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Marijuana charges: How serious are they?

In recent years, a wave of marijuana legalization has swept through the nation. Many states have decriminalized the substance for medical and even recreational use. South Carolina isn’t among them.

In our state, marijuana remains illegal. Possession, cultivation and trafficking can lead to drug charges that carry significant penalties. Depending on the charge, you may face fines, court-imposed community service and possible jail time.

Understanding the charges and potential penalties

Marijuana-related offenses fall into three broad categories:

  • Possession involves small quantities for personal use. (Possession of drug paraphernalia is a separate civil citation.) As a misdemeanor, a possession charge can result in fines, probation, community service and up to a year in prison (depending on your criminal history). A conditional release program may be available if you qualify.
  • Sale or trafficking typically involves greater quantities of the substance. Depending on the amount, you could be facing felony charges. A conviction could result in thousands of dollars in fines and years or even decades in prison.
  • Cultivation charges are also felonies. The penalties depend on the quantity involved. For larger grow operations, a conviction could mean up to 25 years in prison and up to $200,000 in fines.

As you can see, these charges are very serious. Even at the misdemeanor level, a conviction can follow you for a long time, showing up on background checks and limiting your opportunities in life (especially if you’re a college student). No matter the charge you’re facing, it’s well worth it to get a lawyer involved as soon as possible.