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Marijuana Drug Paraphernalia & Possession

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What is “Drug Paraphernalia”  Under Ohio Law?

Under Ohio law, marijuana “drug paraphernalia” is defined as any equipment, product, or material of any kind used or intended to be used to grow, harvest, manufacture, package, store, test, analyze, ingest or inhale marijuana.

Marijuana drug paraphernalia charge in Ohio includes possession of items such as:

  • A measuring scale;
  • Separation gin or sifter for removing twigs and seeds from, or otherwise cleaning or refining, marijuana;
  • An envelope or container for packaging marijuana;
  • A metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic, or ceramic pipe, with or without a screen, permanent screen, hashish head, or punctured metal bowl;
  • Water pipe;
  • Carburetion tube or device;
  • Smoking or carburetion mask;
  • Roach clip or similar object used to hold burning material, such as a marijuana cigarette, that has become too small or too short to be held in the hand;
  • Bong;
  • Chamber, carburetor or electric pipe;
  • Air driver pipe;
  • Chillum;
  • Ice pipe or chiller.

In order to determine whether a device or material is drug paraphernalia, the Ohio Revised Code instructs a court or police office to consider the following questions:

(1) Did the owner make any statement saying that the device was used to store / smoke / grow marijuana?

(2) Was the device or material found nearby to any marijuana?

(3) Was there any marijuana residue on the suspected drug paraphernalia?

What is the Punishment in Ohio for a Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Charge? 

In late 2012, the Ohio General Assembly changed the punishment for a possession or marijuana paraphernalia charge under Ohio law to make the offense less serious.  Since September of 2012, a possession of marijuana drug paraphernalia charge in Ohio is a minor misdemeanor.  This means that the accused would face no jail time and up to a $150 fine — on par with a traffic ticket or with possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana.

Remember, however, that the seriousness of the offense could depend on where you were charged.  Even though marijuana possession is a minor misdemeanor under the Ohio code, it might not be if you are charged under a municipal code.

For example, in the Westerville Mayor’s Court, marijuana possession is fourth degree misdemeanor if it is between 100 and 200 grams under the Westerville Municipal Code.  This means that the penalties if charged in Westerville with possession of more than 100 grams could carry jail time.

Here is some additional information about marijuana possession laws in various municipalities around Columbus:

Grove City marijuana possession law and penalties

Westerville marijuana possession law and penalties

BUT – even though the actual offense is most often a minor misdemeanor in Ohio, there are a few serious collateral consequences about which anyone facing a marijuana paraphernalia charge should be aware:

(1) Mandatory six month to five year driver’s license suspension.   Under ORC 2925.14, if you are convicted of possession of marijuana paraphernalia, the judge is required to impose at least a six month driver’s license suspension.

(2) Loss of access to federal financial aid.  If you are a student receiving federal student aid and are convicted of a drug offense while receiving aid, your eligibility for federal student aid may be suspended (including  (grants, loans, or work-study).

(3) Future employment.  Having a drug conviction on your record could affect your employment prospects, particularly if you are seeking a professional license, such as a teaching, medical or law licenses.

(4) Disqualified from Obtaining an Ohio Concealed Carry (CCW) License.  If you are convicted of M1-M4 (first through fourth degree misdemeanor) marijuana possession or other drug charge, you are barred from obtaining a concealed carry (CCW) license in Ohio.  This prohibition does not apply to minor misdemeanor drug convictions. 

What are Possible Defenses to a Marijuana Possession Charge?

Depending on the circumstances of your case, there may be several possible defenses you could argue in court. 

The first issue we examine is the stop itself – did the police honor your Fourth Amendment rights when they stopped / searched you?  

For example, lets say the police pulled you over and then searched your car and found the marijuana.  Did they have reasonable suspicion that you had committed a traffic or criminal violation before they pulled you over?  If not, the stop could be invalid and your case could be thrown out.  

The police cannot pull you over just because they have a hunch that you look suspicious.  

That is a violation of your constitutional right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure.  If the officers cannot point to specific facts that led them to believe you had committed a crime, then any evidence of drugs they found on you could be thrown out of court. 

Likewise, if the police have already pulled you over and issued you a ticket, they cannot keep you, search your car, or call in a canine unit to sniff your car just because you seem “nervous” talking to the officer

Click here for more information of driving under the influence of marijuana in Ohio

The police force you to produce identification for no reason whatsoever. 

This is also a violation of your constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search.  A good example is found in a recent Ohio Court of Appeals case.  This is what happened.

The defendant and a friend were walking down the street.  An officer saw them, parked his car, and then walked over and said something to the effect, “Hey. What’s going on?”   The officer asked the pair where they were coming from and where they were going, as well as for identification.

The pair cooperated and provided their driver’s licenses.  The officer then asked if either of them had anything on him that he should not.  When asked, the friend allowed the officer to search his backpack and the defendant refused.  The officer found in the friend’s backpack a battery powered scale and some alleged marijuana flakes, or “shake.”  

The officer said the defendant was acting nervous and based on his “cop radar,” he thought something wasn’t right.  So, he asked if he could search the defendant for weapons.  The defendant said no but the cop searched him anyway.  He found a broken marijuana pipe in his coat pocket.  The officer then searched his cell phone and saw a conversation about marijuana.  

On appeal, the Court found that the search was unconstitutional.  There was no suggestion whatsoever that the defendant had violated or was about to violate the law when the officer stopped and asked for ID.    Police cannot just approach ordinary citizens on the street at any time for no reason whatsoever and ask what they are doing and who they are.  There must be a reasonable basis for an officer to ask for ID.   Because there was no reasonable basis for the stop, the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated at the case was thrown out of court.  

If the Police Do Not Have a Warrant, an Exception Must Apply to Search 

Generally, the police must have a warrant to search you, your car, your house, backpack or anything else.  But the Ohio Supreme Court has recognized seven exceptions to the warrant requirement:

  1. Search incident to a lawful arrest
  2. Consent signifying waiver of constitutional rights
  3. The stop-and-frisk (Terry) doctrine
  4. Hot pursuit
  5. Probable cause to search
  6. Exigent circumstances
  7. Plain-view doctrine

If one of these exceptions do not apply, and the police searched without a warrant, the search may have been unconstitutional.

Columbus Marijuana and Drug Defense Lawyer

If you are facing a marijuana possession charge or drug possession charge in the Columbus or Central Ohio area, contact us today for a free consultation.  We will explore possible defenses, such as possible constitutional issues with the stop.  

For example, if the police found the marijuana or drug paraphernalia during a search of your house or hotel room, and did not have your consent or a warrant, you may have a strong defense. 

To find out more about the strength of your potential defenses in court, answer the questions below. 

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