Ohio voters decisively passed Issue 2 on November 7, 2023, legalizing adult-use cannabis. This monumental shift in Ohio’s marijuana policy aligns the state with the national trend of cannabis reform. However, it’s crucial to recognize that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Ohio does not apply retroactively, meaning prior convictions won’t be automatically expunged. Further, driving under the influence remains illegal, and the full extent of law enforcement’s authority under the new law is yet to be determined.
Issue 2 & Marijuana Legalization in Ohio
Issue 2 permits adults aged 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to 6 plants individually or 12 per household. Commercial cannabis sale is authorized, but local jurisdictions can restrict it, and tax revenue will fund various community initiatives. While recreational use is legal, employers can enforce drug-free workplace policies, and federal employees must adhere to federal standards.
For individuals facing pending marijuana-related charges in Columbus, Ohio that occurred prior to passage or if you’d like to purse an expungement of a past marijuana conviction, it’s essential to consult an experienced attorney. Also, new marijuana-related charges are still possible for non-compliance with the new regulations.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we are dedicated to guiding you through these complex legal changes and protecting your rights. Contact us at (614) 500-3836 for a free and confidential case evaluation. We’ll explain the law, your rights, and what to do next.
What Exactly is Marijuana?
Marijuana typically is used in the form of the dried leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the plant Cannabis sativa. Users may feel a psychoactive effect from the drug, although in some states it may legally be used for medicinal purposes, such as to alleviate pain and nausea suffered by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Ohio does not allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. The active ingredient in marijuana is THC, which is found in its highest concentrations in the leaves and flowers. The most common way to use marijuana is to smoke it, which allows the THC to be absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream, which in turn transports the chemical to the brain where it acts on certain receptors to create a euphoric feeling known as a “high.”
Under Ohio Rev. Code 3719.41(C), marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug and grouped with hallucinogens such as LSD or peyote. Schedule I drugs are considered to have the highest potential for abuse and no approved medical or therapeutic benefit. For purposes of the state’s criminal drug laws, marijuana includes all parts of the cannabis plant, its seeds, its resin, and any compound, derivative, or mixture containing cannabis. The definition in Ohio Rev. Code 3719 excludes the mature stalks of the plant and its compounds and derivatives, and fiber produced from the stalks such as hemp rope.
Possession of marijuana is a crime in Ohio regardless of the amount. However, the amount in your possession will determine the degree of the offense and the resulting penalties if you’re convicted.
The elements of the crime of marijuana possession boil down to:
- Marijuana was found in your possession
- You knew or believed the substance was marijuana
- You intended to possess it
You can be charged with possession even if the marijuana is not on your person. Ohio law recognizes two forms of possession: actual and constructive. Possession essentially comes down to the legal idea of “dominion and control,” or in other words ownership or the ability to immediately take physical possession.
- Actual Possession — This is when the marijuana is found on you, such as in your pocket or in a bag you’re carrying.
- Constructive Possession — This is a broader way of defining possession, and can include marijuana that is found in your apartment or in your car. If you’re aware the marijuana is in your car and a reasonable person could believe that the marijuana belongs to you, you may be considered to have constructive possession. Constructive possession also may include giving a bag of pot to a friend to hold for you. If the pot is found on your friend, but a jury can be convinced that it was actually yours, you may be considered to have constructive possession.
Penalties for Possession
The penalties for marijuana possession Ohio range from a small fine to years of incarceration. The maximum penalty imposed for a conviction depends on the quantity of marijuana. A relatively small amount is a minor misdemeanor, but possession can be as serious as a second-degree felony when the quantity is very large.
Additionally, whenever you’re convicted of a drug offense in Ohio, you face loss of driving privileges for anywhere from six months to five years, regardless of whether you were driving at the time you were charged.
Here’s how the penalties break down in the Ohio Revised Code.
- For less than 100 grams, possession of marijuana is considered a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $150
- For 100 to 200 grams, possession of marijuana is considered a fourth degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250
- For 200 to 1,000 grams, possession of marijuana is considered a fifth degree felony punishable by six (6) months to one (1) year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500
- For 1,000 to 5,000 grams, possession of marijuana is considered a third degree felony punishable by one (1) to five (5) years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- For 5,000 to 20,000 grams, possession of marijuana is considered a third degree felony punishable by one (1) to five (5) years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- For 20,000 to 40,000 grams, possession of marijuana is considered a second degree felony punishable by a mandatory five (5) to eight (8) year prison sentence and a fine of up to $15,000
- For over 40,000 grams, possession of marijuana is considered a second degree felony punishable by a mandatory eight (8) years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000
When you commit a drug offense in the vicinity of a juvenile, that has the potential to increase the penalties upon conviction.
Other Consequences of Drug Convictions
Even a minor marijuana possession conviction could have a lasting effect on your life. If you’re a student or planning to pursue a degree at some point, a drug conviction may bar you from admission to a college or university and can prohibit you from getting federal financial aid, such as grants or student loans, to pay for school. Drug convictions also can be a barrier to getting a job or renting an apartment, and may affect your immigration status if you are not a U.S. citizen.
However, with the help of a skilled Columbus marijuana possession lawyer, you may be able to avoid a conviction, get your charge reduced, or enter into an alternative sentencing agreement such as going through a substance abuse program, so that you can move on with your life after an unfortunate mistake.
If you’ve been charged with possession of marijuana, you might be panicking. You’re probably worried about whether you’re going to go to jail. Even if the marijuana wasn’t yours, you may be afraid no one will believe you and that you’ll end up with a criminal record because of a mistake.
There are a number of ways that you may be able to fight the marijuana possession charge with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A Columbus marijuana possession lawyer will do a detailed review of every piece of evidence and testimony in your case, as well as the process the police used to find the marijuana and arrest you for the crime. It very well may be that your rights were violated somewhere along the way, or the evidence was collected using procedures that were tainted.
Some common defense strategies include:
- Proving that you have physician certification to use medical marijuana
- Challenging whether the drug was in your possession if you had no dominion and control
- Challenging whether the police had probable cause to search you
- Arguing that evidence was obtained improperly and shouldn’t be allowed into court
- The police didn’t properly administer your Miranda rights warning
- The police used illegal wiretapping or surveillance
- Challenging evidence found using drug-sniffing dogs
- Challenging whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to seize you
- Challenging whether the state can prove that the substance they seized is marijuana
Charged with possession? Contact a Columbus marijuana possession lawyer today.
A possession charge can result in jail or prison time, expensive fines, and a mark on your criminal record if you’re convicted. This is why having a drug crimes lawyer in Columbus who can assess the evidence against you, build a strong defense, and fight for your freedoms is essential. Call us at (614) 500-3836 or via email at email@example.com for a free consultation. We are available 24/7.
For over a decade, the Columbus criminal defense lawyers at LHA have successfully represented clients on criminal offenses ranging from minor misdemeanors to first-degree felonies. That extensive previous experience will enable us to better help you.