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Marijuana Possession in North Carolina

If you’ve been charged with a marijuana-related drug crime (either for possession of marijuana or related paraphernalia), you’re probably curious to know what your rights are in North Carolina.

Charges

Possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana paraphernalia carry different charges. For simple possession, the charge will depend on the amount of marijuana you are alleged to have possessed:

  • Class 3 Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession: if you are alleged to have possessed less than ½ ounce of marijuana
  • Class 1 Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession: if you are alleged to have possessed between ½ ounce and 1 ½ ounces of marijuana
  • Class 1 Felony Marijuana Possession: if you are alleged to have possessed anything greater than 1 ½ ounces of marijuana (but no more than 10 pounds, as larger amounts can carry additional felony charges for sale and trafficking)

As for marijuana paraphernalia, it is first important to understand what that term means. Drug paraphernalia is any equipment used to produce, conceal or consume illegal drugs, including items like spoons and pipes. Marijuana paraphernalia includes items that are specific to marijuana use, like a bong.

  • Class 3 Misdemeanor Marijuana Paraphernalia Possession: if you are alleged to have possessed items that demonstrate an intent to commit marijuana crimes (such as using the item to conceal, package, grow or inhale marijuana)

The specific charge will ultimately depend on the situation in which the items are found, as even everyday items such as Ziplock bags, when found near illegal drugs, can be considered paraphernalia.

Penalties

As you might expect, the severity of the penalty for marijuana possession corresponds with the type of charge. In some cases, it will also depend on your prior record and your circumstances, so it is always best to consult a North Carolina criminal defense attorney for your specific case. Here are the general penalty guidelines that correspond with the charges:

  • Class 3 Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession:
    • Maximum fine of $200
    • Maximum jail sentence of 20 days (although a short period of probation is more likely).
  • Class 1 Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession:
    • Maximum fine of $1,000
    • Maximum jail sentence of 120 days
  • Class 1 Felony Marijuana Possession:
    • Fine amount of $1,000
    • Maximum jail time 3-8 months
  • Class 3 Misdemeanor Marijuana Paraphernalia Possession:
    • Maximum fine of $200
    • Maximum jail sentence of 20 days (although a short period of probation is more likely).

Defenses

While it varies from case to case, there are certain defenses that your experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney can pursue on your behalf.

For example, with respect to marijuana paraphernalia possession, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to use the items to commit a marijuana-related crime. This can be hard to prove when the items in question are utensils, pipes, or other everyday equipment that have many non-drug related uses.

It is also important to know that you have certain rights under the Fourth Amendment. Marijuana possession charges often result from a routine traffic stop, during which police encounter illegal substances. The police officer must have probable cause or a warrant to search your vehicle, so if she did not, your charges could be dropped.

If you find yourself in need of assistance to fight your marijuana possession charges, Attorney Cotten can help. He has served hundreds of satisfied clients through Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties. Give him a call or click over to the main page to chat with a legal assistant.

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