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    What are the possession of marijuana laws for minors?

    Date: 09.04.07 | by Judge Tom.

    Caveman 92222

    Can you be arrested for being high?

    Legislatures have passed laws against the use, sale, and possession of marijuana.  Because  the “use” of marijuana is illegal, it’s possible to be charged and/or arrested in most states for being high without actually possessing any marijuana or paraphernalia on your person. However, some states have passed laws authorizing doctors to recommend small amounts of marijuana for personal medicinal use.  In October, 2009, the U.S. Attorney General announced that the federal government would not be prosecuting persons involved with medical marijuana as long as they were in compliance with their state’s laws even though the substance remains illegal under federal marijuana laws.

    Medical Marijuana for Minors

    Medical marijuana is legal in the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. If you are under 18, then it’s possible to obtain a medical marijurana card depending on your medical condition and the laws in your state. States that allow minors to be issued cards may require a medical examination as well as the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian. The parent or guardian also may be required to apply for a medical marijuana card on behalf of the minor, to be the minor’s caregiver and to control the minor’s possession and use of marijuana. Read more about the various issues surrounding medical marijuana and teens here. For more information about the laws in your state, click here.

    • In 2003, 197,100 juveniles were arrested for drug abuse violations; 83% were teens ages 16–17.
    • In 2003, 46% of high school seniors said they had tried marijuana in their lifetime; 35% reported using marijuana during the previous year.

    Sources: Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report, National Center for Juvenile Justice (2006)

    Update: In November, 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington approved the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. The law allows anyone 21 years of age or older to buy up to one ounce of marijuana.



    Photo by Valentin Ottone

    Violation of Drug Laws

    Violation of any drug law will result in some form of legal action.  If a first offense involves a small amount of marijuana, you may be placed in a diversion program.  This means you′ll be required to attend drug information classes and possibly participate in random drug testing.  After you complete the classes, your case will be closed, with no arrest or juvenile record.  If you fail to complete the program, formal charges may be filed.  Any minors convicted of a drug violation face penalties that may include detention time, probation, and suspension or loss of a driver′s license.

    Many teens claim that they turn to drugs to avoid pressure, relieve stress, and help handle depression.  But drugs, including marijuana, are a health risk. (For example, marijuana contains up to 400 chemicals that can pose major health hazards.)  Believing that pot is the least dangerous of recreational drugs, more young people are using it—despite statistics showing that marijuana use often leads to experimentation with harder drugs. For some straight facts about marijuana, see the following article from Upfront, the New York Times teen news magazine dated October 24, 2011:  “Marijuana Facts: Breaking Down the Myths“.

    A conviction on a marijuana charge goes on your record (through a local and national computer system that records arrests, convictions, and sentences) and can follow you throughout your life.  Future job opportunities may be jeopardized because of teenage drug use or experimentation.

    A teacher in Illinois recently lost his job when a background check turned up a 1974 conviction for marijuana possession.  In 1987, Douglas H. Ginsburg was nominated for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.  He withdrew as a candidate when it was revealed that he had used marijuana as a student and later as a professor at Harvard.


    Photo by Fatbwoy (Flickr)

    There′s help for anyone with a drug problem.  A phone call to a local teen hotline, or any of the 12-Step programs in your community (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, etc.) is a first step toward recovery and a drug-free life.  See the resources listed below, click on your state in our Resource Directory or search online for more resources in your area.

    If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, get help!  Medical care and counseling are available, and you may not need your parents′ consent to participate.  Early warning signs indicating a problem include:

    • You have new friends who abuse alcohol/drugs.
    • Your grades drop, you fail tests, or you miss a lot of classes.
    • You withdraw from family and friends; you become isolated and lie about your drinking/drug use.
    • You experience mood swings, depression, and a loss of interest in your usual activities.

    Legislatures have lowered the minimum age for obtaining help for alcohol and other drug use to encourage teenagers to take action.  If you′re afraid to go to your parents for help, ask your school nurse or counselor, or call a confidential hotline.


    Drugs and Your Brain by Beatrice Grabish (Rosen Publishing, 1998).
    Discusses how the brain functions, how drugs affect the brain, the nature
    of addiction, and where to turn for help.

    Wise Highs by Alex J. Packer (Free Spirit Publishing, 2006). From breathing
    and meditation to exercise and sports, this book describes more than
    150 ways to feel really, really good—naturally, safely, and creatively.

    Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT)
    1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357)
    For counseling and referrals in emergencies.

    Cocaine Anonymous
    Information about the national organization and local groups. Not a hotline.

    D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)
    Information on D.A.R.E.′s anti-drug, anti-violence message for kids, parents, educators, and D.A.R.E. officers.

    Drug Abuse Information and Treatment Referral Line
    For drug-related information, referrals to local treatment programs, and support.

    Referral network that provides information on specific drugs and treatment options, and referrals to public and private treatment programs, self-help groups, and crisis centers.

    Marijuana Anonymous
    Information and local referrals.

    Narcotics Anonymous
    (818) 773-9999

    SAMHSA’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information 
    1-800-SAY-NO-TO (1-800-729-6686)

    The Clearinghouse is a one-stop resource for information about preventing and treating alcohol and substance use disorders.

    National Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Referral Hotline
    A hotline for information, referrals, and crisis counseling, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   Also see:  www.teens.drugabuse.gov  or  www.scholastic.com/headsup for additional information.

    Web of Addictions
    This award-winning site is packed with factual information, links, and resources on alcohol and drug abuse.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    2 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Chelsea
      Sat, 25 Jun 2011 at 01:55

      While I understand that it is illegal, spewing false information about chemicals that are in marijuana is not the way to do it.

    • Claudia
      Tue, 23 Oct 2012 at 05:00

      Yesterday, I was searched at my school and they found a small amount of marijuana (less than a gram) and paraphernalia in my bag.I am a minor. I have a ticket for possession of both. What consequences am i going to face? mainly all i want to know is whether or not they will put me on UAs. Thank you or your time
      Dear Claudia: Since these charges against you are drug-related, there’s a good chance you may have to drug test on occasion. If these are your first offenses, you may be eligible for a “diversion program” that may include random testing. Once you complete some community service, a class or counseling, the charges will be dismissed and you won’t have a record. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

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