Current U.S. Federal Policy and Sentencing for Marijuana Offenses

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Sentencing for Marijuana

Current U.S. Federal Policy and Sentencing for Marijuana Offenses

The States will usually prosecute marijuana offenses. However, based on my experience, the Federal  Government may opt to prosecute offenders when the incident involves Federal property (U.S. national  forests), cultivating very large quantities of marijuana, crossing state and national borders, exporting out of  state, when organized crime is involved and/ or instances in which Federal agents conduct the investigation.  

Be aware that Federal Courts mandate five to ten year prison sentences for marijuana/cannabis offenses. i.e  over 100 plants or rooted seedlings are punishable by minimum five years; offenses involving 1,000 plants  or rooted seedlings are punishable by a minimum of ten years. Unfortunately State Medical Marijuana  Laws offer almost no protection in Federal Court. However, in my representation of client’s regarding small  amounts of marijuana on federal property, prosecutors have agreed to dismiss when they have a current  Medical Marijuana Recommendation. 

Seedlings are assigned a weight of 100 grams; this means that 60 plants or 6,000 grams is equal to 6 kilos and is a level 14 offense punishable  by up to a 15-21 month sentence. If a plant weighs more than 100 grams, the actual weight is used. 

The latest policies under the Trump Administration include an omnibus budget bill passed on March 23, 2018. Contained in that  bill is a cannabis provision called the Leahy amendment (formally the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment), which prohibits  the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency from using tax dollars to interfere with medical marijuana/cannabis  businesses and patients in states where medical marijuana/cannabis is legal. We will have to wait and see if the amendment will be  expanded upon under the Trump administration to include non-medical adult use. There is pending bi-partisan legislation before  congress that would amend the Controlled Substances Act prohibiting its application to States that have legalized marijuana. This  includes the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration or delivery of marijuana..

The Federal guidelines below are used by the judge to consider what sentence to impose and are considered to be the most relevant factor  in determining the sentence; however, they are no longer mandatory. 

Since medical marijuana is not recognized, pursuant to U.S Congress, federal laws do not protect patients or members of  collectives and cooperatives from prosecution. See U.S v. Macintosh 833S3.1163 2016, which provides for the opportunity for a  hearing to determine if the defendants actions are in compliance with the State Medical Marijuana Laws .


Amount of Marijuan Sentence/Months  Offense Level
<1kg  0-6 months  6
1 kg -2.5 kg  0-6 months  8
2.5 kg – 5 kg  6-12 months  10
5 kg – 10 kg  10-16 months  12
10 kg – 20 kg  15-21 months  14
20 kg – 40 kg  21-27 months  16
40 kg – 60 kg  27-33 months  18
60 kg – 80 kg  33-41 months  20
80 kg – 100 kg  41-51 months  22
100 kg – 400 kg  51-63 months  24
100kg or More
400 kg – 700 kg  63-78 months  26
700 kg – 1000 kg  78-97 months  28
1000 kg – 3000 kg  97-121 months  30
1000k or More
3.000 kg – 10,000 kg  121-151 months  32
10,000 kg – 30,000 kg  151-188 months  34
30,000 kg – 90,000 kg  188-235 months  36
90,000 kg or More  235 – 293  38



Early Plea & Acceptance  Responsibility  

 -2 or -3 at level 16 

Organizer or Leader +4

Manager Or Supervisor +3

Lesser Leader +2 

Minimal Participants -4

Between Minimal & Minor -3

Abuse Of Position Of Trust +2

Use of Special Skill +2 

Obstruction +3 

There are numerous factors (i.e.  criminal convictions history)  that affect the guidelines and  sentencing