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Marijuana offenses could put an end to your college career

On Behalf of | Sep 18, 2017 | criminal law | 0 comments

Social attitudes around marijuana have changed rapidly in recent years. That means that fewer people consider marijuana use a serious offense. That, in turn, may result in more people experimenting with the drug. Most of the time, moderate recreational use isn’t of any serious concern. It’s normal for young people and adults to experiment with marijuana and alcohol. Unfortunately, there can be life-altering consequences if you get caught with marijuana.

While Pennsylvania does has a medical marijuana program, it is still getting established and will only help those with serious conditions like HIV/AIDS or cancer. Most college students won’t qualify for any kind of medical marijuana defense. Chances are, if you get caught with marijuana, you will face criminal charges. While they may only be misdemeanor charges, that could still end your time in college. That’s why you should explore defense options before pleading guilty to any marijuana offenses while in college.

Pennsylvania criminalizes any possession of marijuana

Possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense in Pennsylvania. Those caught with under 30 grams will face up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. For those in possession of more than 30 grams, potential jail time increased to a year, while the fine could be as much as $5,000. If you end up convicted or plead guilty, you could also end up losing your license.

Possession of marijuana extracts, like hash, or paraphernalia used to consume or process marijuana can also result in criminal charges. Compared to other states, the criminal penalties for possession in Pennsylvania aren’t very severe. Unfortunately, there are other considerations, such as the potential impact on your college career. If you depend on student loans or financial aid, you could find yourself unable to pay for school.

Drug offenses end eligibility for federal student aid

If you get convicted of any drug offense, you can no longer receive federal student aid in the form of grants, scholarships and subsidized loans. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) explicitly asks if you have any drug convictions. An affirmative response makes you ineligible for any federal student aid. Grants and student loans, commonly used by students to make college affordable, will no longer be available to you.

In theory, you could still receive financial aid such as scholarships from your college. However, most schools have morality clauses in their scholarships and honors programs. In order to retain your financial aid, you must comply with certain requirements, like not getting convicted of any crimes. Once your criminal record gets reported to your school, you could find yourself kicked out or simply stripped of all scholarships and other forms of aid.