Ask A Lawyer: Questions about search warrants, fake doctors and more

As cannabis becomes legal medically and recreationally around the country, questions remain over various issues about transporting or distributing marijuana. Thankfully, we have one of Elevated Nation’s top-notch legal team Jeremy-Evan Alva to tackle some recent questions pertaining to cannabis.


Hey Jeremy,

My cousin’s doing four years for selling weed. If legalization passes in Pennsylvania is there any chance he could get clemency or pardoned for a previous conviction. There are many other people in his same predicament around the country I have learned.

Cuzless in Coatesville

I’m sorry to say but you and your cousin will be pen pals for a little bit longer. At the time of his sentence, selling marijuana was illegal, so therefore he received a legal sentence. He may be able to see the parole board quicker or more likely to be paroled, but the doors to the jail will not open immediately. There was a good article on Slate that addressed this topic a few years back.

Dear Jeremy,

I heard the police can’t search your mail so sometimes if I am driving with weed I put it in a USPS envelope. Am I being smart or am I actually committing mail fraud?

Puzzled by Parcels

You are more than just puzzled, you are very gullible. Would you like to buy a bridge that connects Pennsylvania and New Jersey? The Police are allowed to search anything with a valid warrant. Also, in some states, basically everywhere, as long as the Police have probable cause, if you are driving, the Police may search the vehicle without a warrant. On top of that, if the Police smell marijuana, then the smell equals probable cause, therefore the vehicle will be searched without a warrant.  Ironically enough, the  Pennsylvania Superior Court case that deemed smell as probable cause was Commonwealth v. Stoner.

As for the mail fraud. . .just stop putting it in your mail.

Dear Jeremy,

I think of myself as a healthcare provider. By that I mean I help out some friends and family on chemo and suffering other diseases with edibles or hash oil sometimes. If I get arrested, do I have any recourse in claiming that I am trying to just make sure people can get the medicine they deserve. I know the state has safe harbor letters protecting parents from prosecution for giving their kids cannabis products, but I’m not a parent. Is it less of a problem if I give them the medicine, rather than charge for it? I don’t want to have to disclose my patients identities either.

Hoping for HIPAA

You are doing a good deed, but remember no good deed goes unpunished. Technically, you are committing a felony if you are selling marijuana to people in need of medication. This is an ungraded felony, with a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison. If you are convicted a 2nd time, the maximum penalty is doubled to 10 years. These maximums are for offenses within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Now I cannot advise anyone on breaking the law nor am I advising you how to. If marijuana is given to someone without any money being exchanged that is under the law, simple possession.

Defense Attorney Jeremy-Evan Alva is a member of NORML’s Legal Committee. He is a partner at the Alva-Shuttleworth firm in Philadelphia.

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