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Federal marijuana case leads to innovative defense

Crimes involving marijuana are typically handled at the state level, but there are certain drug crimes which are prosecuted at the federal level. Typically, if someone in Chicago is arrested with more than a certain amount of marijuana, he or she is charged with drug trafficking or one of the numerous other federal drug crimes. As you can imagine, federal crimes are far more serious than state-level drug crimes.

Because of the severity of the charges, innovative arguments are sometimes necessary. And that is exactly what is happening with one man who has been accused of leading a marijuana grow operation that spanned three states. Though Illinois was not one of them, if these arguments work, they could be replicated by individuals facing similar federal charges in Chicago.

One of the arguments the Michigan man is making is that marijuana is wrongly classified as a Schedule I drug. According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Schedule I drugs are those which have a high potential for abuse and addiction. They are also drugs with no medical uses.

The defendant points out that marijuana has medicinal uses, something the U.S. Supreme Court has even noted. Illinois is one of many states that allow marijuana to be prescribed to ease patients' pain.

Moreover, research has shown that marijuana has a low potential for abuse. It is also impossible to die from an overdose of marijuana.

Whether the defendant's arguments will be accepted remains to be seen. If this is the push that the federal government needs to reclassify marijuana, however, it could have a wide-reaching impact on people charged with federal drug crimes in Illinois.

Source: Grand Rapids Press, "Attorney says marijuana wrongly classified as dangerous drug, federal prosecution unfair," John Agar, June 23, 2014

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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