Is marijuana legal in SC?
If you live here, you probably already know the answer – marijuana is not legal in SC, and police in many jurisdictions will arrest you and take you to jail for even small amounts of weed.
If you are from another part of the country visiting Myrtle Beach, SC, you may be thinking, “Wait, what?”
Over half the country has legalized marijuana for either recreational or medicinal purposes, and much of the rest of the country has decriminalized marijuana. Why is SC still arresting and prosecuting people for a “crime” that the majority of the country agrees should not be a crime?
Is marijuana legal in SC? No.
Below, we’ll take a look at the states where it is legal and what the potential penalties are if you are arrested for weed in the state of SC.
Marijuana is Not Legal in SC – Where is it Legal?
It’s a moving target, but it looks like there are now 14 states plus the District of Columbia where marijuana has been legalized for recreational purposes, including:
- New York State – the newest addition, today NY’s governor signed into law a bill legalizing recreational marijuana,
- New Jersey,
- South Dakota, and
- The District of Columbia.
Four of these states – Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, and South Dakota – legalized marijuana for recreational purposes at the ballot boxes in the November 2020 election.
17 states have now legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, including:
- North Dakota,
- New Mexico,
- West Virginia,
- Rhode Island,
- New Hampshire,
- Hawaii, and
In the 2020 election, Mississippi legalized marijuana for medical use, while Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey moved from medical marijuana to legalizing marijuana for recreational use. New York was also a medical marijuana state before legalizing weed for recreational purposes today.
That’s 31 states plus the District of Columbia where marijuana is legal – well over half the country. But that’s not the whole story – many other jurisdictions have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, making it punishable by a fine only and it does not go on a person’s criminal record.
Other jurisdictions, such as NC, still consider possession of marijuana a criminal offense but possession of small amounts is punishable by a fine only.
What are the Penalties for Possession of Marijuana in SC?
Police in SC will arrest you, put handcuffs on you, and take you to jail if they find marijuana in your possession. You will then be prosecuted, and, if convicted, you will have a criminal record for drug possession.
The potential sentences if you are convicted of marijuana offenses in SC (found in SC Code Section 44-53-370(e)) include:
|Offense||Potential Penalty||Second Offense||Third Offense|
|Simple Possession (less than an ounce)||Up to 30 days in jail||Up to one year in jail|
|Possession with intent to distribute (charged if there is more than an ounce),||Up to five years in prison||Up to ten years in prison||5-20 years in prison|
|Manufacturing (growing) marijuana||Up to five years in prison||Up to ten years in prison||5-20 years in prison|
|Distribution of marijuana||Up to five years in prison||Up to ten years in prison||5-20 years in prison|
|Trafficking in marijuana 10-100 pounds||One to ten years in prison||Five to 20 years in prison||Mandatory 25 years in prison|
|Trafficking in marijuana 100-2000 pounds||Mandatory 25 years in prison||Mandatory 25 years in prison||Mandatory 25 years in prison|
|Trafficking in marijuana 2000-10,000 pounds||Mandatory 25 years in prison||Mandatory 25 years in prison||Mandatory 25 years in prison|
|Trafficking in marijuana greater than 10,000 pounds||25-30 years in prison||25-30 years in prison||25-30 years in prison|
Defenses to Marijuana Charges in SC
If you are charged with any marijuana offense in SC, do not plead guilty, do not give statements to the police, and definitely do not agree to “go to work for them” until you have consulted with an experienced drug crimes defense lawyer.
You may have defenses to your charges that you are not aware of, including:
- Fourth Amendment search and seizure violations that would allow us to suppress the evidence (and get your case dismissed),
- “Constructive possession” – if the drugs were not found on your person, the state must prove 1) “dominion and control” over the area where the drugs were found, and 2) knowledge that the drugs were there,
- Faulty chain of custody – there must be a well-documented chain of custody from the police officer who seized the drugs to the chemist who tested the drugs,
- Unavailable chemists – even if there are no other issues in your case, the state must bring the chemist to your trial as a live witness to testify about their test results. The chemist’s report is inadmissible hearsay unless the author of the report is available to testify in person, and
- Other potential defenses that are based on the facts of your case.
Even in the worst of cases, if it is a simple possession offense and you have no prior record, there are pretrial diversion options that will allow you to keep your record clean, including a conditional discharge or the pretrial intervention program.
Marijuana Defense Lawyer in Conway, SC
If you have been charged with marijuana possession in SC, get a local criminal defense attorney with over twenty years of trial experience on your side as soon as possible.
Contact criminal defense Lawyer Johnny Gardner today for a free consultation to find out how we can help.