What might not warrant a second look from cops in one state, could get you arrested in others. The laws regarding possession of marijuana are in a state of flux in this country, so knowing the laws where you are is crucial should you decide to have marijuana on you at any given time.
In just about every state, people are pushing for some level of marijuana reform, whether it’s complete legalization, decriminalization, or laws that will allow the medical use of cannabis. Marijuana is a hot-button issue and support for its availability is at an all-time high.
A bid to legalize recreational marijuana fell short in California in 2010 after many believed they would be the first to allow people to have their pot and smoke it too. But in 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington pushed their similar ballot efforts over the edge, becoming the first to legalize recreational marijuana use and possession. Both now allow adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana without fear of arrest.
In other states, however, things aren’t so simple.
No matter where you are, possession of marijuana is against federal law. This means, federal agents could arrest you for a joint, even if you are in states like Colorado and Washington where recreational pot has been legalized. As of yet, however, the feds aren’t chasing down small-time pot smokers and are instead focusing on dispensaries and state-sponsored growers. Still, it’s important that you know, when you light up, you are breaking federal law and you open yourself to the possibility of federal charges.
State laws are where the treatment of marijuana gets complex. Where you are, how much pot you are caught with, your criminal history, and what you plan on doing with the marijuana could all affect if you are arrested, what you are charged with, and the penalty you face.
As we mentioned before, two states have legalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, those states are:
Several other states have decriminalized possession of marijuana. This means you will likely face a ticket for possession of pot, not arrest or jail time. In other words, it’s treated similarly to speeding. The states that have decriminalized marijuana possession include:
- New York
- North Carolina
In all other states, things vary widely. Most consider possession of pot a misdemeanor charge. This means you could technically serve up to 1 year in jail for a conviction. Rarely, however, does that happen, particularly on a first offense.
Instead, the laws are designed to give first-time offenders a sort of break. Just how you are afforded this “break” is dependent, of course, on the state you are charged in. Most are referred to as “diversion” programs like deferred prosecution.
In these cases, you may be required to serve a short period of probation or to comply with certain orders of the court. If successful, the charges are dropped and you can carry on with your life.
However, if this isn’t your first offense, the chances are greater that you may have to serve some jail time.
For more information on the specific marijuana laws of your state, review our state-by-state guides.
Regardless of where you are, if you are arrested for marijuana possession, a criminal defense attorney may be able to help minimize the repercussions by defending your rights and helping you to understand your legal options. Let us put you in touch with a local lawyer today.