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How do federal and state laws compare for drug charges?

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2021 | Drug Crimes

Federal and state laws do not always align. This is especially true when it comes to drug laws.

Federal laws tend to be much stricter when it comes to drugs than state laws. The best example currently is the difference between federal laws on marijuana and state laws as many states are legalizing marijuana for medical use and some have legalized it for recreational use.


According to American Addiction Centers, one of the biggest differences between how the federal and state systems manage drug charges and convictions is that at the state level, you have more of a chance of getting a less severe charge and sentence. State laws allow many charges to be misdemeanors, which generally carry a year or less in jail if any jail time. Federal charges are typically more severe with harsher sentences.

Another difference is that at the federal level, law enforcement typically focuses on pursuing drug traffickers. Law enforcement at the state level has more possession cases.

States will typically offer diversion programs for anyone facing lower-level drug charges. These programs let you perform certain actions, such as attending rehab, and meet criteria set by the court to wipe away your charges. Instead of getting a conviction on your record, the court will throw out your charges, giving you a second chance.


The types of drug charges you could face are pretty much the same at the state and federal levels. States and the federal government have similar systems for categorizing the different types of drugs with similarities in which drugs have higher legal consequences.