Marijuana use and associated arrests are on the rise in Michigan

My name is Marc E. Hart. My law firm is devoted exclusively to criminal defense, bringing 30 years of criminal trial experience to your situation. Rather than just going for the quick and easy plea, my mindset is to vigorously fight the allegations, win the case at trial, or find the leverage necessary to minimize the penalties and collateral consequences in every client’s case.

Local data indicates that more people in Michigan are being arrested for marijuana possession and facing steep sanctions, including fines and jail time.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan for several years, and various cities have recently decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for non-medicinal purposes. Given these facts, many people in Royal Oak may be surprised to learn that statewide arrests for possession of marijuana are actually increasing. Use of this drug is also reportedly up, leaving many people at risk for criminal charges and sanctions such as jail time.

An increase in arrests

Data from the Michigan State Police shows that the number of annual arrests for marijuana offenses has increased significantly over the last seven years. According to Michigan Public Radio, general marijuana-related arrests rose 17 percent from 2008 to 2014.

These arrests may reflect an increase in personal use, rather than drug trafficking and distribution. In 2014, possession arrests accounted for the majority of marijuana-related arrests that authorities in Michigan made. Michigan Live reports that, altogether, over 20,000 people were arrested for use or possession that year.

This rise in arrests for these offenses may seem surprising, since 15 Michigan cities have now approved the decriminalization of marijuana possession, according to Michigan Public Radio. However, these local laws do not protect residents from state or federal laws that establish criminal penalties for marijuana possession and use.

Shifting public attitudes

The potential for criminal charges and sanctions for marijuana possession is unfortunate, given the growing use of marijuana among people in Michigan and other parts of the country. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that the number of people who used marijuana at least 20 days each month increased over 45 percent from 2008 to 2013. Marijuana is also currently the most commonly used illicit drug.

Polls and surveys indicate that public opinions toward marijuana are evolving. According to WDIV News, early polling suggests that a large proportion of Michigan residents now favor legalizing marijuana. This issue could appear on the ballot as early as 2016. Unfortunately, in the meantime, marijuana possession can bring serious consequences.

Although possession is only a misdemeanor, people convicted of this offense can face significant fines and jail time. The maximum fine is $2,000, and imprisonment may last as long as one year. Additionally, people who are convicted of related offenses, such as marijuana use, may face further penalties.

Challenging possession charges

The growing number of marijuana possession arrests underscores why it is important for Michigan residents to understand their rights in the event that they are accused of this offense. Anyone facing charges of marijuana possession or more severe infractions should consider consulting with an attorney about preparing a defense.