Federal Marijuana Charges

It seems like each year sees a new state moving to legalize marijuana. But did you realize the federal government has the jurisdiction and authority to bust you for any marijuana offense? This collision of state and federal law is known as federalism. In this case, the federal government’s authority supersedes that of individual states.

Medical and recreational marijuana are still illegal under federal law, but the vast majority of marijuana prosecution occurs at the state level. There are simply too many cases for federal law enforcement to take on. However, the federal government is likely to assume jurisdiction over cases involving large-scale marijuana cultivation or distribution operations.

If you’re facing federal marijuana charges, your entire future is at stake. You need an experienced marijuana defense attorney who can guide you through the federal legal system.

Texas Attorney for Federal Marijuana Charges

If you don’t present a strong defense in court, a conviction for federal marijuana charges could ruin your life. Your criminal record will follow you everywhere. If you wish to continue your education at an institution of higher learning, you could be denied admission. You could even be rejected for federal student loans and grants because of your prior drug conviction.

The Law Offices of David Sloane, PLLC has years of experience focusing extensively on federal marijuana charges. Attorney David Sloane is passionate about the cause of marijuana reform. In fact, he serves as Public Information Officer for the DFW chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). David is also a former police lieutenant with a background in criminal investigation and crime scene analysis.

If you’re facing prosecution by the federal government for marijuana charges, you should speak to an experienced attorney at the Law Offices of David Sloane, PLLC. Complete an online form or call (817) 810-0088 to schedule your free consultation. We represent clients across the state of Texas, including areas such as Wilbarger County, Sherman County, Hudspeth County, and Moore County.

Overview of Federal Marijuana Charges in Texas

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What Is the Federal Law Regarding Marijuana?

Federal marijuana law is governed by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA). The CSA categorizes both illicit and prescription drugs into schedules I through V. Each substance is placed in a schedule according to the federal government’s assessment of its medical value and potential for addiction. Below are examples of how common drugs are categorized under federal law:

  • Schedule I: Marijuana, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (magic mushrooms or shrooms)
  • Schedule II: Cocaine, fentanyl, opium, oxycodone
  • Schedule III: Anabolic steroids, ketamine, intermediate- and fast-acting barbiturates
  • Schedule IV: Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium), long-acting barbiturates
  • Schedule V: Codeine-containing cough suppressants, anti-diarrheal medication containing small amounts of opium

Marijuana is currently classified as Schedule I because the US government believes it has a high potential for abuse. Marijuana is in the same category as heroin. It is considered to be more dangerous than methamphetamine.

A proposed congressional bill, H.R. 1227, was introduced in 2017. The bill, which is known as the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, seeks to limit the federal government’s power to prosecute individuals for marijuana offenses in states with legal marijuana. It has not seen movement since being referred to a congressional committee in March 2017.

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Federal Marijuana Penalties

Sentencing for federal marijuana charges varies widely, but it’s generally much harsher than state-level sentencing. The sentence handed down to a convicted marijuana offender depends on several factors. These factors include the nature of the offense and Federal Sentencing Guidelines recommendations.

The primary focus of federal marijuana prosecution is trafficking. The Controlled Substances Act derives its authority from the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The Interstate Commerce Act grants the government authority over crimes that take place across multiple states. Because marijuana trafficking often involves interstate commerce, the federal government has jurisdiction.

Law enforcement stays busy with drug arrests along Texas highways. Police have formed specialized units to investigate and arrest drug crime suspects. These units are known as highway interdiction teams. Usually, highway interdiction teams are headed by county police or state troopers. But if you’re caught with a large enough quantity of weed, the federal government is likely to take over prosecution of the case.

Penalties for trafficking marijuana range in severity depending on the amount of marijuana in question and whether the defendant is a repeat offender. The maximum sentence under federal law for a first-time trafficking offender is a $10,000,000 fine and between 10 years to life in prison. For a second offense, the maximum penalty jumps to 20 years to life with a $20,000,000 fine.

Possession, on the other hand, carries relatively lighter sentences by comparison. If you are prosecuted under federal law for simple possession of marijuana, the harshest sentence you could receive is 3 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

The judge must also consider a sentence that adheres to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, though he or she is free to ignore the recommendation and issue a sentence they see more appropriate. Let’s take a closer look at these Guidelines.

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What Are Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

After a conviction for a federal marijuana felony or Class A misdemeanor, the court must determine a sentence. Federal sentences are calculated based on a standardized set of rules established under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. These rules are known as the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The purpose of these Guidelines is to ensure fairness in sentencing. The Guidelines serve as an objective standard to reduce disparities in the length and severity of sentences handed down by federal courts.

Judges must calculate and weigh a defendant’s potential sentence in accordance with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. However, after calculating and considering a sentence based on the Guidelines, a judge is still free to issue their own sentence as they see fit.

The Guidelines’ sentencing recommendations are laid out in the form of a table. Sentence lengths are determined according to two factors.

The defendant’s criminal history is the first factor. A defendant is assigned criminal history points based on their criminal record. Sentences increase from left to right across the table as a defendant’s criminal history points increases. The six criminal history categories are denoted by Roman numerals I through VI.

The second factor considered by the Guidelines is the offense level. The offense levels increase from the top to the bottom of the table, and sentence lengths increase accordingly. There are currently 43 different offense levels in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The minimum federal sentence recommended by the Guidelines is 0 to 6 months for someone who committed a minor violation with no prior criminal history. The maximum sentence that can be prescribed under the guidelines is life in prison.

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Additional Resources

Guns N’ Ganja: How Federalism Criminalizes the Lawful Use of Marijuana – This article was published in the June 2018 edition of the UC Davis Law Review journal. It offers a detailed examination of the issues arising from the United States system of federalism. Visit this link to gain insight into how federal and state law collide.

Quick Facts on Drug Trafficking Offenses | USSC – The United States Sentencing Commission is the federal judicial agency in charge of Federal Sentencing Guidelines. This 2017 report on drug trafficking summarizes the sentences handed down for federal drug trafficking offenses. View the report to view a breakdown of the offenses by drug and arrest trends. The report also details how many of the sentences were issued in accordance with Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Prison Time Surges for Federal Inmates | The Pew Charitable Trusts – The Pew Charitable Trusts is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that focuses on matters of public policy. This article examines how the average federal sentence has increased over time. This article concludes that federal sentences more than doubled between 1988 and 2012. Visit this link to view an analysis of the factors contributing to this increase in federal prison sentence length.

Maximum Fines Under the Controlled Substances Act – This 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service compiles the maximum penalties possible under the Controlled Substances Act. Visit this link to read about the penalties for trafficking marijuana and enhanced penalties reserved for repeat offenders.

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Texas Lawyer for Federal Marijuana Charges

It’s absolutely critical that you prepare a proper defense against federal marijuana charges. In most cases, federal penalties mean longer prison sentences. You are less likely to be treated leniently in federal court unless you’re represented by experienced counsel.

The Law Offices of David Sloane, PLLC has defended countless clients facing federal marijuana charges. Our attorneys are intimately familiar with the inner workings of the federal criminal justice system. When your life and future are on the line, you need a skilled navigator to take the lead. As a former police officer with nearly two decades of experience practicing criminal law, David Sloane is equipped to provide you with the best possible defense.

Contact the Law Offices of David Sloane, PLLC for a free consultation to discuss your case. We represent clients across the state of Texas, including areas such as Wise County, Hardeman County, Armstrong County, and Potter County.

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