WEED TO GO? MARIJUANA USERS SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE BRINGING POT ALONG ON OUT- OF-STATE TRIP
QUESTION: I grow a small amount of marijuana for my own recreational use. Now that marijuana use is legal in Michigan, I often bring some with me when I visit friends and family (I do not toke and drive!). I’m planning to visit friends in Chicago, where I hear marijuana is also legal, and planned to bring some of my best buds as a house-warming gift. Is it OK to take legal marijuana across state lines?
ANSWER: Recreational marijuana may be newly legal in Illinois, but that doesn’t mean taking a few baggies from Michigan to the Windy City is a good idea. It’s not. Michigan’s law allowing recreational use of marijuana specifically forbids transporting marijuana across state lines. And, even if Michigan law was silent on the issue, authorities in our neighboring states, Ohio and Indiana, would take a dim view of your possession of marijuana.
In Ohio, where marijuana is decriminalized (but not legal), possession of less than100 grams of marijuana is a minor misdemeanor, punishable by a $150 fine. Minor misdemeanors are treated much like traffic offenses — the offender is issued a citation, and a first offense is not punishable by jail time. But, under Ohio law, a “gift” of more than 20 grams of marijuana may be treated as drug trafficking, and could result in a felony charge.
In Indiana – a state you’ll drive through en route to Chicago – marijuana is fully illegal. Possession of any amount of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. Possession of more than 30 grams, coupled with a prior drug offense, is punishable as a felony, with a penalty of more than two years in prison and possible fines of $10,000.
Heading to Florida? Be careful. Marijuana is fully illegal in Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama (medical use is allowed in Florida). A trip up the East Coast would put you at least risk of prison. Medical marijuana is allowed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, like Ohio, do not treat possession as a criminal offense, and permit medical use of marijuana. Marijuana use is legal in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine (although marijuana sales for recreational purposes are still illegal in Vermont).
Even in-state, you should be careful. Just as it is illegal to drink or have open intoxicants in a motor vehicle, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana or have pot in an open, and accessible, container. Marijuana should be in a sealed container and placed in the trunk for transport. If your vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, the marijuana should be in a sealed container that is not easily accessible.
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By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law