 18 states have enacted legislation to regulate cannabis for nonmedical use. The state of Connecticut was the 18th state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults.

Whether you are in a state that has approved the use of marijuana for medical or recreational reasons, you can technically still be charged with a federal drug crime if you use or dispense the drug. This is because federal law almost always overrides state law, and despite the legalization of marijuana for various uses in different states, it is still considered an illegal drug under federal law.

Differences Between Federal and State Law

The federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits any use of marijuana, categorizing it as a drug with no accepted medical purpose and a high potential for abuse. In states that have passed medical marijuana laws, a person is allowed to use medical marijuana to treat a debilitating condition. The person must have a prescription from their doctor for one of the approved medical conditions the state law allows. Medical marijuana laws also regulate the producers and dispensaries licensed to produce the drug and it is at these dispensaries where people are required to purchase their medical marijuana. 

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Posted on in Drug Charges

CT defense lawyerConnecticut law on drug possession and trafficking establishes crimes that are committed when a person holds or sells illegal drugs (or legal drugs obtained illegally). However, there is another type of drug-related crime that is commonly charged, referred to as possession of drug paraphernalia. If you have been charged with this, either on its own or on top of a drug possession charge, it is crucial to understand that it can sometimes be treated as a relatively minor infraction, but in some cases, can lead to additional fines and even jail time.

Hard to Define

Possession of drug paraphernalia is a fairly common offense, with Connecticut law on the subject following the same patterns as are seen in other jurisdictions. The relevant statute holds that it is illegal to either use drug paraphernalia, or to possess it with the intent to use. The definition of drug paraphernalia, however, is extremely wide, covering seemingly every possible manner in which an item can be used to use, sell, or handle drugs - meaning that if you are arrested for drug possession, you may very well face a paraphernalia charge if anything even remotely related to drugs can be found in the near area or in your possession.

In order to establish your guilt in this particular crime, State’s Attorneys must prove that you had actual or constructive possession (essentially, either possession or control over the item) and that you knew what the item was and/or knew its purpose. So, for example, if you are asked to hold onto a water pipe for a friend, but do not know what it is, or know what it is used for, you cannot be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia because you had no intent to do so.

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CT defense lawyerThere are several legitimate medical uses for drugs that are otherwise considered dangerous and illegal to possess - for example, opioids and other painkillers. However, they do not always stay in the right hands, or if they do, sometimes they can be used to excess. If you have been charged with illegal use of prescription drugs in Connecticut, having an experienced attorney on your side can make all the difference in your case.

Drug Crimes Can Carry Serious Sentences

Prescription drugs are covered under Connecticut’s possession and trafficking statutes, and even for a first offense, the consequences can be strict. In addition, Connecticut has specific regulations prohibiting subsidiary offenses like doctor shopping (going to multiple doctors for controlled substances without disclosing that fact to any of the doctors) or obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, which carry their own sentences in addition to any possession charge that you may face.

Most crimes related to drugs are considered felonies in Connecticut, simply because of the potential harm to the individual and society. This means that even a first offense can carry prison time, from one year to 25 in extreme cases. In addition, possession need not always be physical; constructive possession (when you, for all intents and purposes, had control over the drugs) is often enough, and many defendants are unaware of possibilities like these.

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CT defense lawyerPossessing any kind of illegal drugs in Connecticut (with the exception of very small amounts of marijuana) is a serious offense in Connecticut, and if you are caught, you will face consequences that can be long-lasting, especially for juveniles. Do not try to navigate the court process alone; enlist a knowledgeable attorney who has experience in these cases to make sure that your rights are protected and the outcome of your case is appropriate.

Sentences Are Stiff

Connecticut’s drug laws are specific and uncompromising, and possession is seen as a significant offense, despite the decriminalization of possessing less than ½ an ounce of marijuana. Possessing more than ½ an ounce is generally a misdemeanor while possessing some harder drugs like narcotics can be a felony charge, and possessing hallucinogens like LSD or MDMA is punishable by up to five years in prison for a first offense. Because of the perceived risk to society, drug possession is a crime that prosecutors will often try to pursue aggressively.

That said, not every case of possession is an automatic black mark on a person’s record. The law does recognize certain exceptions to the law governing possession - it states, for example, that where possible, people who “breathe, inhale, sniff or drink” controlled substances are to be afforded medical treatment rather than criminal penalties. Also, no one who is seeking medical help for an overdose will be charged with drug crimes solely on the basis of that status - even though one might infer that they had to have possessed significant amounts of a drug in order to overdose. The law puts the person’s well-being first.

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