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Marijuana Court Cases

The US Supreme Court has not fully addressed the constitutionality of medical and recreational marijuana use, due in part to the Supreme Court’s relative conservatism and stance on drug law in general. But in reality, there hasn’t been a need. On the other hand, there are some Supreme Court justice’s who see things differently. With the recent legalization of medical and recreational marijuana within almost every state in the US, marijuana Supreme Court cases are falling under the umbrella of scrutiny.

Each state does have a legitimate concern when it comes to the growing use and popularity of marijuana, especially for novice and young users who may not be equipped to handle the effects of the psychoactive compound THC contained in marijuana products. One major problem that haunts lawmakers is driving under the influence of cannabis. Police are now equipped with breathalyzers that can detect recent marijuana use as well as mouth swab drug test kits that provide instant results.

Other issues that confront the US Supreme Courts are the privacy rights of individuals in their own dwellings. Neither federal nor state laws endorse the illegal sale or purchase of cannabis, and the effects can even trickle down to severe fines and penalties for those caught using cannabis in public or for illegal possession. Personal amounts allotted at home, as well as the number of seedlings, immature and flowering plants, vary from state to state. Therefore, some individuals who have violated federal marijuana laws have found themselves in US Supreme Court facing some serious weed cases.

Below are some recent US Supreme Court marijuana cases that may raise an eyebrow or two and shed some light on the complexity the courts are faced with, and the plight moving forward as legalization is becoming more mainstream.

Marijuana Case # CR-18-0370-PR (Arizona vs Jones)

Brief Case Summary Report: In 2018, an Arizona appellate court ruled that a medical cannabis patient could be criminally prosecuted for possession of the extracted resin known as hashish. Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), the Supreme Court retained a distinction between marijuana and cannabis and the criminality of hashish. However, in May of 2019, the Arizona Supreme Court voted unanimously to include AMMA’s definition of cannabis as an extracted resin as well as a dried flower.

Jones was caught with a jar that contained 1.43 grams of hashish, which in the grand scheme of things, is a small amount under any microscope. He was federally charged with possession of paraphernalia under Arizona’s criminal code §13-3401(20)(w), and §13-3401(4)(a) for the extracted resin. Although Jones appealed his case and asked to have the charges dismissed, the Court denied his motion. After his bench trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to two con-current 2 1/2 year sentences in federal prison.

Marijuana Case # 17SC584-2019 CO 36 (Colorado vs McKnight)

Brief Case Summary Report: In May of 2019, the US Colorado Supreme Court issued a long, split ruling in the case of the (People’s vs McKnight), which concedes that the state’s cannabis reform initiative did, in fact, impact criminal procedure rules in reference to drug-detection dogs. The Supreme Court states that a drug-sniffing dog that is trained to detect marijuana does constitute a legal search to see if an individual who is 21 or older is in possession of more than the one-ounce limit of personal marijuana use in Colorado.

However, on the other hand, the Colorado Constitution also states that law enforcement must have probable cause before the deployment of a drug-sniffing dog can be enacted for an exploratory sniff. In McKnight’s case, the Court found no probable cause to justify the deployment of the dog to sniff the defendant’s truck. After the trial ended in an error of McKnight’s motion to suppress, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed his judgment of conviction.

Marijuana Case # D.C. No. 2:07-cr-00689-GW-1 (United States of America vs Charles C. Lynch)

Brief Case Summary Report: The case of the United States of America vs Lynch (No. 10-50219) occurred on Sept 13, 2018. The Ninth Circuit Court issued a long and split decision on the case dubbed the “Wizard of Oz” by the press. The US Supreme Court affirmed that Charles C. Lynch’s conviction for conspiracy to possess, manufacture, and distribute cannabis, as well as other charges directly related to his Morro Bay marijuana dispensary in California, was constitutional.

In Lynch’s appeal, he contended that the courts made various errors in his defense of entrapment by estoppel and that they failed to warn the jurors against nullification, which provided the prosecutors the medium to introduce the evidence that tied him to the violations of his dispensary.

The panel stated that Lynch did not prove his facts for which a reasonable jury would find that he was entitled to his defense of entrapment by estoppel; therefore, he was never entitled to it in the first place, and the courts did not err in any aspect of decisions made in respect to it.

During the government’s cross-appeal, the "Wizard of Oz" got a surprise when the panel clicked its heels together and stated that the courts failed to issue Lynch the mandatory-minimum five-year sentence that falls under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B)(viii) based on the grounds that he was eligible for the government’s safety valve that falls under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f). For his leading role as the dispensary owner, he did not qualify for the safety valve set forth; therefore, he was convicted and sent to federal prison to serve the five-year mandatory minimum sentence.

How to Beat a Marijuana Case Involving a Field Sobriety Test

A field sobriety test (FST) is where a law enforcement officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of marijuana. Although the ramifications of driving under the influence of cannabis can bring serious state charges, it can also turn ugly for those who are habitual offenders or those who are in possession of marijuana over the legal limit. Depending on the state, the amount, and intent to distribute can bring federal charges, and individuals who violate federal laws can find themselves in the Supreme Court facing some hard time.

These tests are designed to detect the presence of THC, and the best way to beat the FST is to be prepared for one. We offer a solution that can be kept in your glove box, console or purse for easy access and use. Life can be unpredictable with surprise roadblocks or flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror. For cases involving an FST, it’s a good idea to have a solution on hand to avoid potential federal charges and dates with the US Supreme Court. To see our full list of drug-related court cases, click here.