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Can I Face Federal Charges for Carrying Marijuana Across State Lines?

Legalization of cannabis in the United States, the hammer of the judge, the scales of justice, the book with the inscription Law and cannabis leaf lie on the desktop of the judge on the background

As we previously discussed, the recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Illinois. Using, growing, and selling cannabis is now legal in the state, with certain restrictions. Residents may possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower without facing any criminal repercussions under Illinois. Illinois is one of 11 states to fully legalize recreational possession and use of marijuana, while 33 states have at least legalized medicinal usage. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, however. If you carry marijuana across state lines, are you at risk for federal drug trafficking charges? Read on for a discussion of marijuana criminal law, and contact a seasoned Chicago criminal defense lawyer with any questions about how this law might affect your prior conviction or if you are facing drug charges in the state of Illinois.

Federal marijuana trafficking laws

Federal law still considers marijuana to be a Schedule I drug, with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” As absurd as it may be, given that nearly two-thirds of states across the country have legalized the product for medicinal use, marijuana charges still carry the potential for extreme penalties under federal law.

Trafficking marijuana or cannabis products across state lines is illegal under both federal and state laws. Even if you purchase marijuana legally, by carrying it into another state, you may in fact be running afoul of federal drug trafficking laws. This is true even if you travel directly to another state where medicinal or even recreational marijuana has been legalized. Unfortunately, until Congress acts, marijuana is a controlled substance under federal law, and carrying a controlled substance across state lines might be an act of drug trafficking.

Federal authorities have generally indicated that they will not go after individuals who follow state law in their actions regarding marijuana, even though the actions run afoul of federal law. However, federal authorities have not indicated that they will turn a blind eye to drug trafficking activities that fall squarely within their jurisdiction. It is thus not recommended to carry any marijuana products across state lines until it is legalized at the federal level.

Federal law punishes the trafficking of marijuana based on the quantity carried. Trafficking less than 50 kilograms or less than 50 plants is punishable by up to five years in prison for a first offense and up to $250,000 in fines. While you might plead for leniency if you carry only a small amount for personal use in another state, it is simply not worth the risk of facing a hardline prosecutor and unforgiving court.


If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges in Illinois, protect your future and your family by seeking representation from knowledgeable, dedicated, and understanding Chicagoland criminal defense lawyers. Contact the Carol Stream offices of Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt at 630-665-9600.

Johnson Westra Broker Whittaker & Newitt, P.C.

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Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt, P.C. is located in Carol Stream, St. Charles and Chicago, IL and serves clients in and around Wood Dale, Glen Ellyn, Lisle, Addison, Lombard, Warrenville, Downers Grove, Aurora, Villa Park, Oak Brook, Naperville, Westmont, Hinsdale, Woodridge, Clarendon Hills, Elmhurst, Darien, Eola, Lemont, Stone Park, Franklin Park, Mooseheart, North Aurora, Melrose Park, Streamwood, Robbins, Romeoville, Schiller Park, Bartlett, River Grove, Plainfield, Elmwood Park, Bolingbrook, Elk Grove Village, Batavia, Rolling Meadows, Boone County, Cook County, De Kalb County, Du Page County, Grundy County, Kane County, Kankakee County, Kendall County, Lake County, Lee County, Mchenry County, Ogle County and Will County.

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