Tag Archives: marijuana wax

Less Than One-Quarter Gram Possession Gross Misdemeanor Crime < Minnesota Laws 2016

One quarter gram marijuana wax threshold

Quarter gram marijuana wax:  The Minnesota Legislature made some changes to Minnesota “Controlled Substance” laws, effective August 1, 2016.  One created a Gross Misdemeanor level crime for certain “controlled substance” possession crimes, for less than 0.25 grams or one dosage unit or less.

Limitations

Limited to first-timers, this law applies to a person “who has not been previously convicted of a violation of this chapter …”  And the law applies to all “controlled substances” other than heroin.

Before this 2016 law, even these amounts of marijuana wax were charged as felonies.  A felony drug conviction can trigger lost jobs, lost of civil rights, immigration consequences.  The law steps in the right direction.

The statutory language:

Minn. Stat. §152.025, Subd. 4 (a)(1) “the amount of the controlled substance possessed, other than heroin, is less than 0.25 grams or one dosage unit or less if the controlled substance was possessed in dosage units …”

hash-quarter-gram-lighter

one-quarter gram of hash relative to the size of a lighter

Does this mean defense lawyers will no longer need to litigate trace amount issues and cases?

No.  A Gross Misdemeanor is still a serious crime.

Also, this new law does not apply to heroin or federal cases.

What about marijuana, including derivatives such as marijuana wax, dabs?

Small Amount Currently Plant-form Only

Minnesota law defines possession of a “small amount” of plant-form marijuana as a petty misdemeanor (not a crime, violation-fine only).  Minnesota Statutes §152.01, Subd. 16 defines Small amount: “‘Small amount’ as applied to marijuana means 42.5 grams or less. This provision shall not apply to the resinous form of marijuana.”

So, 0.24 grams or less of plant-form marijuana could be charged a petty misdemeanor violation, not a gross misdemeanor.

However, when it comes to the “resinous form of marijuana” exception (presumably marijuana wax, dabs, THC oil),  the “small amount” definition would not apply.  But the new trace amount Gross Misdemeanor possession law would apply – rather than a felony as before August 1, 2016.

Dosage units

When could quantity be charged in dosage units, rather than weight?

We can be divide these into two categories: prescription drugs and underground-economy drugs.  Most people possess prescription drugs in pill form.  A “dosage unit” could be one pill, or more than one, depending upon the recommendation of the drug maker, pharmacist, or prescribing physician.

For underground economy drugs, “one dosage unit” could be more than one pill, or more than one square of blotter paper with LSD on it.  For example, see State v. Palmer, 507 NW 2d 865 (Minn.App. 1993) (“four small squares on each sheet constituted a ‘hit’ or dosage unit”).  

A grey area:  What about edibles like THC gummies?  Is one a “dosage unit?”  What about a marijuana wax cartridge?

Medical marijuana produced by a legal-maker should be treated like prescription drugs.

Pre-trial Diversion & Statutory Stay of Adjudication

What about Minnesota Pretrial Diversion programs and statutory Stays of Adjudication under Minnesota Statutes §152.18?

They are still available for those charged with Minnesota Fifth Degree “Controlled Substance” Crime, Gross Misdemeanor, since the charge is a Fifth Degree charge against a person without prior drug convictions.

New Legislation Needed

Is it fair to charge a person with a Gross Misdemeanor or Felony crime for possession of a small amount of marijuana wax?  The “small amount of marijuana” definition statute, quoted above, should be amended to delete the words “This provision shall not apply to the resinous form of marijuana.” 

We, the People, should have our rights respected by government to marijuana and marijuana wax, equal to our rights to beer, wine and liquor.

Short of legalization, however, we should at least delete the “resinous form” exception to the definition of a “small amount of marijuana.”  If Minnesota did so, at least People with a small amount of marijuana wax (42.5 grams or less) would not be treated like criminals.

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Thomas Gallagher is a Minneapolis Drug Defense Lawyer, since 1988.  He is also serves on the Board of Directors of Minnesota NORML, since 2011.

Minnesota’s Incomplete Marijuana Decriminalization – Resinous Form Exception

Minnesota 1970s partial decriminalization of marijuana

In 1976, Minnesota decriminalized possession of a “small amount” of marijuana. Or did it?  Minnesota has only partially decriminalized a small amount of marijuana, in plant-form only.  But the law left a loophole for “the resinous form of marijuana,” which was still a felony.  The resinous form comes in many forms under many names.  These include THC oil, dabs, marijuana wax, and concentrates.

Prehistoric marijuana forms

Hashish is marijuana. It is a compressed plant-form of marijuana.

People around the world have safely used it for thousands of years for social, medicinal and religious purposes.  See: Religious use of marijuana defense prevails in Minnesota Rastafarian case.

Cannabis-plant trichomes, flower and leaf fragments are hashish.

Hashish: compressed plant material

Hashish: compressed plant material

Mechanical methods remove the trichomes from the plant, screening by hand or with motorized tumblers.  Just heat and compress the resulting powder into hashish. 

Does hashish fit the definition of “the resinous form” of marijuana in Minnesota Statutes?  Probably not, since it is still plant-form, not the chemically processed “resinous form.”

Hashish is less common these days in Minnesota.  It generally comes from parts of the world where traditional.  Most marijuana in Minnesota today is from the United States.

The resinous form – extracted resin

Chemical separation methods use a solvent like ethanol, butane or hexane to dissolve resin.  Then, filter the result.  And boil off the solvent to leave behind the resins – called honey oil, THC oil, marijuana wax, dabs, shatter.  All of these are the “resinous form.” 

It’s also a common an ingredient in medical marijuana edibles.

The problem:

Minnesota Statutes contain technical definitions that don’t always make common sense.  Sometimes statutory definitions are inconsistent with a dictionary definition or common understanding of a word.  In this case, Minnesota Statutes Section 152.01, subdivision 16, defines a “small amount” of marijuana as 42.5 grams or less, but says “this provision [defining a “small amount”] shall not apply to the resinous form of marijuana.”

In Minnesota, prosecutors can charge possession of 1/4 gram or more of “the resinous form of marijuana” as a felony.  That includes a “small amount” or less than 42.5 grams – about 1.5 ounces.  Victims of the law include medical users from other states, found with a small amount of resinous form in Minnesota.

In contrast, the law decriminalizes 42.5 grams (slightly less than 1.5 ounces) of plant-form marijuana in Minnesota.  It’s a petty misdemeanor; not a crime; cannot legally be the basis of an arrest; with the only penalty being a fine.  See, Minnesota Statutes Section 152.027, subdivision 4.

Why exclusion of “resinous form of marijuana” makes no sense:

THC Oil. Similar to dabs, marijuana wax

THC Oil. Similar to dabs, marijuana wax

It’s marijuana:  There is no question that the “resinous form of marijuana” (honey oil, dabs, cannabis wax, etc.) is marijuana.  It’s simply a form of marijuana.  Another provision of Minnesota law explicitly recognizes this.

The definition of “Marijuana” in Minnesota Statutes Section § 152.01, subdivision 9, defines it as:

“all parts of the plant of any species of the genus Cannabis, including all agronomical varieties, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin…”

Minnesota Legislative Public Policy favors the resinous form:

In 2014 the Minnesota legislature and Governor adopted into law a medical marijuana program.   They specifically found that the resinous form of marijuana was safer and preferable to the plant-form of marijuana.  Minnesota law now contains a preference for the resinous form of marijuana, over the plant-form.  This is the legislature’s declaration of public policy.

Minnesota medical marijuana program participants can lawfully possess and use the resinous form of marijuana obtained through the program.  But they now become criminal if they use or possess the plant-form of marijuana.

Marijuana is marijuana. But is a small amount a small amount? 

Minnesota law makes clear that THC oil, dabs, marijuana wax, and concentrates – “the resinous form of marijuana” – is marijuana.

If someone possesses “a small amount” why should it matter whether it’s the plant-form or the resinous-form?  A small amount is a small amount.  One should not be a felony crime while the other is “not a crime.”

Close the loophole in the law?

Has the time come to update Minnesota’s 1970s era decriminalization law?  To treat small amounts of all forms of marijuana equally? 

More importantly, should Minnesota make felons out of people who possess a small amount of the “resinous form of marijuana”?  Most people don’t comprehend a meaningful distinction between marijuana in plant form versus resinous form.   People typically think they’re complying with the state’s decrim law – only to discover their error after it is too late. 

The law makes felons on a technicality.

The law should be consistent.  Simplicity is a virtue in the law.  And it should treat people fairly.  It should not create felons based upon arbitrary distinctions and technical legal definitions that don’t make sense.

The recent reduction of less than one-quarter gram of less to a Gross Misdemeanor is nearly meaningless.  Marijuana should be legal.  Two-thirds of the voters polled want legalization.  But if politicians keep us waiting, at least close the loophole in Minnesota’s “small amount” decriminalization law.

The simple remedy?

The Minnesota legislature can fix this.  How?  Pass a Bill amending Minnesota Statutes Section § 152.01, subdivision 16, defining a “small amount” of marijuana.  Just delete the language “this provision shall not apply to the resinous form of marijuana.

That simple solution should solve this problem, and bring a little more common sense and equity into the law.

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Thomas Gallagher is a Marijuana Lawyer in Minneapolis, and serves on the Board of Directors of Minnesota NORML.