- Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in 10 states and Washington D.C, while medical marijuana is legal in 33 and Washington D.C.
- Thirteen US states have decriminalized marijuana but have yet to make the drug legal for recreational use.
- The decriminalization of marijuana and legalization of it are two very different things.
- Essentially, decriminalization means that the legal consequences for possession of small amounts of pot are not severe and someone caught with a small amount of marijuana won’t face prosecution, jail time, or a receive a criminal record.
- In contrast, the legalization of recreational marijuana means that adults can legally use, possess, and even grow their own marijuana for personal use.
As of January 2019, 22 US states and the District of Colombia have decriminalized recreational, non-medical marijuana. However, there are still plenty of rules surrounding how much weed you can possess and where marijuana can be used.
Understanding the laws regarding marijuana will help you stay safe and out of trouble no matter where you roam.
Here’s the difference between decriminalization and legalization.
Just because marijuana has been decriminalized in a particular place doesn’t mean that individuals caught in possession of the drug won’t face legal penalties. There’s actually a significant difference between decriminalization of weed and full legalization.
Essentially, “decriminalization” means that the legal consequences for possession of small amounts of pot are much less severe than they used to be. According to the Marijuana Project Policy, someone caught with a small amount of marijuana won’t face prosecution, jail time, or a receive a criminal record. However, they may be required to pay a fine and are generally considered to have committed a civil offence or minor misdemeanour, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Being discovered with a small amount of marijuana in states that have decriminalized the substance can be compared to receiving a speeding ticket – you won’t got to jail, but you’re still breaking the law. In contrast, the legalization of recreational marijuana means that adults can legally use, possess, and even grow their own marijuana for personal use.
When it comes to marijuana laws, quantity matters.
If you plan on possessing any quantity of marijuana in the US, it’s important to know the quantity which is either legal or decriminalized in your state. Amounts that may be considered civil infractions in one state might result in criminal prosecution just one state over.
Though possession of small amounts of marijuana isn’t a serious offence in some states, having amounts over the decriminalized limit will open you up to prosecution, jail time, and a criminal record.
It’s also important to remember that marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance and is thus technically illegal under federal law even in states that have legalised or decriminalized it.
Alaska legalised the growing, sale, and use of weed by adults in 2014.
Alaska allows people over the age of 21 to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana on their person and up to six plants in their home, as long as three or fewer are mature and flowering at any one time.
Use of cannabis in any form (including vaping and edibles) is not permitted in public or on federal land, and private consumption must be out of view of the public. Using weed in public can carry a fine of up to $US100.
It’s illegal to transport any amount of cannabis out of the state. Cannabis may not be consumed before or while driving, and passengers in a vehicle are also prohibited from using marijuana.
California legalised recreational marijuana use in 2016.
Adults over the age of 21 are legally able to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana flower and up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrate under California law. Adults can also grow up to six plants in their homes.
You may not use marijuana in any form in public, within 1,000 feet of a school or youth center, or anywhere where tobacco smoking is prohibited.
Adults can transport up to 28.5 grams of marijuana flower and up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrate in a vehicle, though the cannabis must be a child-proof container and out of reach of the driver. Passengers must also refrain from using cannabis.
Exporting marijuana from California, even to states that have legalised it, is illegal.
Colorado was one of the first states to legalise recreational marijuana.
Adults 21 and over can possess up 1 ounce of marijuana on their person in Colorado. As of 2016, both tourists and residents can purchase up to 28 grams of marijuana in a single transaction. Dispensaries are the only legal places to purchase marijuana, and it is a felony to give, share, or sell weed to anyone under 21. You can give up to 1 ounce of marijuana to another adult, but you can’t sell it.
You may not use cannabis in any form in any public space, including most hotels and all airports. Use on federal land is also prohibited. Driving while under the influence of marijuana is illegal and passengers are also not permitted to use weed while in a vehicle.
Connecticut has decriminalized marijuana but has not legalised it.
In Connecticut, possession of 0.5 ounces or less of marijuana will lead to a civil penalty of $US150-500 for your first and second offenses. Possession of more than 0.5 ounces is considered a misdemeanour and can result in a fine of up to $US2,000 and one year in prison. Being caught with paraphernalia with the intent to use it to consume or distribute more than 0.5 ounces can result in up to three months in jail and a $US500 fine.
In Delaware, simple possession results in a $US100 civil fine.
When Governor Jack Markell signed the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act in 2011, the state decriminalized cannabis for certain patients and their caregivers. A few years later, the Delaware General Assembly passed a bill that enforced decriminalization across the state for those carrying less than 1 ounce of marijuana.
Illinois decriminalized cannabis in 2014 but marijuana is still illegal for recreational use.
In 2016, possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana was decriminalized by the Illinois General Assembly.
This means that the punishment for possession for under 10 grams of cannabis will result in a $US100-200 fine. Medical marijuana is legal in Illinois, but it is unlawful for any unlicensed person to grow, produce, or distribute marijuana in any amount.
Maine legalised recreational marijuana in 2016, but dispensaries haven’t opened yet.
Due to the vetoing of two recreational marijuana implementation bills by Governor Paul LePage, recreational marijuana dispensaries have not yet been opened in Maine. However, adults 21 years and older are legally allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana on their person. Adults may also cultivate up to three mature marijuana plants, 12 immature plants, and unlimited seedlings in their home. Each plant should be tagged with the owner’s information and driver’s licence/ID number.
Use of cannabis in any form is not allowed in public or on federal land. The fine for using marijuana in public can be up to $US100. Exporting marijuana or driving under the influence of the drug can result in jail time, prosecution, and criminal charges.
Maryland has decriminalized marijuana but has not legalised it.
Under current Maryland law, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is considered a civil offence and will result in a fine of up to $US100, according to FindLaw.
A second offence comes with a penalty of $US250 and subsequent offenses are punishable by fines up to $US500. Any third-time offender under the age of 21 will also be required to be evaluated for drug abuse disorder and enter a drug education program. Medical marijuana has been legal in Maryland since 2013.
Massachusetts voted to legalise recreational marijuana in 2016.
Marijuana use and possession is legal in Massachusetts for adults 21 and older. You can have up to 1 ounce on your person and can store a maximum of 10 ounces in your home. Additionally, you may grow up to six plants in your home and up to 12 plants for two or more adults.
You can’t have an open container of marijuana open in your car or public place. If you have more than 1 ounce of weed stored in your home, it must be locked up. If you fail to lock it up, any amount over 1 ounce may be confiscated and a civil penalty of up to $US100 pay be enforced.
It’s not permitted to use marijuana in any form (including vaping and edibles) in public or on federal land. Driving while high is also against the law.
Minnesota has decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.
Minnesota classifies marijuana possession of fewer than 42.5 grams as a low-level misdemeanour with no possibility of jail time for most offenses, according to FindLaw. People found to be in possession of fewer than 42.5 grams will face up to $US200 in fines for their first offence. Subsequent cannabis offenses may lead steeper fines or participation in chemical dependency evaluation and treatment depending on the level of the first offence. Medical marijuana has been legal in Minnesota since 2014.
Mississippi has decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.
In Mississippi, individuals caught with less than 30 grams of cannabis may face a fine of up to $US250 and not less than $US100 for their first offence, according to FindLaw. A second offence is punishable by a $US250 fine and between 5-60 days in jail. A third offence may result in a fine of up to $US500 and five days to six months in jail.
However, the sale of under 1 ounce of marijuana can result in at least three years in jail and a fine of $US3,000. First-time offenders selling over 1 ounce but less than 1 kilogram may receive up to 20 years in prison and a $US30,000 fine.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized in Missouri.
Missouri classifies marijuana possession as a low-level misdemeanour with no possibility of jail time for most offenses. First-time offenders who are caught in possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana will face a fine of up to $US500.
However, selling less than 5 grams of cannabis is punishable by up to seven years in prison. Individuals can face life in prison for selling more than 30 kilograms. Medical marijuana was officially legalised in Missouri in December of 2019.
The state of Nebraska has decriminalized possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis.
Individuals in Nebraska who are found to be in possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana will face a citation of up to $US300 and will be required to attend a drug education course, according to FindLaw. Subsequent violations will result in steeper fines and up to a week in prison.
The sale of any amount of cannabis is still considered a felony and is punishable by a mandatory minimum prison term of between 1 and 20 years, as well as up to $US20,000 in penalties. Selling to a minor will result in a mandatory 3-year prison term and up to 50 years if the sale occurred within a school zone.
Both recreational and medical marijuana are legal in Nevada.
Adults over the age of 21 are legally allowed to possess and use recreational marijuana in Nevada. Individuals over the age of 18 are permitted to use a valid medical marijuana card to purchase cannabis legally in Nevada.
Adults can purchase up to 1 ounce of cannabis flower or 0.125 ounces of concentrate in a single transaction. Many dispensaries in Nevada offer both recreational and medical marijuana.
Consumption of cannabis in any form is prohibited in all public or federal spaces. Anyone caught violating this law can face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $US1,000. Exporting or driving under the influence of marijuana are both crimes punishable by jail time and fines. Anyone in a vehicle with marijuana must keep the substance in a sealed container away from the driver.
Cultivation of marijuana is banned within 25 miles of any dispensary in Nevada.
New Hampshire has decriminalized up to 0.75 ounces of marijuana.
In New Hampshire, possession of up to 0.75 of marijuana is punishable by a fine of up to $US100 for first or second offenses. Fines become steeper for subsequent offenses. Being caught with more than 0.75 ounces of cannabis may result in prison time of up to one year and a fine of no more than $US350.
Possession of fewer than 5 grams of hash or concentrate is punishable by a fine of up to $US100, and possession of more than 5 grams may incur prison time of up to a year and a fine of up to $US350.
Possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana has been decriminalized in New York.
In New York, possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is punishable by a fine of up to $US100 and no jail time for the first offence. The fine increases with subsequent offenses. Possession of between 25 grams and 2 ounces of cannabis is punishable by up to three months in jail and a $US500 fine. There is a mandatory prison sentence of 1-4 years for possession of 8-16 ounces on the second offence.
North Carolina has decriminalized the possession of less than 0.5 ounces of marijuana.
According to FindLaw, North Carolina classifies possession of less than 0.5 ounces of marijuana as a low-level misdemeanour with no possibility of jail time for most offenses, though the violation is punishable by a fine of not more than $US200. Possession of 0.5-1.5 ounces is punishable by 1-45 days in jail and a $US1,000 fine. Possession of any amount of cannabis over 1.5 ounces is considered a felony and will result in 3-8 months in jail, as well as a $US1,000 fine.
Ohio has decriminalized possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana.
Ohio classifies possession of fewer than 20 grams of marijuana as a low-level misdemeanour with no possibility of jail time for most first-time offenses. Possession of more than 200 grams of marijuana is deemed a felony, and possession of more than 5,000 grams will generally incur a prison term.
The sale of any amount of marijuana is considered a felony and will incur even stricture penalties if the cannabis is sold within 1,000 feet of a school or 100 feet of a juvenile.
Oregon has legalised recreational marijuana.
As of July 2015, people over the age of 21 in Oregon have been permitted to carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana on their person and keep up to 8 ounces in their homes. Oregonians are also allowed to grow up to four plants on their property and be in possession of up to 10 marijuana seeds.
The use of any kind of cannabis product is not permitted in public or on federal land. Driving while under the influence of marijuana is illegal, as is exporting the substance to other states.
Rhode Island has decriminalized possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana.
According to FindLaw, possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana by a person 18 years old or older in Rhode Island is a civil violation that is punishable by a $US150 fine, without jail time or a criminal record. Possession of more than 1 ounce but less than 1 kilogram may incur a penalty of up to a year in prison and a $US500 fine.
Vermont has legalised possession of up to 1 ounce of recreational marijuana.
Adults over the age of 21 in Vermont may possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis or two mature marijuana plants. They may also keep up to four immature plants in addition to the two mature plants. Those found in possession of 1-2 ounces of marijuana or 5-7 immature plants will need to either participate in a drug education program or spend up to six months in jail and pay up to $US500 in fines. Subsequent offenses or the possession of more than 2 ounces of marijuana are punishable by 2-15 years in prison.
The private sale of any amount of marijuana is illegal. Individuals are not permitted to consume cannabis in any form in public or federal spaces. Doing so will incur fines of $US100-$US500.
Washington has legalised possession of marijuana.
Adults over the age of 21 may keep up to 1 ounce of marijuana flower on their person. The limit of concentrates is 7 ounces. Growing marijuana at home is illegal and punishable by a fine of up to $US10,000 and five years in jail.
Consumption of cannabis in any form is illegal in public or on federal land. Driving while high or transporting cannabis over the state border is also prohibited.
Marijuana is legal in Washington D.C.
In November 2014, residents in the nation’s capital voted overwhelmingly to legalise marijuana for adult use.
The bill took effect in 2015, allowing people to possess 2 ounces or less of marijuana and “gift” up to an ounce if neither money nor goods or services are exchanged.
It is still illegal to use marijuana in any public space.
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