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Drug charges in pot cases require new defense strategies

Some critics say that evolving societal values do not justify the government in New Hampshire and elsewhere from continuing to arrest and prosecute people suspected of growing marijuana on their residential properties. The argument is taking on increasing influence as more states are voting to legalize pot and to authorize the regulated use of medical marijuana. In that context, the argument may be at least partially relevant to the defense of a 47-year-old Portsmouth man who has been arrested by police on drug charges for allegedly growing 51 marijuana plants in the basement of his home.

What makes this case and others problematic is that the defendant has been charged with two counts of felony drug charges. With less serious misdemeanors, expungement and other alternative dispositions may be available, whereas a felony conviction is a scar that is rarely overcome. Glowing reports of miraculous medical cures associated with medical marijuana, along with the fact that several states have now voted to legalize the herb for recreational use, make the prospect of felony charges for growing pot increasingly subject to policy conflicts.

Authorities in Portsmouth, however, say that the street value of the plants was about $100,000. They say that a detective on a routine patrol smelled marijuana in the air near the man's home. Police apparently identified the defendant's house as the source and arrested the owner. They called the basement growing environment a "sophisticated indoor grow house."

Although New Hampshire law at this point technically authorizes felony charges for marijuana offenses, that does not mean that the system should incarcerate an individual for doing something that society generally does not see as being inherently bad or harmful. The felony authority for these charges is a throwback to the idea that marijuana is as dangerous as opioids and methamphetamine, an assertion that can no longer withstand empirical scientific fact. Nonetheless, the seriousness of the drug charges remains the reality, making defense counsel's task a challenging road to navigate, but one that a seasoned defense attorney will handle with great resolve to obtain the best outcome possible for the client.

Source: Portsmouth, NH Patch, "Portsmouth Man Arrested for Massive $100K Pot Growing Operation", Tony Schinella, Jan. 13, 2017

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