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Could (or would) charges be dropped if there's a change in the law and the crime is no longer a crime?

Flagstaff, AZ |

I have a friend who's facing federal charges for marijuana trafficking and some related charges (conspiracy, mail fraud). She's currently on the run. If marijuana were to become legal federally and in all states in a few years, would a prosecutor still want to pursue the case? Would all the people in jail on marijuana charges suddenly be released? I realize that there would still be laws governing the sale of marijuana if it were to become legal, but it seems like trafficking marijuana would be far less serious if it were federally legal.

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Attorney answers 5


(1) Would a prosecutor still want to pursue the case (which includes charges of conspiracy and mail fraud), if marijuana was suddenly legalized nationally - very likely, the prosecutor would continue to pursue the case;
(2) If marijuana were suddenly legalized nationally, would all those currently imprisoned on related charges be released - no.
The charges that she is fleeing were brought under the existing law.

This is not legal advice. This response is provided for general information only, as a public service. It is not to be relied upon as legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship; nor is it an attempt to create an attorney/client relationship. Consult with local counsel in your jurisdiction about the specifics of your case, which is the only way to gain true meaningful legal guidance and/or representation.


this depends on how much was involved, how long it was legalized for and a whole host of factors, right now it is nothing more than a guess.

My name is Stephen R. Cohen and have practiced since 1974. I practice in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA. These answers do not create an attorney client relationship. My answers may offend I believe in telling the truth, I use common sense as well as the law. Other state's laws may differ.. There are a lot of really good attorneys on this site, I will do limited appearances which are preparation of court documents it is , less expensive. However generally I believe an attorney is better than none.


Federal prosecutors generally take a dim view of fugitives, not just drug traffickers but people charged with fraud. So my bet is that someday there will be a knock on your friend's door, regardless of whether the law changes.

The response I have provided is general in nature, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. My practice is based in Rhode Island, and the law and practice in other states or jurisdictions may be different.


The Feds will not legalize pot anytime soon. As, mentioned, her evading law (if she was indicted) enforcement will cause her great difficulty negotiating a Federal plea. While it is a separate charge, it will prevent any pretrial release. She really needs to start working with an attorney to mitigate the damages and any other criminal exposure. Take Care!


Whether or not the Feds would continue to pursue marijuana cases if the law changed depends on how the new law would be structured and whether decriminalization/legalization would be applied retroactively. As it stands, marijuana remains a schedule 1 controlled substance and there are federal prosecutions going forward even in states that have now decriminalized it for recreational use. Hopefully one day this will change. Until then, it's best to leave the herb alone unless you're willing to assume the risks of getting caught. Even if you are growing in compliance with state law for medical purposes, the Feds can charge you with Manufacturing under federal law.

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