Medical marijuana was effectively legal in Ohio on September 8, 2018 and the first dispensaries opened in early 2019. In the coming months and years, we anticipate Ohio will see more dispensaries and more medical marijuana patients. Despite the legalization, medical marijuana patients and marijuana users have a number of legal pitfalls and restrictions.
A few weeks ago, a divided United States Supreme Court in Carpenter v. United States, 2018 WL 3073916, *9 held Fourth Amendment protections extend to a cell phone user's cell tower location data held by the user's wireless company. Why? A cell phone user has a legitimate expectation of privacy concerning their physical movements according to the Court.
Drug offenses under Ohio law, such as possession or trafficking, can vary depending on the weight or the amount of drug involved. All illegal drugs, whether they are prescription or street drugs, have a baseline level of offense that can increase depending on the amount of the drug. For example, possession of marijuana starts as a minor misdemeanor whereas possession of cocaine is a fifth degree felony. These charges will increase based on the weight of the drug. Possession of marijuana becomes a fifth degree felony if the defendant possessed at least 200 grams but less than 1,000 grams. One other consideration to keep in mind is that if the drug is combined with other substances, such as baking soda and cocaine, marijuana brownies, or hash oil mixed with a substance, then the entire weight of the substance or compound is taken into account, not just the weight of the amount of the drug involved. So .99 pounds of baking soda mixed with .01 pounds of cocaine is 1 pound of cocaine.
Last week a local judge ordered all evidence gathered by police as a result of a warrantless search and seizure of our client and his vehicle suppressed. As a result, this decision prevents the State from introducing evidence from our client's vehicle of drug possession, drug trafficking, and possession of criminal tools-all felonies which subjected our client to a maximum of 12 months in prison on each count and the possibility of a license suspension.
Ohio recently enacted a new law in an attempt to save lives as part in light of the state's worsening opioid and heroin overdose epidemic. On September 13, 2016, House Bill 110, also known as the Good Samaritan Law became effective. This law prevents overdose victims and those calling for aid from being charged criminally for minor drug possession offenses, which covers all misdemeanor and fifth degree felony possession offenses.
In addition to the mandatory driver's license suspension that must be imposed for a drug conviction in Ohio, Defendants, especially ones enrolled in or considering applying to college, must also be aware of the ramifications of a drug conviction on their student aid. The FAFSA application specifically asks, "Have you been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, loans or work-study)?" Thus, even a conviction for a minor misdemeanor possession of marijuana can have major ramifications for financial aid.
More than 400 people find themselves facing serious criminal charges after a statewide drug sweep spanning the last several weeks. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently told the media that the arrests resulted in 920 criminal charges. In addition to the seizure of $1.3 million in cash, drug task forces also seized:
The number of drug overdose deaths in Ohio tripled during little more than a decade, reaching 16.1 per 100,000 in 2013. The drug problem has spurred new laws and an increased emphasis on arrests for drug trafficking and possession. Unfortunately, Ohio's efforts to control the problem may result in infringing people's constitutional rights.
Hamilton County heroin deaths increased 183 percent from 2005 to 2014, putting it at the forefront of the epidemic gripping much of America. Increased supply and decreased prices are boosting heroin use throughout a large number of demographics. The drug has a dependence rate of 23 percent for first-time users, fueling its presence in just about every community in Southwest Ohio.