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COA rules on first impression possession of marijuana issue

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A woman’s objection over how much marijuana was being attributed to her led the Indiana Court of Appeals to apply for the first time Supreme Court precedent regarding possession of marijuana.

In Samantha Adams v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-1107-CR-372, Samantha Adams appealed the denial of her motion to dismiss Class D felonies dealing in marijuana and possession of marijuana. Both charges were enhanced from Class A misdemeanors due to the weight of the drug involved. Adams claimed that the dried weight of the drug should have been around 17 grams instead of 69 grams. More than 30 grams leads to enhanced charges.

Adams disagreed with how the plants were weighed. The forensic scientist with the Indianapolis/Marion County Forensics Services Agency cut off the “mature stalks” of the plants – which would be the roots and stalk up to the first branch of each plant – and weighed the remaining leaves, immature stalks and stems together.  

On interlocutory appeal, Adams argued her due process rights were violated because Indiana Code doesn’t clearly state which parts of the plant are excluded from the legal definition of marijuana. The statute doesn’t define what “mature stalks” are, but does say that those are not included in the definition of marijuana. Adams introduced evidence that the Indiana State Police Lab sometimes excludes the entire stalk in its calculations of weight, and if that was done in her case, the weight would have been less than 30 grams.

The appellate court relied on Lawhorn v. State, 452 N.E.2d 915, 917 (1983), in which the Supreme Court, in looking at the cocaine dealing statutes, held that adulterated and not just pure forms of the drug could be used to support an enhancement.

The Court of Appeals had previously applied this decision to marijuana dealing and held that the issue of identifying mature stalks is irrelevant because it’s clear that the sentence enhancement may be supported by an adulterated form of marijuana, which includes “other vegetable matter” not included within the definition of marijuana, wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

But the judges had not yet addressed Lawhorn’s application to the provisions regarding possession of marijuana. The General Assembly has amended Indiana Code 35-48-4-11 to include “pure or adulterated” marijuana when defining the Class A misdemeanor, but did not include “pure or adulterated” when discussing the enhancement.

The judges concluded that the marijuana referred to in the enhancement can only refer to the “pure or adulterated” drug mentioned in the preceding sentence in the statute. They found the statute to not be vague or unconstitutional and affirmed the denial of Adams’s motion to dismiss.  

 

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  1. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

  2. I have met some highly placed bureaucrats who vehemently disagree, Mr. Smith. This is not your father's time in America. Some ideas are just too politically incorrect too allow spoken, says those who watch over us for the good of their concept of order.

  3. Lets talk about this without forgetting that Lawyers, too, have FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND ASSOCIATION

  4. Baer filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit on April 30 2015. When will this be decided? How many more appeals does this guy have? Unbelievable this is dragging on like this.

  5. They ruled there is no absolute right to keep a license, whether it be for a lifetime or a short period of time. So with that being said, this state taught me at the age of 15 how to obtain that license. I am actually doing something that I was taught to do, I'm not breaking the law breaking the rules and according to the Interstate Compact the National Interstate Compact...driving while suspended is a minor offense. So, do with that what you will..Indiana sucks when it comes to the driving laws, they really and truly need to reevaluate their priorities and honestly put the good of the community first... I mean, what's more important the pedophile drug dealer or wasting time and money to keep us off the streets?

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