Three Key Differences between Possession of Marijuana and Possession of Paraphernalia in Maryland

Possession of Marijuana v. Possession of Paraphernalia: Three Major Differences

1. Drug Report Requirement
For a possession of marijuana case, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant did in fact possess marijuana. It is not enough for a police officer to say that he smelled marijuana, believed that the substance was marijuana, or even that the substance field tested to be marijuana. The substance must be lab tested by a qualified chemist, analyst, or lab technician and confirmed to be marijuana. Absent an positive lab test, the State cannot maintain a conviction for possession of marijuana.

However, possession of drug paraphernalia is not as clear-cut when it comes to the lab report. The absence of a positive drug test, while certainly strengthening the defense’s argument, does not in itself prevent a court from finding a defendant guilty. The court will still entertain the State’s evidence and argument that the pipe, baggie, blunt, etc. is drug paraphernalia even without a chemist’s report.

2. Maximum Penalties
There is a massive difference in penalties between possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia. Marijuana possession carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Paraphernalia possession carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and NO JAIL! This is perhaps the most significant benefit to pleading guilty or being found guilty of only paraphernalia as opposed to possession of marijuana, as the defendant is at no risk of being incarcerated.

3. Immigration Consequences
Believe it or not, non-US citizens may be significantly better off with a conviction for possession of a small amount of marijuana as opposed to possession of paraphernalia. That does not seem to make sense on its face since paraphernalia is a non-incarcerable offense but it is true. Deportation is guided by federal law, not Maryland law, and paraphernalia can be a deportable drug conviction while possession of a small amount of marijuana will not be. If you are not a US citizen it is absolutely crucial you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney or immigration attorney about the potential collateral consequences of your drug charges.

These are just three of the key differences between these two Maryland drug crimes but there are many others and it is important to seek counsel to discuss and property defend against drug charges. To speak with an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney about your possession of marijuana or possession of paraphernalia case, contact the Law Offices of Christopher L. Peretti at 301-875-3472. Our office routinely represents individuals charged with possession of marijuana in counties across Maryland, and knows how to properly defend and negotiate these types of cases. Call our office today for help with your case and peace of mind in your life.

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