Minnesota Marijuana Laws: Chapter 152 (Drugs and Controlled Substances)

Under Minnesota state laws, most types of drug crimes are listed in Chapter 152 of the Minnesota Statutes. Incidentally, this is also where most of Minnesota’s marijuana laws are contained. Marijuana is defined as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. See Minn. Stat. § 152.02, Subd. 2(3). This is also consistent with current federal designation and the Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1994.

There are five levels (or degrees) of controlled substance crimes. A crime in the “first degree” is the most serious and most severely punished. A crime in the “fifth degree” is the least serious and least severely punished offense.

Selling VS Growing Marijuana in Minnesota

Additionally, in Minnesota, there is a distinction in marijuana laws between “sale crimes” and “possession crimes.” Almost all marijuana laws fall within one of these two categories. It is important to know the legal differences and distinctions between the two, as there are not as clear cut as one may think. In fact, under current Minnesota Marijuana laws, the term “manufacture” means the same thing as “cultivation.” See Minn. Stat. § 152.01, Subd. 7. And ”sell” means the same thing as “manufacture.” See Minn. Stat. § 152.01, Subd. 15a(1). Ergo, cultivating something has the same legal meaning as selling it. This, of course, is a legal fiction as, under this same logic, growing apples on a tree in your backyard and eating them would be legally defined as selling apples! And although the Minnesota marijuana laws have been legally defined in such a ridiculous and absurd fashion, the current complexities of the law make it ever more important to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who knows and understands the Minnesota marijuana laws and any possible charges you may be facing. It could be the difference between a conviction on your record and a lengthy sentence and having all charges dismissed.

Possession of Marijuana in Minnesota

Under Minnesota law, “possession” of marijuana is a much more common charge because it is generally easier to prove and because there are less elemental requirements are necessary for the prosecution to establish a person’s guilt.

Constructive VS Actual Possession

The act of “possessing” something (including marijuana) can come in the form of “actual possession” or “constructive possession.” A general meaning for “constructive possession” is a person exercising some level of dominion or control over something. Given this, it is possible for two or more people to constructively possess the same item. In fact, Minnesota law specifically finds that, when it comes to controlled substances, there can be a “permissive inference of possession” for all the people in a residence and for all the passengers in an automobile. See Minn. Stat. § 152.028.

The act of “actual possession” in generally understood to mean just like it sounds: the item or property at issue (e.g., a controlled substance like marijuana) is actually located in a place physically attached to the person possessing it. This would obviously include, for example, weed held in a person’s hand or an ecstasy pill located in a person’s mouth. “Actual possession” would also generally include (though philosophically disputed) weed in a person pants pocket, powder cocaine folded up in a dollar bill and stored in a person’s wallet, or a crack rock found under the insole of a person’s shoe.

Possession of a controlled substance can be very difficult to dispute in court or to a jury. Having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney represent you can dramatically enhance your chances of beating possession charges. It can be very important to give nuanced and unique arguments to a jury in order to have them return a verdict of not guilty, and a lawyer experienced in drug crimes and Minnesota law can do this very effectively.

Quantity or Weight of Marijuana Possessed

Minnesota law also defines drug crimes (including marijuana laws) according to weight (or quantity). The greater the weight (or quantity) of the controlled substance possessed or sold, the more serious the charges will be and the more severe the possible sentence will be. Now specifically concerning marijuana, there is a question about what exact parts of the plant should be placed upon a scale in order for the government to determine the weight of the actual marijuana a person possessed or sold. Under Section 152.01, Subdivision 9, of the Minnesota Statutes, “‘Marijuana’ means all parts of the plant…and every mixture…of such plant…but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant….” There are, of course, some exceptions to this general rule, but there is one exception that is most important: bong water!

Possession and Sale of a “Small Amount” of Marijuana in Minnesota

In Minnesota, the law prohibits the “Possession or sale of a Small Amount of Marijuana.” See Minn. Stat. § 152.027, Subd. 4. A “small amount of marijuana” is defined as 42.5 grams or less (which is just under 1 ½ ounces, as there are 28.3495231 grams in 1 ounce), under Minnesota marijuana laws. See Minn. Stat. § 152.01, Subd. 16. And this subdivision specifically does “not apply to the resinous form of marijuana.” Minn. Stat. § 152.01, Subd. 16. Under ordinary conditions, a person who is found in possession of, or selling, a “small amount” of marijuana will be deemed to have committed a “petty misdemeanor,” but again, there are some exceptions. Consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced drug lawyer may be extremely valuable to you and protecting not only your rights, but also your liberty and your criminal history record. Your record may be protectable in that a “petty misdemeanor” is defined by Minnesota law as “a petty offense which is prohibited by statute, which does NOT constitute a crime and for which a sentence of a fine of not more than $300 may be imposed.” See Minn. Stat. § 609.02, Subd. 4a (emphasis added). Additionally, the court may impose other conditions if it finds such conditions to be appropriate – for example, it can require a person to undergo a drug education program, chemical dependency evaluations and treatment, and additional sanctions for non-compliance. Thus, a person found in violation of a petty misdemeanor is able to keep a “clean record,” and such person may not be imprisoned for such a violation of law.

Further, a person may be convicted of an actual criminal misdemeanor offense if they fall under the requirements of Minn. Stat. § 152.027, Subd. 4(b) or (c).

Discussing and obtaining qualified legal representation on your marijuana case may greatly assist you and assist you in obtaining a favorable outcome – including complete dismissal of the charges.

Possession of Marijuana in a Motor Vehicle in Minnesota

In Minnesota, possession of marijuana is in part governed by Minnesota Statutes § 152.027, Subd. 3. This law states that a person is guilty of a misdemeanor crime (which in convicted would be established on the person’s criminal history) if that person is the driver or owner of a vehicle and has 1.5 grams or more of marijuana with them. The law excludes possessing marijuana in the trunk of the vehicle and other similar locations in the vehicle. But it specifically makes it a crime when the marijuana is located in any glove compartment in the vehicle.

This Minnesota law has often been referred to as the “open bottle – marijuana” law. It appears the intended purpose of the legislature and other supports of this law is to deter drivers and owners of vehicles from “smoking up” or getting high while , driving, operating, or in a motor vehicle.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia in Minnesota

In Minnesota, possession of drug paraphernalia is generally governed by Minnesota Statutes § 152.092. Simply put, the statutes says, [i]t is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to use or to possess drug paraphernalia.” Minnesota designates a violation of this law to be a “petty misdemeanor.” And for a violation, a fine of not more than $300 may be imposed.” See Minn. Stat. § 609.02, Subd. 4a.

Of course determining what is “drug paraphernalia” is no simple task either. The legal definition of “drug paraphernalia” is set for in Minnesota Statutes, and states in large part that it means the following:

…all equipment, products, and materials of any kind…which are knowingly or intentionally used primarily in (1) manufacturing a controlled substance; (2) injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing in the human body a controlled substance; (3) testing the strength, effectiveness, or purity of a controlled substance; or (4) enhancing the effect of a controlled substance.

But even this definition is changing in its meaning and application. Most notably, “The Bong Water Case” has taken traditional and long-established notions of drug paraphernalia and completely manipulated them to arrive at an illogical conclusion – in part because of outrageous “expert testimony” by the police. Nonetheless, the current state of the law is what it is, and hiring an experienced and knowledgeable drug crimes lawyer is becoming an ever more important step in protecting your rights and your liberty.

This article was written by attorney Jesse Hall, a Denver Colorado criminal defense attorney.


  1. I am a concerned divorced father of a 16 year old girl whom amongst other people have found, smelled, my ex wives new husband engaged in heavy marijuana use, possession of 2 grocery bags of this crap in his room, measuring up to 8″ full in each of the 2 bags. She has also found smaller amounts such as in a shaving kit bag, and a bong inside of the couch. This has been going on for about 2 years. He as well as my ex wife told my upset daughter it was for medical purposes. I just confronted my Ex tonight as I’ve had enough and of course it is denied. When I brought up the 2 bags of weed she said “that wasn’t ours, it was a friends we were keeping for him. RIGHT!. What can I do as I only have 5 people that will testify? As I am not allowed in the house/with reasons apparent after divorce. At wits end.

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