In the first month of 2016, four separate Mississippi corrections officers have been charged with possession of drugs: three at the Central Mississippi Correctional facility in Pearl and one at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. All four were found to have varying amounts of marijuana in their cars, which were parked on the facilities’ lots. All four have lost their jobs as a result of their arrests, as the Mississippi Department of Corrections has a zero tolerance policy in place for staff and inmates.
Our laws on marijuana here in Mississippi are pretty progressive compared to the rest of the nation (according to the Clarion-Ledger, that is), but that does not mean those four officers are off the hook. If they had more than 30 grams on them, or if the marijuana was medical grade but they did not have appropriate clearance, they could face serious penalties.
Furthermore, there is a difference between decriminalization and legalization. Mississippi decriminalized possession of under 30 grams of marijuana, which means that if you are caught with that amount, you face minimal penalties and fines. (This is for a first offense. For a second or third offense, you could spend up to 6 months in jail.) If you are caught with more than 30 grams, however, you can be charged with a felony and may spend between 3 and 30 years in prison.
State vs. Federal charges
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, “meaning that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” Even though Mississippi has acceptable-though-limited use for marijuana in a medical setting, the US government does not recognize that distinction. If you are caught with marijuana by a federal agent (such as a DEA agent), or are charged on federal land, the fines and penalties are much harsher. Possession of any amount can land you in federal prison for at least 15 days (and up to 3 years), and cost between $1000 and $5000 in fines. The penalties for trafficking marijuana are much greater at both the Federal level and the State level in Mississippi and you could be looking at LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE if you are over 21 and sell 10 lbs. or more of marijuana during any 12 month period!
If you are facing charges of possession, sale or trafficking marijuana at the state or federal level, you want an experienced Southaven drug crimes attorney by your side. A conviction of a drug charge can affect our entire life; Taylor Jones Taylor can help you protect it. Please contact us to schedule a consultation at one of our offices in Southaven, Olive Branch or Hernando to learn more about your options.