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CT drug lawyerWhile marijuana has long been treated as a controlled substance, attitudes surrounding this drug have changed in recent years. Many states have allowed the use of cannabis for medical purposes, and a number of states have legalized marijuana for recreational use as well. Connecticut recently joined these states when the legislators passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana. Residents of Connecticut will want to understand how this new law addresses the use of marijuana, as well as how it will affect those who have previously faced criminal charges for marijuana possession or other drug-related offenses.

How the New Law Affects Criminal Cases Involving Marijuana

As of July 1, 2021, marijuana has been made legal for recreational use by adults over the age of 21. A person can possess and use up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis plants or an equivalent amount of products that contain marijuana, such as oils or edibles. In addition, a person can possess up to five ounces of marijuana that is kept in a locked container in their residence or locked inside the trunk or glove compartment of their vehicle. While marijuana is not yet available for retail sale in Connecticut, the state expects that it will begin being sold near the end of 2022.

Some provisions of the new law that may affect criminal cases include:

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Fairfield County marijuana possession lawyerLaws prohibiting the consumption and sale of marijuana are changing rapidly across the country. However, this does not mean that the substance is not subject to strict regulations. In Connecticut, marijuana has been decriminalized. Possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana is punishable by a modest fine, and, if the offender is under age 21, a 60-day suspension of his or her driver’s license. However, possession of larger amounts of marijuana, transportation of the drug across state lines, or driving under the influence of marijuana can result in serious criminal consequences, including jail time.

Marijuana Possession May Be a Misdemeanor or Felony Offense

If you are caught with more than a half-ounce of marijuana, you face a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. However, you may be able to avoid jail time by participating in a pretrial diversion program. With this option, you may be required to undergo drug treatment, mental health counseling, community service, and/or ongoing drug testing.

If you possessed a significant quantity of marijuana, the prosecution may argue that you intended to sell the illegal drug. Selling marijuana or possessing it with intent to sell is a felony offense in Connecticut. If you are convicted of possession with intent to sell, you may face a prison sentence of up to seven years and a $25,000 fine. Possession of more than one kilogram of marijuana is punishable by 5 to 20 years in prison.

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CT defense lawyerWith the increased nationwide push toward legality for small amounts of marijuana, it can be very easy to assume that possession of marijuana will not lead to any potential criminal consequences. This is, however, not the case - aside from small exceptions, possession of marijuana will wind up leading to fines, possible jail time, and potential social consequences for the future, especially if you are a juvenile. If you have been charged with possession of marijuana, you need to quickly enlist an attorney who has experience with these cases.

Fines and Potential Prison Time

As with most other drug charges, possession of marijuana can be a misdemeanor or a felony charge in Connecticut, depending on how much you are caught with. Generally, possessing amounts between one and four ounces will be charged as a misdemeanor, while amounts four ounces and over will be charged as felonies, carrying the appropriate jail time. A misdemeanor first offense is less likely to result in jail time, especially for younger adults, but you may receive up to one year in jail, plus a $1,000 fine, depending on your specific situation.

Keep in mind that in Connecticut, if you are caught with less than one-half an ounce of marijuana, it is no longer considered a criminal offense; rather it is an infraction, punishable by fines. It does not create a criminal record, in most situations, but it will show up on some background checks in the future, which can cause problems that are much further reaching than any fine. In particular, certain jobs are off-limits to anyone with a history of drug use, as well as some housing opportunities.

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CT defense lawyerAs with any other drug, being charged with possession of marijuana can lead to serious consequences even if you do not wind up serving jail time. A drug conviction on your record can lead to problems in life, especially for juveniles, so if you have been arrested and charged with possession, it is crucial to try and find an experienced attorney who can help you have the best chance possible at proving your innocence.

There Are Still Consequences

While it is true that possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized - if you are stopped with less than one ounce of a “cannabis-like substance,” you will have committed a civil infraction, rather than a crime - this does not apply to amounts over one ounce. If you are stopped with between one and four ounces, this is a misdemeanor charge, but any amount over four ounces is a felony, even on a first offense. Even the lowest level felony can lead to fines of up to $5,000 and up to 10 years in jail.

However, even possessing less than one ounce of marijuana opens one up to potential consequences. A first offense results in a $150 fine, with a second and third costing $500. After two convictions for this type of infraction, the court then has the legal authority to order you into a drug treatment program. This can be a mixed blessing, as you cannot be ordered to jail for civil infractions, but drug treatment and other diversions can cause problems at work or at home.

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CT criminal lawyerIn recent years, there has been a push to legalize small amounts of marijuana in various states around the country. Connecticut is one of the states that has made a change, reducing the penalty for possession of less than ½ ounce of marijuana to a criminal violation, rather than a misdemeanor or felony. However, if you are stopped with more than ½ an ounce, you can still be charged with a drug crime in Connecticut. If this is you, be aware that you do have options, especially if you have a knowledgeable attorney on your side.

Penalties Still in Force

While the penalty for possession of minor amounts and possession of some marijuana-related paraphernalia has been lowered to a violation, the sentencing for conviction on possession of larger amounts or for distribution remains unchanged, and a conviction will stay on your record for many years afterward. A first-time misdemeanor possession charge carries a jail term of at least 1 year, while a felony conviction means at least 5 years in jail.

Distribution penalties are even more severe, even for a first offense. Depending on the amount involved in the charge, you can face anywhere between 5 and 20 years in prison. If you are convicted of distributing 1 kilogram or more, there is a mandatory minimum of 5 years, plus all the attendant fines. In addition, there are modifiers that can add time, such as distributing to someone under 18 or distributing within 1,500 feet of a school.

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