Both Washington State House and Senate are advancing bills to raise the smoking age to 21, while at the same time are finishing up voting on a bill already passed by the House that would require schools to allow some students under 18 to use marijuana on the premises.
People who like to do their own research will visit sites with primary sources, not simply trust the articles floating around online, and people who really like to do their own research on state laws will go directly to the states’ legislation pages. So what happens when they all say something different?
As more laws are passed it gets easier to add more and more fines onto the original offense without much notice. Case in point – one week ago on March 24th, 2017 the Governor of Tennessee signed a law which effectively increased the maximum fine for possessing less than a half ounce of marijuana by 10%, doubling the minimum fine at the same time.
Someone loses gun rights for a first DUI in Massachusetts, but can possess pounds of marijuana without facing this risk. Yet in Arizona one can basically never lose your gun rights for a simple DUI no matter how habitually convicted, while possession of any amount of marijuana there will trigger this loss.
Bringing marijuana through airport security and onto commercial aircraft seems to be extremely risky business. The penalty for bringing between four and 14 grams of marijuana into Georgia is a mandatory minimum term of 5 years in jail and a fine of $50,000. This can be a terrifying prospect to the average high flying marijuana tourist. But Georgia doesn’t search fliers after they land at their destination and are headed out of the airport so what is the penalty for someone caught with the substance before they fly there?
An initiative in Denver which passed with about 53% support on Election Day will allow for the public consumption of cannabis in designated consumption areas between 7:00am and 2:00am the following day, unless further restricted in a given neighborhood
There are now multiple stretches in the US where merely taking a step in any given direction can mean the difference between possessing a felony quantity of marijuana and being fully within the confines of the law. Knowing the laws of those states is more important than ever.
This week Illinois becomes the twenty-first state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Under the new statute, possessing up to ten grams of marijuana is no longer a misdemeanor and only punishable by a fine between $100 and $200. Because it has become a civil offense it also means offenders will not have their citation added to their criminal record.
This new law is a drastic change from the old statute. Before, under 720 ILCS 550/4, having up to 2.5 grams or less of marijuana was punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine up to $1,500, while having between 2.5 and 10 grams was punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine up to $1,500. Now, admitting you have marijuana no longer results in a trip to the local jail, and the fine has been drastically reduced as well.
Having over 10 grams, however, is a different story. Possession of between 10 and 30 grams of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500. Subsequent offenses or possessing more than 30 grams is a Class 4 felony which can result in up to 3 years in jail. Residents of Illinois should make sure if they are in possession of marijuana that they do not exceed the 10 gram limit.
Neighboring Kentucky has not decriminalized marijuana but has stark differences in the amounts they consider felonious. Possessing up to 8 ounces of marijuana is only a misdemeanor punishable by up to 45 days in jail and a fine up to $250. Those same 8 ounces in Illinois could result in between 2 and 5 years in jail along with a fine upwards of $25,000. In contrast, in Wisconsin and Iowa, also neighboring states of Illinois, having any amount of marijuana can be punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
Illinois is on an ever growing list of states to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Delaware decriminalized possessing up to one ounce of marijuana last December. Although Missouri was the 19th state to decriminalize small amounts, their law does not take effect until January 2017. California, which originally decriminalized marijuana in 1975, votes again this November on whether or not to legalize possession and production of marijuana. With Nevada and Maine also voting on marijuana legalization this voting cycle, more states than ever are considering cannabis law reform.
What is clear is that the legal landscape surrounding marijuana is constantly changing. While the Drug Enforcement Agency considers marijuana a schedule 1 drug, making possession of marijuana illegal under federal law, states are taking the first step in trying to change the myriad of laws surrounding marijuana. With breakthroughs in medical science concerning the applications of cannabis, marijuana reform laws have been gaining traction throughout many states, and soon states that criminalize small amounts of marijuana will be in the minority. Marijuana prohibition has lasted for almost a century, and through proper regulation and taxation may end within our lifetime.
Adults over the age of 21 can legally buy and possess up to two ounces of marijuana and give another person of legal age up to an ounce in Washington, DC. However, nine months before the November 2014 election which created the new policy of legalization, decriminalization laws were passed which made the possession of up to one ounce a violation with a $25 fine which are still in force. Thus, DC currently has an interesting system where it is legal to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, but unless you have at least an ounce you can still get fined.