What to do if your teen is arrested for pot possession

Family/Kids, Crime, Marijuana

Let’s say your teen got busted for marijuana possession. What would upset you the most: the criminal record, or the pot usage itself?

If you’re among the 54 percent of Americans who said they are both marijuana users and parents in Yahoo News/Marist Poll survey (“Weed & the American Family”), the fact that your child smoked pot might not alarm you—but the consequences of the arrest definitely should. So don’t let your opinions, even though pot may be a boon to your relationship or a boost to your health, cloud your judgment or prevent you from taking it seriously.

Lawyer up and hunker down

An arrest is significant no matter how you sugarcoat it. “The more aware you are of the possible ramifications, the more likely you are to make an informed, proper decision,” says Kenneth Perry, a New York City criminal defense attorney, who recommends lawyering up immediately, whether with a court-appointed representative or a private attorney. “Go over the situation and the pros and cons of the different ways to handle this in court,” says Perry.

The type of charge your child may face can range from a non-criminal violation to a felony. The charge will depend on the circumstances of the arrest and the amount of marijuana in possession, Perry explains. And remember, even though eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational pot, the sale or possession of marijuana is, of course, still a federal crime.

Keep college in mind

“While many jurisdictions treat simple possession of a small amount of marijuana as a violation (and not a crime), such a judgment can become a fact should your child ever get into trouble again,” says Perry. Consider this: Your child goes off to college, joins a demonstration, gets cuffed. A minor disturbance of the peace can suddenly become a bigger problem when that previous marijuana charge comes to light.

Your teen’s college goals can be impacted financially as well. “Even a minor conviction for simple possession of marijuana can prevent the granting of student loans,” says Perry. “Federal law provides that convictions for drug possession will make a child ineligible for federal assistance for school.”

A hit to your future

While 24 percent of parents in the Yahoo News/Marist Poll survey cite pot as the top concern for their children, only 6 percent of parents who use or have tried marijuana have the same view. In fact, they’re more worried about cigarettes, alcohol, sex, and cheating on a test. But if your teen is careless about their pot usage, even if you’ve sanctioned it, their present and future could be in jeopardy.