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Less Than One-Quarter Gram Possession Gross Misdemeanor Crime

One quarter gram marijuana wax threshold

Quarter gram marijuana wax:  The Minnesota Legislature made some changes to Minnesota “Controlled Substance” laws, effective August 1, 2016.  One change created a Gross Misdemeanor for some “controlled substance” possession, for less than 0.25 grams or one dosage unit.

Limitations

Limited to first-timers: This law only applies to a person “not … previously convicted of a violation of this chapter …”  And the law applies to all “controlled substances” other than heroin. But otherwise, the Fifth Degree charge is still a felony.

Before this 2016 law, prosecutors could charge even these amounts of marijuana wax as a felony.  A felony drug conviction can trigger lost jobs, lost of civil rights, immigration consequences.  So the law baby-steps in the right direction.

The statutory language:

Minn. Stat. §152.025, Subd. 4 (a)(1) “the amount of the controlled substance possessed, other than heroin, is less than 0.25 grams or one dosage unit or less if the controlled substance was possessed in dosage units …”

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one-quarter gram of hash vs. a lighter

Does this mean defense lawyers will no longer need to litigate trace amount issues and cases?

No.  A Gross Misdemeanor is still a serious crime.

Also, this new law does not apply to heroin or federal cases.

But what about marijuana, including derivatives such as marijuana wax, dabs?

Small Amount Currently Plant-form Only

Minnesota law defines possession of a “small amount” of plant-form marijuana as a petty misdemeanor (not a crime, violation-fine only).  Minnesota Statutes §152.01, Subd. 16 defines Small amount: “‘Small amount’ as applied to marijuana means 42.5 grams or less. This provision shall not apply to the resinous form of marijuana.”

So, a prosecutor can charge 0.24 grams or less of plant-form marijuana as a petty misdemeanor violation, but not as a gross misdemeanor.

But what about marijuana wax, dabs, THC oil?  So, when it comes to the “resinous form of marijuana” exception; the “small amount” definition would not apply. 

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See our: Minnesota’s Incomplete Marijuana Decriminalization – Resinous Form Exception

But the new trace amount Gross Misdemeanor possession law would apply – rather than a felony as before August 1, 2016.

Dosage units

When can a prosecutor charge quantity in dosage units, rather than weight?

We can be divide these into two categories: prescription drugs and underground-economy drugs.  Most people possess prescription drugs in pill form.  A “dosage unit” could be one pill, or more than one; depending upon the recommendation of the drug maker, pharmacist, or prescribing physician.

But for underground-economy drugs, “one dosage unit” could be more than one pill; or more than one square of LSD blotter paper.  For example, see State v. Palmer, 507 NW 2d 865 (Minn.App. 1993) (“four small squares on each sheet constituted a ‘hit’ or dosage unit”).  

A grey areas:  What about edibles like THC gummies?  Is one a “dosage unit?”  What about a marijuana wax cartridge?

But the law should treat Minnesota-legal medical marijuana like prescription drugs. And that is what we see police doing.

Pre-trial Diversion & Statutory Stay of Adjudication

What about Minnesota Pretrial Diversion programs and statutory Stays of Adjudication under Minnesota Statutes §152.18?

They are still available for people facing charges of Minnesota Fifth Degree “Controlled Substance” Crime, Gross Misdemeanor. But this is for Fifth Degree charges, and only for a person without prior drug convictions.

New Legislation Needed

Is it fair to charge a person with a Gross Misdemeanor or Felony for possession of a small amount of marijuana wax?  

Let’s amend the“small amount of marijuana” definition statute, above, to simply delete the words: “This provision shall not apply to the resinous form of marijuana.” 

We, the People, must demand respect for our right to marijuana and marijuana wax; at least equal to our right to beer, wine and liquor.

But in the meantime; we should at least delete the “resinous form” exception. The definition of a “small amount of marijuana” should simply cover marijuana in every form.

And if Minnesota does so, at least the State will not treat People with a small amount of marijuana wax (42.5 grams or less) like criminals.

Thomas Gallagher is a Minneapolis Drug Defense Lawyer; since 1988.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of Minnesota NORML; since 2011.