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 created a Gross Misdemeanor level crime for certain “controlled substance” possession crimes, for less than 0.25 grams or one dosage unit or less.
Limited to first-timers, this law applies to a person “who has not been previously convicted of a violation of this chapter …” And the law applies to all “controlled substances” other than heroin.
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. The law 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 …”
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.
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, 0.24 grams or less of plant-form marijuana could be charged a petty misdemeanor violation, not a gross misdemeanor.
However, when it comes to the “resinous form of marijuana” exception (presumably marijuana wax, dabs, THC oil), the “small amount” definition would not apply. But the new trace amount Gross Misdemeanor possession law would apply – rather than a felony as before August 1, 2016.
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.
For underground economy drugs, “one dosage unit” could be more than one pill, or more than one square of blotter paper with LSD on it. 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 area: What about edibles like THC gummies? Is one a “dosage unit?” What about a marijuana wax cartridge?
The law should treat Minnesota-legal medical marijuana like prescription drugs. And that is what we see.
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 those charged with Minnesota Fifth Degree “Controlled Substance” Crime, Gross Misdemeanor, since the charge is a Fifth Degree charge, against a person without prior drug convictions.
New Legislation Needed
Is it fair to charge a person with a Gross Misdemeanor or Felony crime for possession of a small amount of marijuana wax? We should be amend the “small amount of marijuana” definition statute, above, to delete the words “This provision shall not apply to the resinous form of marijuana.”
We, the People, should have our rights respected by government to marijuana and marijuana wax, equal to our rights to beer, wine and liquor.
Short of legalization, however, we should at least delete the “resinous form” exception to the definition of a “small amount of marijuana.” If Minnesota did so, at least People with a small amount of marijuana wax (42.5 grams or less) would not be treated 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.