By: E. Powers Price, Carolina NORML SC Member and Criminal Defense Attorney for Drug Possession Charges
Especially in the summer months, our attorneys receive calls from frantic parents, asking “What is the penalty for simple possession in SC? or “My daughter had weed in her purse in her high school locker, is she going to jail
Since the State of SC has many harsh and illogical South Carolina marijuana laws in place when it comes to all contraband drugs, the panic in the callers’ voices is justified. All legislative attempts to reform our marijuana laws and legalize marijuana possession and use (in small amounts) have failed. This article answers many questions, like “is marijuana legal in South Carolina?”
Unlike the state referendums for marijuana legalization in several states letting the populace vote on growing marijuana or possessing it, the SC Legislators have not let South Carolinians vote on the topic. Currently, the new Administration is having rumblings about possible federal marijuana legalization, to remedy the damage done by unfair and excessive drug laws.
In some realms of life, a simple possession charge in SC may derail a study abroad trip, cancel a scholarship or create a barrier to a future high security clearance job for the youthful offender. South Carolina criminal offenses and penalties have remained draconian, while many other states’ laws have accepted modern scientific studies that refute all the 1970s federal marijuana laws put in place in the United States a half century ago.
Is weed legal in South Carolina 2020? You know that the Palmetto State is still in the Stone Age if SC drug laws (in 2021) have not been passed to permit legalized medical marijuana. Both medical and recreational weed are illegal in SC.
Is Recreational Weed Legal in South Carolina?
No, it was brought up but rejected in the Legislature in 2020, and the same result occurred for the South Carolina weeds laws 2019. The latest attempt by NORML South Carolina to approve a medical marijuana program was rejected at the 2021 SC Legislative session.
What is the lowest punishment level for simple possession of marijuana in SC? For possessing a very minor quantity of marijuana plant material (less than an ounce of marijuana), under 28 grams, SC weed laws call for a fine of up to $200 plus serving up to 30 days in jail. This is called the “simple possession” South Carolina law.
Any possession of marijuana crime of over twenty-eight (28) grams pushes potential punishment of up to 5 years and up to $5000 in fines. And both strict rules only apply to a first offender!
Our criminal defense attorneys also defend the more serious felony charges of manufacturing or trafficking marijuana. In SC, the mandatory jail sentences (if convicted) will be a life sentence for some fighting these egregious charges.
While a first offender charge on a simple possession of weed charge, for less than 28 grams can be processed in a SC municipal court or by a magistrate’s court judge, all other weed charges (misdemeanor or felony) must be handled in our state’s general sessions courts. This means that the Solicitor’s Office (South Carolina’s equivalent to a District Attorney) must take time away from other serious felonies to deal with a non-complex marijuana case.
Are Edibles Legal in South Carolina?
No, they are not. When you friend comes back from visiting relatives in California or Colorado, do NOT possess the edibles you are offered. Once you “take” possession, the crime is committed, and you cannot blame it on your friend.
While it is remains illegal to possess, buy or sell marijuana or its derivatives in South Carolina, many other states are de-criminalizing possession for personal use, and are allowing dispensary shops to become licensed and pay taxes to the State coffers. Mired in the false science dating back to the President Richard Nixon Administration from 50 years ago, our state’s elected officials have steadfastly ignored more modern science on the subject.
So, our criminal law attorneys handle cases for accused clients who are facing charges of possession of weed, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute it (often identified in police reports by its acronym, PWID), and for possession of drugs within a prohibited distance from a school.
What is the comparable punishment in SC for possessing less than a gram of cocaine? Under SC Code Section 44-53-375, possessing less than one gram of (a) crack cocaine or (b) cocaine base in South Carolina can result in a potential jail sentence of up to three (3) years in state prison and up to $5,000 in fines for a 1st offense. Repeat offenders are dealt with far more harshly, call for up to ten (10) years of prison time and up to $12,500 in fines if convicted of a third offense.
In states where recreational marijuana use in small amounts has tremendously bolstered tax revenue on weed sales. When states do not adopt laws to accommodate what is already occurring on a regular basis, this revenue is lost
What happens if you get caught with weed in your car? A drug charge, especially with possession with intent to distribute (PWID), carries significant criminal law penalties, if convicted.
Are dabs a felony in South Carolina? A marijuana vape pen, or oils, or “dabs” (often looks like butter or cloudy honey) contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and will likely be accused as a felony. SC laws don’t allow psychoactive THC products for recreational use.
SC Drug Laws are Broad and Expansive in Boosting Felony Punishment Levels
South Carolina drug laws define the parts of a marijuana plant that are illegal to possess. All types of marijuana, or marijuana seeds, and all parts of the plant, growing or not. The resin from marijuana processing is also illegal to possess.
Before patting the Palmetto State on the back, be aware that SLED requires all these civil cases to be placed on your criminal history, so you may decide that it is worth the effort to try and have such annoying charges reduced to a non-paraphernalia offense.
When it comes to repeat charges for small, personal use of drug charges, these three things about South Carolina’s tough but excessive drug laws are important to know:
- Like with DUI repeat offenses, each new charge ramps up punishment, on repeat weed possession charges. Some accused citizens facing a first-time simple possession of weed charge may qualify to enter a PTI (pre-trial intervention) program or to complete a drug abuse and awareness program to lower their punishment. But this case disposition may still be counted as a 1st offense.
- If you are convicted of trafficking marijuana and are later charged with another type of drug possession charge, like possessing hashish, your first conviction for trafficking will serve as a prior first offense, despite this drug being a different illegal substance.
- When it comes to possession any drugs near a school, SC laws carry a higher fine for simple possession in SC (up to $1000) and up to a year in jail (and not a maximum of 30 days) on even a first offense.
What is Drug Paraphernalia Under South Carolina Marijuana Laws?
“Paraphernalia” (in terms of drugs) means any object or device designed or intended to be used to ingest, smoke, inhale, manufacture, or prepare a controlled substance (weed, hashish, a gram of cocaine or other contraband or mind-altering substance). Common illegal paraphernalia devices are pipes, soft drink cans modified for smoking, water pipes, “roach” clips (to hold the last bit of burning plant material), or a bong.
How Our Criminal Attorneys South Carolina Defend Criminal Charges for Marijuana Crimes
About a dozen different defense strategies can be applied to each unique client case, depending upon the facts leading up to the arrest. Each criminal case is unique, and (often) our clients’ own worst enemy is often the fact that they forget their right to remain silent and ask for an attorney. One quick scenario is set forth below.
As stated above, different “quantity” thresholds must be proven by the State to accuse a more serious crime. For example, if the cops weigh the marijuana at 30 grams, and charge it as a felony, our legal professional can ask for an independent analysis, and have our defense experts examine and weigh the material, as part of our “discovery” rights.
Because confusion, fear, and lack of familiarity with the criminal justice arena are commonplace, our lawyers near me in upstate South Carolina offer you a confidential, lawyer consultation. Our job is to fix legal messes!
Few medical doctors will discuss anything on the phone or in a no-cost first meeting but our Greenville SC criminal attorneys will. Call today at or nationwide toll-free number,
Call today to speak with our attorneys near me in Upstate SC, and receive your consultation lawyer phone call, virtual meeting or in person consult with our South Carolina lawyers. Contact us at (864) 271-3535.