Minneapolis Democrat Sen. Scott Dibble says the state’s medical marijuana review board is nothing but “a coffee club” that has “no real purpose.”
Current and former task force members agreed with Sen. Dibble’s assessment. Peace officer union head Dennis Flaherty, who later resigned from the task force, complained that members did not take the body’s work seriously and that meetings were poorly attended. Addiction Dr. Charles Reznikoff, who still serves on the task force, says the body has no clear mission. “We’re just a bunch of people that sit around a microphone and talk about cannabis,” he said. Lawmakers created the task force when they authorized medical marijuana in 2014, but only gave the body vague powers. According to some, the task force has the power to add new qualifying conditions, review procedures, and take other substantive action. But others say the task force is basically a public forum and a discussion group.
Democratic–Farmer–Labor Rep. Heather Edelson, from Edina, has introduced a measure which would revamp the task force. The bill has Governor Tim Walz’s backing.
Under state law, possession of marijuana under 42.5 grams is a petty misdemeanor (maximum $200 fine). To put that number in perspective, there’s usually about a gram of marijuana in a dime bag. From time to time, some municipalities de-criminalize simple possession altogether. But these are just executive policy decisions that can be reversed at any time.
The good news is that there is no possible jail time. That means no possibility of long-term probation, although a plea agreement may include a drug education class. That plea agreement may also include conditional discharge, which means that the defendant will not have a drug conviction.
However, the arrest record remains. A St. Paul criminal defense attorney may be able to expunge that record in a separate proceeding. Additionally, only Ramsey County prosecutors can offer conditional discharge. If they do not make that offer, for whatever reason, a defendant does not have a conditional discharge option.
Possession over 42.5 grams is a felony, and sale over 42.5 grams is a serious felony. Prosecutors usually upgrade charged from possession to sale if officers find circumstantial evidence of drug trafficking, such as:
In a nutshell, if police catch you smoking a joint, you’ll probably be charged with a petty misdemeanor. If they find your stash, felony charges may be forthcoming. If officers uncover any circumstantial evidence whatsoever, even if it’s only a few dollars or a few baggies, brace yourself for serious felony charges.
Prosecutors must prove every element of either possession or trafficking beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a very high standard, and as outlined below, procedural defects and lack of evidence are the two best defenses to drug charges in Ramsey County.
In petty misdemeanor cases, there must be a useable quantity of marijuana. That’s normally not an issue in dime bag cases, but in joint cases, it could be significant. If there is sufficient burnt marijuana, prosecutors could press other charges, but they must dismiss the existing possession case and start over.
Felony cases almost always involve either vehicle or property searches. In both these kinds of cases, establishing possession is sometimes a problem. Proximity alone is not enough. In addition to closeness, prosecutors must also establish knowledge and control.
Assume St. Paul Police Department officers pull over a car full of people. They find a large stash of marijuana under the back seat. If Sam was in the front passenger seat, it would be hard for prosecutors to tie him to the marijuana. That’s especially true if Sam did not know the other people in the car very well.
Property searches usually involve search warrant exceptions. Officers cannot enter a dwelling without a warrant unless a search warrant exception applies. Some common ones include:
If officers have a warrant, it must be based on probable cause and meet some other legal requirements.
Marijuana charges are serious in Minnesota, but there are a number of ways out. For a free consultation with an experienced St. Paul criminal defense attorney, contact Capitol City Law Group, LLC. Go online now, call us at (651) 998-7634, or stop by 287 6th St E, Suite 20, St Paul, MN 55101.