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Don't Be Fooled, Pot Still Illegal

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Marijuana has been in the news an awful lot lately. The ballot referendum in California. Medicinal marijuana becoming legal in many states, including New Jersey. Philadelphia's decision to downgrade the possession of a small amount of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a summary offense. Cable TV shows that tell us how marijuana has become mainstream in America.

But in the rest of the state, and particularly here in Bucks County, sorry guys, it is still a crime.

It used to be that clients who sat across my desk from me were more than a bit embarrassed after being arrested for possessing weed. But in the past year or so, perhaps because of the public debate or from watching too many Judd Apatow movies, my prospective clients from teens to seniors, now look at me like I have a third eyeball in the middle of my head when I tell them about the long list of penalties and expenses they are facing.

Possession of less than an ounce is still a misdemeanor that subjects you to 30 days incarceration ( rarely imposed ), a suspended driver's license and ever-rising court costs. The baggie, rolling papers or pipe that the pot is found in, paraphernalia, is punishable by one year in prison. It may also affect student loans, job prospects and give you a record for life.

The rudest awakening for users comes when they're arrested for drunk driving. When the law regarding driving after imbibing became effective in 2004, special provisions concerning both legal and illicit drugs were included. Not only could you be considered under the influence for being high on street drugs while driving, but also for motoring with medicines prescribed by doctors. But for marijuana smokers, having any amount of its active ingredient ( THC ) in your blood renders you guilty of DUI.

The law does not stop there. Should blood testing reveal a relatively small amount of the inert, non-high producing metabolite in your system, which your body stores and releases days and even weeks after use, you, too, are guilty. Essentially the law was expanded to treat high, dangerous and impaired drivers the same as people who smoke after work on Friday and get pulled over on Monday heading back to their employment.

Think the appellate courts will step in? Sorry, they have addressed the issue on appeals and upheld the law.

Think the Constitution will protect you? Wrong again. The law took away the right to trial by jury for first offenders and an officer is no longer required to have probable cause to pull you over. Breath test analysis, which does not detect drug usage, has gone the way of the rotary phone. Nearly every police department in our county will take you to a hospital for a blood draw.

In court, I have watched countless citizens describe how they use marijuana in regards to their cancer treatment or chronic pain and how it gives them the relief they need to endure their lives. I then watch as these same people are led off to our county prison in handcuffs, their driver's license gone and saddled with thousands of dollars in fines, costs and treatment expenses.

Fair or unfair, wise or just a waste of taxpayer money, marijuana remains a legal no-no. Partake at your own risk.

Ronald H. Elgart, Esquire, from his office high atop the Falls Township Police Department, has been a criminal defense lawyer for 26 years. He does not partake.


NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Bucks County Courier Times (PA)
Copyright: 2011 Calkins Newspapers, Inc.
Contact: http://www.phillyburbs.com/tools/contact_us/
Website: couriertimesonline.com
Details: MAP: Media Directory
Author: Ronald H. Elgart
 
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