Defenses and Penalties for Marijuana Distribution

Drug Crime Lawyer for Phoenix Area Defendants

Although many state governments across the country have relaxed their attitudes towards marijuana, Arizona prosecutors take marijuana distribution seriously. There is an exception for medical marijuana. But, generally, Arizona regulates marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. If you are being investigated for or charged with marijuana distribution, an experienced Phoenix marijuana crime attorney can advise you regarding your rights and options.

Marijuana Distribution

Under Arizona Revised Statutes section 13.3405, you can be charged for knowingly possessing marijuana for sale, producing marijuana for sale, transporting to sell, transferring, or offering to sell or transfer marijuana. Marijuana sales can be punished as class 2 through 4 offenses. The severity of the charge depends on the amount of marijuana with which you were caught, and the most severe term of imprisonment is for class 2 convictions. Marijuana distribution charges can involve possessing marijuana for sale or trafficking. If you possessed less than two pounds of marijuana with the intent to sell in Arizona, you may be charged with a class 4 felony.

Trafficking is another marijuana distribution crime. It's assumed by the court you possessed marijuana for sale if you had 2 pounds (the threshold amount) or more of the substance. Possession for sale of 2-4 pounds of marijuana is treated as a class 3 felony in Arizona. If there is an actual sale of 2-4 pounds of marijuana, this is a class 3 felony. Both charges can result in 2 to 8.75 years of incarceration. The presumptive term of incarceration for these crimes is 3.5 years.

To establish marijuana trafficking, the prosecutor will need to show: (1) you knowingly, (2) imported, transported, or sold dangerous drugs, (3) and the drugs were comprised of at least 2 pounds of marijuana. Each element needs to be established beyond a reasonable doubt.


Penalties for a marijuana distribution conviction are harsh. However, there may be defenses available, and a skilled criminal law attorney can help you identify which ones may be most relevant in your case. It may be possible to raise reasonable doubt about one or more elements of the offense. Often drug crimes are defended using procedural or constitutional defenses. These may be based on the Fourth Amendment. For example, if the marijuana was found in your car after you were pulled over, the police must have had a reasonable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing or a traffic violation in order to pull you over. If they didn't, you can raise the Fourth Amendment in a motion to suppress the marijuana. Without evidence of the marijuana at issue, the prosecutor is unlikely to be able to meet her burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Similarly, if the police did not have probable cause to acquire a warrant to search your home and found marijuana there illegally, the marijuana seized in the illegal search should be suppressed.

However, there may be other types of defenses as well. For example, if a confidential informant was used to obtain an arrest, it may be possible to develop a defense based on the confidential informant's credibility. You can examine the informant's motivation in working with the police, the informant's reliability, the informant's prior felony convictions, and whether there has been payment of the informant. Sometimes it is easier to challenge the use of an informant if the prosecution’s entire case turns on the informant's testimony, and the undercover purchases were not visually or audio-recorded.


Penalties for marijuana distribution crimes are harsher than simple possession of marijuana. If you have a prior felony or a minor was involved in the marijuana distribution crime, or the sale took place in a school zone, the sentence may be even higher. In addition to incarceration, your sentence may include fines, probation and community service.

Consult an Experienced Marijuana Crime Attorney in Phoenix

Although there is a medical marijuana law in Arizona now, you should be aware that prosecutors in our state take marijuana distribution crimes seriously. If you are convicted, your criminal record can come back to haunt you in connection with job searches and when trying to find housing. If you were charged with a marijuana distribution crime in Phoenix, skilled criminal defense lawyer James E. Novak may be able to help. Mr. Novak represents people accused of drug crimes in and around the Phoenix area, including in Maricopa, Scottsdale, Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert County. Call him at (480) 413-1499 or contact him via our online form.

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