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Idaho Supreme Court upholds synthetic marijuana conviction

Marijuana is illegal to possess or distribute in any form in Idaho.

Unlike neighboring state Washington, in Idaho it is illegal to possess marijuana, even for medicinal purposes or with a valid prescription from a state that does allow medical marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana, which mimics the effects of THC, is also illegal in the state. Recently the state's highest court upheld a conviction for a smoke shop owner who claimed he sold synthetic marijuana without knowing that the substance was illegal.

Ignorance is not a defense, Supreme Court holds

In 2012, an employee of the now-defunct Redy Eye Hut, a tobacco shop, sold "spice" to a customer. Spice is the street term for a synthetic cannabinoid. In his defense, the employee claimed that he was told the substance was legal since it did not contain THC.

The Supreme Court found that argument irrelevant. Under state law, it is illegal to knowingly deliver synthetic cannabinoids even if the person selling it does not know the substance itself is illegal, according to Justice Jim Jones. In the opinion, Justice Jones wrote:

[F]or a possession of a controlled substance conviction, a defendant must have knowledge of possession, not knowledge that the substance possessed is controlled under the law. By extension, then, for a delivery of a controlled substance conviction, a defendant must have knowledge of delivery, not knowledge that the substance to be delivered is controlled.

Police confiscated 10,000 jars of synthetic marijuana potpourri from Red Eye Hut in 2012, valued at $500,000. The employee himself admitted to knowing he sold synthetic cannabinoids.

The employee pled guilty to manufacture and delivery of controlled substance, but reserved the right to appeal that "Twizted Potpurri" was not a controlled substance under Idaho law. The substance in question, "AM-2201" is not defined as a Schedule I controlled substance under Idaho law. However, the state Supreme Court ruled that the substance was intended to be included within the scope of Idaho's Schedule I controlled substance law.

Synthetic drugs still a problem in the state

The most common criminal drug charges in Idaho involve methamphetamine, marijuana and prescription pain pills. Marijuana is legal for recreational use in two states and available by prescription in several more. Prescription pain medication, such as oxycodone, is legal in all states with a prescription. And in recent years, synthetic versions of methamphetamine and marijuana initially skirted state and federal drug laws, making their legality questionable.

But in Idaho, the illegal possession or sale of these substances bring about severe punishments. The employee who sold Twizted Potpurri is currently serving a two to eight year sentence. Possession of oxycodone or Xanax without a valid prescription, two common medications prone to cause abuse and addiction, can lead to serious state and federal charges. And marijuana, while widespread, is illegal to possess within state boundaries.

A criminal defense attorney can help

Charges of illegal drug possession, manufacture or distribution are serious. While the specific charges - and consequences for a conviction - depend on the type of drug and the amount involved, any drug charges can have lasting effects for the person charged.

Resident in Idaho accused of a drug crime should contact the Dowdy Law Office to discuss their legal rights and options.

Keywords: Marijuana, synthetic drugs, smoke shop, head shop.

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