By Jason Luczak, Brianna Meyer and Ray Dall’Osto
With the changing climate of each state’s laws and regulations regarding drugs, particularly marijuana, it is crucial to know your state’s laws to avoid criminal charges, high fines, and potential jail or prison time. Marijuana possession, use, and distribution remains illegal in Wisconsin, unlike several of its surrounding neighbors.
Wisconsin has severe penalties for drug distribution. Possessing a marijuana cigarette is a misdemeanor. Passing the marijuana cigarette or pipe to another person is distribution as defined in Wisconsin law, which can be charged as a felony, even if there was no gain and it was a social gathering. Regardless of the leniency or legality of marijuana in these other states’ laws and their close proximity to Wisconsin, crossing the border into Wisconsin with any form and amount of illegal drugs (including marijuana) could result in harsh legal consequences.
What Is Considered Possession?
In some states, a person must have a certain amount of a substance on you in order for a criminal drug possession charge to be recognized. The “possession” only becomes illegal once you reach a certain threshold. Not so in Wisconsin. Possession of any amount of marijuana, THC, or other listed non-prescription controlled substance is prohibited under Wisconsin criminal law. Operating a motor vehicle with any amount of marijuana or non-prescription controlled substance in your blood system is also prohibited and will subject the driver to prosecution. These illegal substances can include marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, and ecstasy. Having controlled substances in your possession, vehicle, purse, etc. without a valid prescription issued to you is also considered illegal possession.
Under Wisconsin law, which is based on the Federal Uniform Controlled Substances Act, there are five categories of drugs listed in “schedules”. These schedules supposedly define how likely the substances are to be abused, their danger to the abuser and whether they have any medical uses. Marijuana has long been incorrectly listed in Schedule 1, and so it remains today.
- Schedule I: These drugs are considered to have no medical use and a high potential for abuse. Examples are marijuana, heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.
- Schedule II: These drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction but have medical uses. These include cocaine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone combination products.
- Schedule III: These substances have a wide range of medical uses and a lower potential for abuse and physical addiction. Examples of these include anabolic steroids, ketamine, suboxone, and Tylenol with codeine.
- Schedule IV: This group of drugs consists of prescription medications that have a low potential for abuse but can be physically and psychologically addictive if abused. Examples are clonopin, Xanax, Valium, and Restoril.
- Schedule V: These substances are medications with lower potential for abuse, that contain limited amounts of certain narcotics, such as Robitussin AC, Lomotil, and Lyrica.
What Is Considered Drug Trafficking?
Possession charges vary depending on the amount and type of drug. If larger amounts of illegal substances are found, the offense may be deemed by law enforcement and the District Attorney to be a felony “possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver.” Drug trafficking can also be charged in federal court, where the controlled substances are brought over state lines, even if the marijuana is coming from a legal state like Washington into Wisconsin.
Delivery, possession with intent to deliver, and drug trafficking penalties are much harsher than possession and are considered a felony. Looking at marijuana specifically, the range in penalties for state charges run from a Class I felony with up to $10,000 in fines and 3 years and 6 months in prison to a Class E felony with up to $50,000 in fines and 15 years in prison.
You Need a Milwaukee Drug Charges Defense Lawyer
As noted herein, drug charges are extremely serious and can affect your freedom, your career, and the rest of your life. Wisconsin’s stance on marijuana use may seem outdated and unfair, but it is a law that is enforced, and consequences remain the same, regardless of changes to other states’ laws. At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP, we understand the complexities of Wisconsin drug statutes. Our attorneys have detailed knowledge and experience to advance the best defense strategies to best assist our clients facing state and federal drug charges. If you have been charged with drug possession, distribution, or trafficking in state or federal court, contact our Milwaukee, WI drug crime defense attorneys at [[phone]] for help.