In 2013, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) placed several versions of synthetic marijuana, including the commonly used XLR 11, on the schedule of controlled substances, making it illegal to manufacture, sell, and use this drug outside of extremely narrow parameters. Different versions of synthetic marijuana are often sold under the name “Spice” and gas stations are one of the most common places to find it. Federal prosecutors tend to target store owners and use the “167 argument” to significantly increase the charges and potential penalties faced by the defendants.
Synthetic Marijuana and the 167 Argument
Synthetic marijuana has presented challenges to the DEA, the Attorney General, and federal defense attorneys since manufacturers can simply change the formula to create a new substance that is outside of what is currently labeled a controlled substance. However some versions of synthetic marijuana, such as XLR 11, have stabilized to the point that it could be classified and charges brought against those found selling or using it.
Federal prosecutors have been successful in convincing some judges that XLR 11 and other synthetic marijuana formulas should carry higher penalties than those for selling and using traditional marijuana because the synthetic version is more potent. In fact, they use research which claims that, gram-per-gram, one gram of synthetic marijuana is the equivalent of 167 grams of marijuana. The argument continues that this ratio should be used as a multiplier when deciding a prison sentence. The result is that defendants who may have received probation or a 1 to 3 year sentence now receive 12 to 20+ year prison sentences.
Defending Synthetic Marijuana Cases
The best defense in this situation is to hire an expert federal criminal defense attorney with specific experience in this type of case. The rules and regulations regarding synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs are constantly changing and you need to hire an attorney who is up-to-date with this dynamic area of the law.
Many federal judges have heard several of these cases and you need an expert federal defense lawyer, such as Ben Stechschulte, who can help these judges look at the facts of your case independent of other trials they have presided over. He is current on the many legal issues that synthetic marijuana cases present and knows which experts to hire who can explain why this substance should be treated the same as non-synthetic marijuana. Mr. Stechschulte is skilled at effectively presenting such cases in court, helping judges understand the chemical and legal issues of the case with the goal of his clients receiving lesser penalties.
The laws regarding synthetic marijuana are dynamic so it is important to hire an attorney who understands this and actively remains current to the laws and federal prosecutors’ legal strategies. The stakes are high for defendants in synthetic marijuana cases, potentially 167 times higher than expected, and it is critical that your federal defense attorney has the expertise to reduce any penalties you may face.