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Decriminalization and Legalization of Marijuana

State By Case Decriminalization and Legalization of Marijuana

At the start of this year, Colorado was the first state to implement the legal use of recreational marijuana. It is a huge milestone and an ongoing battle to make weed decriminalized and legal in the United States. While the state of Colorado has legalized marijuana, it is still a controlled substance and illegal under federal law. Therefore, a person who possesses or sells marijuana in the state of Colorado may not be prosecuted under state law, but can still be prosecuted in federal court under federal law. While there may be an influx of recreational users relocating to Colorado, there are still 48 (it is legal in Washington though not implemented yet) other states that carry the federal ban of recreational use. Are any states closer to legalizing recreational use? Some states have made some small strides through the recent years, with decriminalization and allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes prescribed by a doctor, but are any other states going to join Colorado? Let’s take a look at each state’s progress in the recent decades.

Alaska: Possession decriminalized in 1975; medical use was permitted in 1978. Full legalization may happen if a law passes this year. It would be the third state to legalize marijuana.
Alabama: No possession or use is currently legal. A bill is currently working on being passed to legalize a certain medication used to treat those with chronic medical conditions.
Arizona: Medical use for cancer patients became legal in 2010. Currently, the state is working on adding more medical conditions to the approved list that can be treated with marijuana.
California: The first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996; possession is also legal. Legalization appeared on a ballot four years ago, but it did not receive enough support to move forward.
Connecticut: Medical marijuana was legalized in 2012; possession is also decriminalized.
Washington, District of Columbia: Medical marijuana became legal in 2011. It is now decriminalized and the fine is $25.
Delaware: Medical use was legalized in 2011 and currently there is only one dispensary. The state is working on approving more.
Florida: No possession or use has been deemed legal. Residents have been working on getting approval for medical use and it is set to appear on a ballot this November, although Governor Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi are planning to vote against it.
Georgia: Currently no use is legal. However, a bill was introduced in the beginning of this year to legalize medical use for seizure disorders. It is currently on its way to the Senate for consideration.
Hawaii: Medical use was legalized in 2000, but currently there are no legal dispensaries where it can be purchased, so a license is required to allow people to grow their own. They are working on decriminalizing it as well.
Illinois: Just this year, medical marijuana was legalized and soon it will be accessible to patients. It still remains criminalized, however.
Indiana: Currently no use is legal and even possessing it has a harsh sentence. A Senator tried to introduce a bill this year to decriminalize it, but it will not be reviewed until later.
Iowa: No use is legal and even first time offenders can be sentenced to jail time and a stiff fine. Last year, a legislation was introduced to allow medical use for those with chronic pain prescribed by a doctor. Patients would be allowed to grow their own weed as well.
Louisiana: Right now, nothing is legal.
Kentucky: Nothing rated to marijuana is legal currently. Later this year, senators are trying to pass a bill that will allow cannabis oil to be used for children with epilepsy.
Kansas: Currently nothing is legal and the laws are strict on possession. A medical marijuana bill has been heard and will go to a committee for review soon.
Maine: Possession is decriminalized and medical use was legalized in 2002. The city of Portland voted to legalize recreational use in 2013, and it is expected to appear on a state ballot in 2016.
Maryland: Right now nothing is legal, but the governor has implemented a medical marijuana research program within hospitals. The “medical necessity” defense can be used in court for those charged.
Massachusetts: Marijuana was decriminalized in 2008, and medical use was allowed in 2012. Licenses have been given out to dispensaries to begin growing for medical use.
Michigan: Medical marijuana was legalized in 2008, but edibles and resin are not legalized. A bill to classify edibles as usable is waiting to be heard by legislature.
Minnesota: Small amounts were decriminalized in 2004, however the possession of two ounces comes with a stiff penalty. A bill is likely to be heard this year to allow medical marijuana use.
Mississippi: Possession is decriminalized in Mississippi, and first offenders who are caught with less than 30 grams received a $250 fine. A medical bill has tried to be introduced five times, but has been shot down.
Missouri: Nothing is legal and punishment is harsh – one gram can result in a large fine and up to a year in prison. Representatives are trying to get a bill passed to legalize medical use.
Montana: Medical marijuana was legalized in 2004, but still has a lot issues that need to be worked out. Otherwise, possession remains a criminal act carrying jail time.
Nebraska: Marijuana has been decriminalized and a first offense will land you a $300 fine with no jail time. A bill was introduced earlier this year to try to get cannibidiol legalized to help those suffering from seizures and muscle spasms.
Nevada: Medical use was legalized in 2000 and it was also decriminalized. More than 60 dispensaries are set to be open by the end of 2014.
New Hampshire: Medical marijuana was just legalized last year, but it will not be fully executed for another year.
New Jersey: Medical use was legalized in 2010, though there are few dispensaries open. A state senator has proposed a bill legalizing recreational use this year.
New Mexico: Medical marijuana was legalized in 2007. Last year, multiple bills to decriminalize it were in introduced though none were passed.
New York: Marijuana is decriminalized, though there are still many arrests relating to possession.
North Carolina: Possession of less than half an ounce is punishable by a fine of up to $200.
North Dakota: Nothing is legal and possession of even a small amount can result in as much as a year in prison plus a $2,000 fine.
Ohio: Possession is decriminalized. The state assembly is considering a constitutional amendment for medical marijuana this year.
Oklahoma: Nothing is legal. A bill was introduced in January to legalize marijuana for adults over 21 and make it state-regulated.
Oregon: The first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973. Medical use was allowed starting in 1998. Dispensaries should open for patients in late 2014.
Pennsylvania: Nothing is legal.
Rhode Island: Medical marijuana was legalized in 2006 and dispensaries were approved to open in 2009. In 2013, marijuana was decriminalized.
South Carolina:  Nothing is legal. Possession of less than an ounce is considered a misdemeanor and carries a 30-day jail sentence and a $200 fine.
South Dakota: Nothing is legal and even possessing a small amount can be punished with up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
Tennessee: Nothing is legal, and possession of as little as one gram can result in up to a year in jail.
Texas: Nothing is legal, but in January 2014, a bill was presented that would tolerate medical marijuana patients’ “medical necessity” defense.
Utah: Nothing is legal and having an ounce can equal six months in jail. Last year, legislatures discussed allowing those that suffer from seizures to use medical marijuana, but it has not yet been introduced.
Vermont: Marijuana is decriminalized and medical use was legalized in 2004.
Virginia: Nothing is legal and possession of small amounts can come with a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
Washington: Medical use was legalized in 1998 and then in 2012, it was the first state to legalize recreational use. It is still being implemented, but shops are expected to open in the summer of 2014 for recreational buying.
West Virginia: Earlier this year, a bill was presented to the legislature that would legalize medical use and set up dispensaries and places to grow. Patients would be allowed up to six ounces of weed and 12 plants should this law be put into place.
Wisconsin: Nothing is legal and having less than an ounce of weed can be reprimanded with a fine of $1000 and as much as six months in jail.
Wyoming: Nothing is legal and retaining up to an ounce can be disciplined with a fine of $1000 and as much as a year in jail. A bill was introduced earlier this year to decriminalize it, making the punishment only a $100 fine.

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Author Name
Robert L Sirianni
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