What You Should Know About Drug Charges In Maryland
Drug charges are a serious criminal allegation in Maryland – even for substances you thought were “legal.”
If you’re charged with any drug crime, call The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC at (888) JCLAW-10 or send an email. In a free consultation, we will review your charges and build a plan to protect your rights.
What drugs are illegal in Maryland?
Maryland state and federal law are generally aligned when it comes to illegal drug classifications, per the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.
This law categorizes various drugs into different “schedules,” or classifications, based on how dangerous a chemical can be without medical supervision. Examples include:
- Schedule 1: Ecstasy, LSD, and heroin
- Schedule 2: Cocaine and meth
- Schedule 3: Steroids, ketamine, and testosterone
- Schedule 4: Xanax and Valium
- Schedule 5: Cough suppressants and anti-diarrheals
“Drugs” as the public generally thinks of it are generally Schedule 1 and 2 classified substances. Schedule 3 and 4 drugs are normally only available by prescription from a doctor for specific treatments.
Are bongs illegal, too?
Maryland law rules that “drug paraphernalia” – items related and used for illegal drug consumption – is illegal to own. Whether something is illegal is determined by a list of “logically relevant factors.” Considerations include:
- Was the object found nearby illegal substances?
- Are there leftover drugs on the object?
- Did the owner actually say or otherwise claim that it was for illegal substances?
- Do the object’s instructions describe how to use it for illegal substances?
- Is the object being sold by someone who’s a legitimate tobacco or other substance merchant, or by someone who also sells illegal substances?
- Does an expert in drugs believe it’s for illegal drugs?
Bongs, pipes, syringes, razors and even indoor plant grow lights could all be considered drug paraphernalia under the right circumstances – even if they all have completely legal other uses.
I have a prescription from my doctor. Why did they file drug charges against me?
Even if certain medications are legal with a doctor’s prescription, many prescriptions can still be misused or abused.
Often, these medications are considered Schedule 3 or 4 – with distinct therapeutic and medical use for specific conditions, but still at increased risk of abuse.
For example, law enforcement can charge for drug-related offenses if they suspect a defendant:
- Resold their medication to those who did not have a prescription
- Faked their conditions or otherwise lied to medical professionals to get a prescription
- Did not take their medication as prescribed, such as mixing codeine cough syrup with soda to create “purple drank”
- Put others at risk by operating machinery or otherwise ignoring warnings while taking a prescribed medication
So yes, you can get charged with a DUI even if you drank no alcohol and only took prescription medication!
How can Maryland police arrest people for marijuana if it is legal?
Marijuana is legalized in Maryland, yes – but only for specific therapeutic medical treatments. Possess or sell marijuana outside of those situations, such as for recreational use, and it’s still very much illegal!
To legally possess and use marijuana in Maryland, a Maryland resident’s doctor must prescribe it to treat a severe condition – and only if other standard treatments have otherwise failed.
Possible conditions eligible for medical marijuana prescriptions include but are not limited to:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe/chronic pain
- Muscle spasms
An individual can only possess as much marijuana product as their provider prescribes for a 30-day period. The “standard” amount is typically 120 grams of dried bud/flower or 36 grams of THC concentrate, the chemical that gets recreational users high.
However, providers can prescribe more or less than that, based on each patient’s situation.
Even if you have a completely valid prescription for medical marijuana, you can still get in legal trouble if you:
- Buy or possess more marijuana than your prescription limit
- Purchase marijuana from somewhere other than a licensed Maryland dispensary
- Grow your own marijuana at home
- Use marijuana recreationally
- Give or resell your marijuana to someone else, whether they have a prescription or not
And, federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. Get caught with it on a federal highway or property, and you’d be facing federal criminal charges as if you had heroin.
Are CBD and hemp legal in Maryland?
Yes! Both CBD and hemp plants – a relative of marijuana – are legal to buy, sell, use, and grow in Maryland.
In 2015, Maryland passed a law which separated marijuana from what it calls “industrial hemp.”
Basically, marijuana plants have at least 0.3% of the psychoactive chemical THC by weight. Hemp plants, on the other hand, only have trace amounts of THC.
As of 2018, hemp can be grown for profit by Maryland farmers as part of a state-wide program.
As for CBD, there are currently no legal limits or restrictions on the chemical or its products in Maryland. You can buy, sell, consume, and use CBD and CBD-infused products wherever and however you want to in Maryland.
The only stipulation is that CBD comes from an industrial hemp plant – not a marijuana plant.
However, remember those CBD rules are just for Maryland. Other states have different rules. If you travel out of state, then it may be wise to leave the CBD at home.
How can someone be charged as a drug dealer? How is it different from individual use of drugs?
Maryland differentiates between mere possession of drugs, and what’s known as “possession with intent to distribute,” or PWID.
PWID is what prosecutors levy against those it suspects are drug dealers – those selling illegal substances to others.
How the police found the illegal substances and the circumstances surrounding the seizure can determine whether the prosecution brings PWID charges.
For example, PWID charges can occur if law enforcement finds:
- A lot of the illegal substance – more than they think a single person could reasonably consume;
- Large quantities portioned into individual containers, implying resale;
- Lots of cash on hand, possibly from drug sales in hard-to-trace cash transactions; or
- Scales and other equipment needed to portion sold quantities.
Of course, unless law enforcement actually witnesses a defendant selling illegal drugs, this is all circumstantial evidence – though extremely potent evidence.
If a defendant had to face individual drug possession or PWID charges, then the first is preferred. Sentences are generally more lenient for individuals caught with drugs than for those suspected of facilitating others’ illegal addictions for personal gain.
What are possible consequences for drug crime convictions in Maryland?
Maryland has harsh potential penalties for those convicted on drug-related charges.
- Possession of controlled substances (“drugs”), any amount: A misdemeanor with up to four years in prison and a max fine of $25,000.
- Possession with intent to distribute (PWID): Can be as low as five years max in prison and a max fine of $15,000 – all the way up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 for Schedule 1 and 2 drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Depending on the quantity, PWID convictions may require a minimum sentence of five years and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Marijuana possession (non-medical): Also depends on the quantity found and how many times someone has offended. Starts at a civil penalty and a $100 fine, and goes all the way up to a felony conviction with up to five years in prison and a max fine of $100,000.
- Drug paraphernalia: Possession of marijuana-related objects with intent or actual use is up to one year in jail and a max fine of $500. Possession of other illegal drug-related objects with intent or actual use is up to four years in jail and a max fine of $25,000.
Many drug cases compound on each other to drive sentences higher. For example, a defendant could be convicted on personal possession, intent to distribute, and paraphernalia charges – and their sentence would be much higher as a result.
How can a criminal defense lawyer help defend against Maryland drug crime charges?
A great criminal defense team with decades of experience defending drug charges will know exactly how to defend against any specific situation you could throw at them.
However, there are a few general tactics that apply to many drug charge situations.
First of all, many searches and seizures of illegal substances may have been conducted illegally. The Fourth Amendment protects all Americans from the right of unlawful searches and usually requires a warrant, unless law enforcement thinks there’s “reasonable cause” to search.
Did you actually consent to your car, property, or home to be search? Did they search anyway? Was there actual “cause” to have them pre-empt your rights?
And, if you’re arrested on elevated charges such as possession with intent to distribute – is there really cause to arrest you as a dealer? Does the situation truly merit a PWID charge?
Get A Defense That Can Handle The Pressure.
Any time illegal substances are involved in a court case, it’s not something you want to risk getting a conviction of. Being found guilty of these charges can wreck your personal and professional life, limiting opportunities and activities as long as they’re on your record.