Understanding State Laws Regarding Marijuana Legalization

Federal laws are important when it comes to the possession, use, and sale of marijuana. Yet, the difference in the State laws is arguably more important. There are some big differences in attitudes and legalization of weed from one state to the next. This means that someone can act within the law in one town, and then break the law a few miles down the road across the State line.

It is important that marijuana users understand these laws. Not only is it vital for their state of residence, but it also helps for those traveling between state boundaries. Some have full legalization, although with many controls and rules. Others limit these options to medical marijuana, not recreational. Even then, some states prohibit certain forms of marijuana-based medication.

This Guide Highlights The State Laws Into Key Areas:

  • States where marijuana use is completely prohibited
  • States where marijuana use is legal – for recreational and medicinal purposes
  • States where medicinal marijuana only is now legal
  • States with stricter rules on medicinal products – like CBD oil
  • States working on some decriminalization to improve legislation

Where Is Marijuana Use Still Completely Banned?

Marijuana Laws

The first thing to look at here is the states with full marijuana prohibition. These are the states where there are no new rules for a certain product. Instead, these are states with full criminal charges. Some would argue that these states are behind the times. The tide is turning in favor of some decriminalization at least. Still, a few states remain where weed-lovers need to watch their behavior.

They are as follows:

  • Idaho ensures possession of 3 ounces or less, for personal use, is still a misdemeanor. This means the risk of a one-year prison sentence or $1,000 fine. The risks grow as the quantity grows. Anything more than 3 ounces, but less than a pound, becomes a felony. Here the punishment is five years imprisonment or a fine as much as $10,000 or both.
  • Kansas still has a misdemeanor charge of possession, with no caveats. Marijuana is still illegal here and has been since probation in 1927 and little chance.
  • South Dakota lawmakers are equally unforgiving. Possession of anything up to a minimal 2 ounces classes as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The maximum sentence here is one-year imprisonment and a $2,000 fine. The risks increase with repeat offenses.

What About The Legalization Of Marijuana – Both Recreational And Medicinal

Then there is the other side of the coin. Some states loosen laws completely to allow for the regulated use of cannabis. Users see this in both recreational and medicinal forms. This means that users can obtain small quantities of the drug from an approved source. There are still penalties for breaking the law with possession beyond these strict figures, dealing and selling.

Jurisdictions With Legalized Cannabis In Both Forms Include The Following:

  • California legalized recreational possession with Proposition 64 in November 2016. This “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” passed by a majority of 57% to 43%. It allows for the sale and distribution of dry and concentrated with up one ounce of cannabis for recreational use. Users can also grow up to six live plants individually.
  • Colorado‘s Amendment 64 took place four years prior. It allows for possession of up to 28grams marijuana for recreational use and the cultivation of six plants.
  • Alaska went for a similar approach with Measure 2 in November 2014. again, this means possession of 28 grams, but up to 12 plants in a household with two adults over 21.
  • Maine has been steadily decriminalizing and legalizing since 1976. Medical became legal in 1999 and recreational in 2016, with up to 71 grams and six individual plants.
  • Massachusetts legalized 28 gram and six plants via Question 4 with a majority of 54 %.
  • The Washington Initiative 502 of 2012 brought in state licenses for all sellers, distributors, and producers. Possession of one ounce also permitted for those over 21.
  • Nevada voted Yes on Question 9 in November 2000 with 65% favoring legalization of medicinal marijuana. This upgrade on November 8, 2016, when they legalized recreational marijuana by 54% of the vote.
  • Oregon passed Measure 91 in 2014 to ensure regulated legal possession. Further reforms appeared on July 1, 2015. It seems that Oregon is one of many states looking to improve their laws.

The legalization of medical marijuana across the US.

There are now many states allowing legal medicinal use – on prescription – but not recreational. This is still a difficult ground with different laws and issues to consider. Legalization doesn’t mean there aren’t possession charges. There is a chance that some may carry more than allowed, or without adequate paperwork.

For example:

  • Montana has some legalization of medicinal marijuana. Possession over 60 grams is still a felony with the risk of 5 years imprisonment, a fine up to $50,000 or both.
  • Pennsylvania also has some medical legalization with a prescription. Here the possession of 30g or fewer classes as a misdemeanor. This could result in a 30-day prison sentence and up to $500 in fines.
  • Louisiana legalized medical cannabis in 2015
  • Minnesota legalized medicinal marijuana in 2014
  • Arizona legalized medical marijuana via Prop 203 in2010. It is interesting that this was marginal with 50.13% of the vote.
  • Michigan did so even earlier in 2008
  • New Mexico approved the act in 2007

The legalization of medicinal marijuana has steadily rolled out across the US. Some were faster to approve it than others, with a snowball effect in place.  Many of the recent changes to medicinal marijuana laws occurred in November 2016. States added propositions besides the Presidential ballot.

This resulted in the following changes.

  • Florida legalized medical marijuana by a majority of 71% via Amendment 2.
  • Arkansas voters passed Issue 6 by 53%
  • North Dakota saw the passing of Measure 5 by 64%.
  • West Virginia passed the “Compassionate Use Act for Medical Cannabis. This meant improved permissions on medical substances.
  • Ohio was the anomaly of 2016, passing legislation legalizing marijuana for medical use in June of that year.

Legalization of CBD Oil Only

Marijuana Use

Some states are a little more cautious when it comes to medicinal marijuana. The following only allow for the use of CBD oil, not any substance that users can smoke. This is usually permitted when there is a prescription for a specific illness. CBD oil is not something users can buy over the counter for pain management or other self-medication.

  • Georgia officials passed a law on April 16, 2015, for medicinal use non-psychoactive Marijuana oil.
  • Texas officials brought in-laws on medicinal non-psychoactive CBD a little later, in June of 2015
  • Indiana users enjoy medical use of non-psychoactive CBD oil, but only in the treatment of epilepsy.
  • Iowa and Kentucky both legalized CBD in 2014
  • Alabama, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Virginia now permit the medical use of non-psychoactive CBD oil. There are felony charges otherwise.
  • Utah is a little broader. Here they permit a range of extracts from a cannabis plant, as long as it composes of less than 0.3% of THC by weight
  • New York is also a little more open with their Compassionate Care Act. This permits the use of ingestable cannabis with oils, pills, or vaping systems. However, the law does not allow for typical marijuana smoking.

Many states with CBD laws tend to focus on epilepsy, especially with children.

There are strict rules with medicinal marijuana in several states. There CBD prescriptions are only granted in rare situations. Several states seem to still be against the use of marijuana in any form but compromise on epilepsy and pediatric issues.

  • Oklahoma passed a bill in 2015 legalizing the use of cannabis oils for children with epilepsy
  • South Carolina now he “Julian’s Law” for the same purpose. An interesting detail here is that the bill passed with a unanimous Senate vote and a 92–5 House vote. Many other marijuana bills are a lot tighter.
  • Tennessee legalized Non-psychoactive CBD oil possession on May 4, 2015. The slight difference here is that this extends to all those suffering seizures or epilepsy – with a prescription.

In some cases, states were more open and voted to improve current medicinal marijuana laws with expansions.

The cases with the CBD oil suggest a turning of the tide in some conservative states. Yet, the issue of oil and childhood epilepsy still signals a reluctance. Other states had some legalization in place and then worked to expand opportunities.

  • Hawaii is a great example of a state with ongoing improvements. In July 2015 the Governor of Hawaii legalized medical cannabis dispensaries. A year later he announced an expansion of the medical cannabis program. More could occur as time goes by.
  • New Jersey brought in some interesting new clauses in 2016. The expanded the state’s medical marijuana law with the Assembly Bill 457 (A457) in January. This means that PTSD is now on the list of conditions where medical marijuana may be permissible.
  • New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana back in 2015 via HB 573. A year later, their governor expanded the medical marijuana law further. This appears to be another work in progress.
  • Delaware approved the expansion in 2016 via House Bill 400. This allowed for medical cannabis programs for people with terminal illnesses.

What about the rest of the US?

Finally, there are those other states with other changes in decriminalization. The rest of the states not yet mentioned have altered their laws in some way.

  • Nebraska decriminalized possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. They treat it as a civil infraction, but only for the first offense.
  • Missouri downgraded to a misdemeanor for possession charges, with legal CBD oil.
  • Rhode Island now states that possession of an ounce or less is no more than a civil violation. It can incur a $150 fine. Three violations within 18 months is then a misdemeanor.
  • North Carolina approved the use of CBD in 2015 and decriminalized possession up to 5oz.
  • Mississippi decriminalized possession and approved CBD in 2014.
  • Maryland brought in reform legislation in 2014. SB 364 decriminalized possession up to 10 grams. HB 881 legalized the production, possession, and sale of medicinal marijuana.
  • Connecticut is a little stricter, with felony charges on sales and cultivation unless medical. The possession of less than one-half ounce means fines and seizure of contraband.
  • Florida allows medical marijuana, but things are on hold for recreational/leisure use of cannabis.

Future Marijuana Laws And Prohibition in the US

Marijuana Laws

There is a continual cycle of change and adaptation with these marijuana drug laws. There is a pattern from prohibition to some decriminalization. Then relaxed medicinal marijuana laws to legalization. There are states with basic laws favoring just CBD oil that may upgrade to all medicinal product in the future. ‘

There are states that approve full medicinal legalization that sign off on recreational laws too. This means that this list will become out of date in a few years, or maybe less. That is why it is important to stay on top of developments.

For example, the remaining states not yet mentioned are something of work in progress:

  • Illinois saw a proposal on March 22, 2017, for the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state. This would amount to possession of up to 28 grams and cultivation of five plants. Future bills could see this approved.
  • Vermont has also tried to change its laws in the past. A bill passed on June 6, 2013, to end prohibition with full legalization of recreational cannabis. This failed at the conference committee. Recent changes in other states could spark another attempt.

This adaptable, complex situation means that marijuana users need to stay on top of new laws and legislation.

There are lots of different elements of marijuana drug law to consider. Possession charges alter depending on circumstance. There are other issues with cultivation and intent to supply.

The differences between state lines complicate matters further. A change in public opinion means rapid alterations to the law. Many states now welcome marijuana a little more, especially when medicinal. The list of states legalizing recreational marijuana is sure to grow. Users can’t get complacent about improved attitudes and access. There are still limitations and misdemeanor charges across the US.

It pays to check the laws and act smart in any new state.

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