Places that have decriminalized non-medical cannabis in the United States

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Multiple places have decriminalized non-medical cannabis in the United States; however, cannabis is illegal under federal law. Gonzales v. Raich (2005) held in a 6-3 decision that the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution allowed the federal government to ban the use of cannabis, including medical use even if local laws allow it. Most places that have decriminalized cannabis have civil fines, drug education, or drug treatment in place of incarceration and/or criminal charges for possession of small amounts of cannabis, or have made various cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement.


United States non-medical cannabis decriminalization laws.
  State-level but not federal decriminalization of non-medical cannabis
  No federal or state level decriminalization of non-medical cannabis


In 1975, Alaska removed all penalties for possession of cannabis under 28.349 grams (one ounce) in one's residence or home. Sale of less than 28.349 grams is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $5,000 fine;[1] at the time, in most states sale of less than 28.349 grams was a felony offense.

With the 1975 Ravin v. State decision, the Alaska Supreme Court declared the state's anti-drug law unconstitutional with respect to possession of small amounts of cannabis, holding that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution of Alaska outweighed the state's interest in banning the drug.[2] Ravin continues to be followed since the Alaska constitution has not been amended to prohibit, or permit the prohibition of, less than 28.349 grams of cannabis, an anti-cannabis initiative passed in 1990 and an anti-cannabis piece of legislation passed in 2006 remain inoperative.[3][4][5] This allows possession of fewer than 25 plants in one's residence or home. The sale or delivery of marijuana is still considered a crime.[1]


Cannabis is not decriminalized on a statewide basis.

On November 7, 2006, Eureka Springs, Arkansas passed "Cannabis as Low Police Priority" Initiative by 62-38 percent. The ordinance directs local law enforcement to issue a summons in lieu of a criminal arrest for adults age 18 and over to be found in possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and/or cannabis paraphernalia.[6] Cannabis offenses will be punished by a fine, community service, or drug counseling and education, but will not be punishable by arrest.[7]

On January 78[7 or 8?], 2012, the city of Fayetteville made possession of less than one ounce the lowest priority for local law enforcement.

UPDATE: 1 Sep 2011 02Arkansas: Lawmakers Enact Sentencing Reform Measures, Reduce Pot Possession Penalties[citation needed] Posted in News

Little Rock, AR–(ENEWSPF)–September 2, 2011. Criminal sentencing reform legislation passed by lawmakers earlier this year is now in effect. Senate Bill 750, the Public Safety Improvement Act, intends to reduce the number of non-violent offenders incarcerated statewide by mitigating the sentences for certain low-level drug offenses.

Democrat Gov. Mike Beebe, who strongly backed the measure, signed it into law on March 22, 2011. The law took effect on July 27.

Specific to marijuana law enforcement, the measure amends cannabis penalties so that the possession of up to four ounces of pot is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one-year in jail and a $1,000 fine. For first-time offenders, the new law states, “[T]he court, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the defendant, may defer further proceedings and place the defendant on probation for a period of not less than one year.”

Under the previous law, the possession of any amount of cannabis above one ounce was a felony offense punishable by between four and ten years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.

The new law additionally reduces criminal penalties for the possession of small quantities of marijuana ‘with the intent to deliver’ from a felony offense to a misdemeanor. The law also reduces subsequent marijuana possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Previously, second and third pot possession offenses were categorized as felonies.

Defendants found guilty of violating the state’s marijuana laws will still be subject to the loss of their driver’s license for six-months.



On January 1, 1975, Senate Bill 95[8] made possession under one ounce of cannabis for non-medical use punishable by a $100 fine; stricter punishments exist for amounts exceeding an ounce, possession on school grounds, or subsequent violations or for sale or cultivation. If the offender is under the age of 21, his or her driver's license may be suspended for up to one year.[9]

On November 7, 2000, Proposition 36 was passed by 61-39 percent. The proposition allowed first and second time non-violent simple drug possession offenders the option to receive drug treatment and legal probation instead of incarceration.[10]

On February 23, 2009, Assembly Bill No. 390 - California: Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act was introduced by California State Assembly member Tom Ammiano, a Democrat representing California's 13th State Assembly district.[11] The passing of this bill would legalize marijuana in California. This bill would also tax and regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana. The state's tax collectors estimate the measure would bring in about $1.3 billion in new revenues a year plus cost savings from prisons.[12]

On September 30, 2010, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law S.B. 1449, a bill that decriminalizes the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. The bill reduces simple possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction. This would eliminate the need to appear in front of a court and would treat possession of less than 28.5 grams like a traffic ticket, punishable by $100.[13]


In April 1973, Berkeley passed The Marijuana Ordinace I (BMI I), which forbid law enforcement from arresting persons for cannabis related crimes unless cleared by the City Council. In the case Younger v. Berkeley City Council, an Alameda County Superior Court Judge Lionel Wilson struck down BMI I because it violated city code that states the City Manager has discretion over police personnel.[14]

In 1979, Berkeley passed The Marijuana Ordinance II (BMI II), which made the enforcement of cannabis laws—including cultivation, sale, and transport—-the lowest priority for law enforcement, banned the expenditure of funds for enforcement of cannabis statutes, allowed residents to grow cannabis and report any theft of cannabis plants to law enforcement, and directed the City Council to lobby in favor of the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis.[14][15][16]

In 2000, Mendocino County became the first county in the United States to repeal any type of punishment for non-medical personal use of cannabis when Measure G passed, by a vote of 58-42 percent. The Green Party-sponsored Measure G[17] provides protection from law enforcement for persons possessing no more than 25 adult female flowering cannabis plants or the equivalent in dried cannabis.[18] This measure was however modified in 2008 by Measure B by 52-48 percent.[19]

On November 3, 2004, Oakland passed Proposition Z, by a vote of 65-35 percent. Proposition Z made personal adult use, distribution, sale, cultivation, and possession of non-medical cannabis, the lowest priority for law enforcement. Proposition Z will allow the licensing, taxing, and regulation of cannabis sales if California law is amended to allow so. The proposition states the city of Oakland must advocate to the state of California to adopt laws to regulate and tax cannabis.[20]

On November 7, 2006, Santa Barbara, passed Measure P, by a vote of 66-34 percent. Measure P made non-medical cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement; this does not apply to the cultivation, distribution, sale, public use, or driving under the influence.[21]

On November 7, 2006, Santa Cruz passed Measure K, by a vote of 64-36 percent. Measure K made adult non-medical cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement; this does not apply to cultivation, distribution, sale in public, sale to minors, or driving under the influence.[22][23] The measure requests the Santa Cruz city clerk send letters annually to state and federal representatives advocating reform of cannabis laws.[24]

In 2006, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a cannabis ordinance, by a vote of 8-3. This ordinance made adult cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement; this does not apply to the sale in a public place or driving under the influence. The ordinance states that the San Francisco government will urge state and federal authorities to enact similar laws.[25]

On November 7, 2006, Santa Monica passed Measure Y, by a vote of 65-35 percent. Measure Y made cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement. The measure states the city clerk of Santa Monica will encourage state and federal authorities to adopt similar laws.[26]

In 2006, West Hollywood City Council passed a cannabis resolution, by a vote of 4-0, which made West Hollywood the first city in Southern California to adopt a lowest law enforcement priority law for cannabis offenses. The resolution stated "it is not the policy of the City or its law enforcement agency to target possession of small amounts of cannabis and the consumption of non-medical cannabis in private by adults".[27][28][29]


In 1975, Colorado made possession under a one ounce of cannabis a petty offense punishable by a $100 fine; stricter punishments exist for possession over an ounce, sale, cultivation, or use or display in public.[30]

In the November 2000 general election, Coloradans passed Amendment 20, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) was tasked with implementing and administering the Medical Marijuana Registry program. In March 2001, the State of Colorado Board of Health approved the Rules and Regulations pertaining to the administration of the program, and on June 1, 2001, the Registry began accepting and processing applications for Registry Identification cards. For years, patients could get small amounts of medical marijuana from "caregivers," the term used for growers and dispensers who could each supply only five patients. However, in 2007, a court lifted that limit and thus began what Coloradoans are referring to as the "Green Rush"--a medical marijuana business boom. Between 2000 and 2008, the state issued only about 2,000 medical marijuana cards to patients. By 2009, that number skyrocketed to more than 60,000 due to the unlimited amount of patients the dispensaries are now able to provide care for.

On November 1, 2005, Denver passed the Denver Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative, by a vote of 54-46 percent. This initiative repealed municipal penalties for possession of one ounce of cannabis, but only for persons age 21 and older. However, this conflicts with state law, so police can still arrest for possession of cannabis because Colorado state and federal penalties remain in effect.[31] For more info see Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation.

On November 7, 2007, Denver passed an initiative to make cannabis the "lowest law enforcement priority". This was the third cannabis initiative sponsored by Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation.[32] However, officials seemed to disregard the "lowest law enforcement priority" law and arrests increased the following years.

On November 2, 2009, in the Summit County elections, the voters of Breckenridge approved Question 2F, decriminalizing possession of 1 oz. or less of marijuana and related paraphernalia for persons 21 years of age or older. [33]


In June 2011, the state decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Offenders pay a $150 fine for a first offense and a fine ranging from $200 to $500 for subsequent offenses. Those younger than 21 face a 60-day driver's license suspension. Paraphernalia has also been decriminalized as long as the person possesses under 1/2 ounce of marijuana. Offenders may still be arrested for under a 1/2 ounce or a pipe if you are in a school zone and there is a MMS (mandatory minimum sentence) of 3 years. There is also a MMS of 3 years for sale to a minor. [34]


On November 4, 2008 Hawai’i County voters passed Ballot Question 1, the Lowest Law Enforcement Priority of Cannabis Ordinance, by 53.1% to 38.6% (with 8.3% blank votes). The law is now known as Chapter 14 Article 16 of the Hawai’i County Code and makes cannabis the lowest priority for Hawai’i County Police and Prosecutors. Under this ordinance, adults over the age of 21 may cultivate and possess up to 24 plants or 24 ounces of dried material on private property. The law makes it illegal for Hawai’i County to accept any funds for marijuana eradication programs. It also prohibits County Law Enforcement officials from being deputized or commissioned by Federal agencies for any activity that is inconsistent with the ordinance.[35][36]


Cannabis is not decriminalized on a statewide basis.

In March 2004, Carbondale, Illinois passed an ordinance which reduced the punishment for possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis or cannabis paraphernalia to a minimum fine of $250 in lieu of incarceration.[37]

In late 2009, Cook County, Illinois (which includes the city of Chicago and adjacent suburbs) also decriminalized cannabis possession of less than 10 grams or cannabis paraphernalia to a $200 minimum fine for unincorporated areas and forest preserves as of 2009.

In February 2009, the city of Springfield, Illinois passed an ordinance allowing possession of marijuana under 2.5 grams to per charged as an ordinance violation instead of as a crime.

In early 2010, the city of Urbana, Illinois decriminalized marijuana.

For the last ten years Sugar Grove, IL has had a similar decriminalization policy.

In January 2012, the city of Evanston, Illinois decriminalized possession of 10 grams of marijuana or less with a city fine ranging from $50-$500.

On June 27th 2012, the city of Chicago, Illinois decriminalized possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less with a city fine ranging from $250-500. The ordinance was passed in a 43-3 vote.


Cannabis is not decriminalized on a statewide basis.

In 2006, the city of Lawrence, Kansas passed an ordinance imposing fines, mandatory treatment and potential jail time for cannabis possession.


In early 2011, the port city of New Orleans, Louisiana decriminalized possession of marijuana. The City Council passed ordinance in the previous months making possession of small amounts of cannabis no longer a criminal offense, so the police could focus on apprehending more violent criminals. Newly elected Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas was quoted as saying the change was "not being soft on crime but smart on crime." [38]


Decriminalized- Possession of less than 2.5 oz is a civil violation, punishable by a fine of $200-600. Subsequent violations within 6 months results in an additional $550 fine.

Possession of 2.5 oz or more is a ‘prima facie’ case (i.e., the amount itself implies intention) for intent to distribute.

Cultivation of 5 plants or less is a class E misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Cultivation of 5-100 plants is a class D misdemeanor, punishable by 1 year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Cultivation of 100-500 is a class C felony, punishable by 5 years in prison and a $5,000.

Cultivation of more than 500 plants is a class B felony, punishable by 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Distribution of 1lb or less is a class D misdemeanor, punishable by 1 year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Distribution of 1-20lbs is a class C felony, punishable by 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Distribution of 20lbs or more is a class B felony, punishable by 10 years in prison and a $20,000.

Selling any amount to a minor or within 1,000 feet of a school or of a school bus is a class C felony, punishable by 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Possession and use of paraphernalia is a civil violation, punishable by a $300 fine, no criminal charges.

Selling paraphernalia is a misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Selling paraphernalia to a minor is a misdemeanor, punishable by 1 year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Upon conviction, the court can, but does not automatically, suspend or revoke the offender’s driver’s license.

Medical Program? – Yes.


On March 28, 2000, Amherst passed a non-binding referendum by a vote of 63-37 percent. The referendum "deprioritized" adult possession of cannabis and urged "the members of the Selectboard and the Town Manager to persuade our state representative, state senator, U.S. representative and U.S. senators to repeal the prohibition of cannabis".[8]

On February 16, 2006, The Herald News reported that the Joint Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee of the Massachusetts General Court voted 6-1 in favor of a bill that would have made possession of less than an ounce of cannabis a civil fine of $250.[39]

On November 4, 2008, state voters approved to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Any person caught with less than an ounce of marijuana, hash, hash oil, or smoking in public is punishable by a civil fine of $100. The new law took effect in January 2009. Since the law has taken effect, towns have amended the law, making it a more major fine for being caught smoking in public.[40]


Cannabis is not decriminalized on a statewide basis for non-medicial purposes, but with the November 2008 election, Proposal 1 was passed by a majority of voters allowing medical marijuana to be cultivated, possessed, and used by individuals who apply for and receive a state ID issued on the basis of one of an enumerated list of chronic medical conditions.[citation needed] As of August 2012 according to LARA, the state license agent for medical use, has issued over 220,000 license.

In Ann Arbor, since a 1974 voter referendum, cannabis possession, control, use, and giving away or selling in the city has been subject merely to a small civil-infraction fine.[41] City police charge violators under the local law rather than under the far stricter state laws. The amount of the fine has been altered in subsequent referenda, and as of 2008 stands at $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense, and $100 for the third and subsequent offenses. In 2004, Ann Arbor voters reaffirmed the civil-infraction penalty, passing Proposal C, by a vote of 75-25 percent. The measure capped penalties for the third offense and subsequent offenses at $100.[42]


Possession and sale of less than 42.5 grams (1.5 ounces) of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by a $200 fine and possible drug education; stricter punishments exist for possession of more than 1.4 grams (0.049 ounces) in a motor vehicle, unless kept in the trunk, driving under the influence, or sale to a minor.[43]


Cannabis is not decriminalized on a statewide basis in Missouri, although since 1999, as with all other drugs in Missouri, first-time cases of possession of cannabis no longer are prosecuted in ordinary state court, but rather in specialized drug courts. By law, treatment, rather than punishment, is the express object of any drug court action in Missouri.[44] Despite the drug courts, however, as it stands, simple possession of less than 35 grams of cannabis is a class-A misdemeanor in Missouri,[45] theoretically punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of $1000.

In 2004, voters in the city of Columbia passed Proposition 2 by 61-39 percent. Proposition 2 made cannabis the "lowest priority" for law enforcement, and for possession of cannabis under 35 grams (1.25 ounces) of cannabis the offense was reduced municipally to a civil fine of a maximum of $250, with no possibility of criminal retribution, arrest, or incarceration. That law has since been revised, allowing only first time offenders to escape prosecution and instead pay the fine.[46][47]


Cannabis has been decriminalized for the possession of 30 grams or less. If you have 30g or less, it is a misdemeanor with no arrest and a fine of $100-$250. If you possess 30 grams or less in a motor vehicle it is a misdemeanor with a possibility of 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine.

While the state of Mississippi has decriminalized marijuana possession of less than 30g, most local communities, counties, and municipalities maintain strict, zero tolerance ordinances regarding possession. Thousands of Mississippians are arrested each month for possession of less than 30g of marijuana.

Possession of 30 grams or more is a felony.


Cannabis is not decriminalized on a statewide basis.

On November 7, 2006, Missoula County passed Initiative 2, by a vote of 54.23-45.78 percent. Initiative 2 encouraged that adult cannabis use be the lowest priority for county law enforcement.[48]


Possession of one ounce or less a civil citation punishable by a $300 fine: stricter punishments exist for sale or subsequent offenses.[49]


In 2002, Nevada made possession of any amount of cannabis for non-medical use by persons age 21 or older punishable by a $600 fine or drug treatment; stricter punishments exist for multiple offenses, cultivation, sale, or driving under the influence. Also, for adults under age 21 and minors, possession of less than one ounce of cannabis is a class E felony, punishable by one to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5000.[50] It is unclear whether persons under age 21 convicted of cannabis crimes would lose their voting rights, since the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that persons age eighteen or older shall not be denied the right to vote on account of age, and voting rights would only be lost because the criminal is under age 21.

New York

Possession of 25 grams (0.88 ounces) or less of cannabis is a civil citation punishable by up to a $250 fine and a $100 court surcharge; stricter punishments exist for sale, cultivation, or subsequent offenses. If found in a public place with marijuana burning or in public view, offender can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined $500, and incarcerated up to 3 months.[51]

First-time offenders of all marijuana possession laws and some marijuana sale laws are, with some exception, granted an automatic marijuana adjournment of their case in contemplation of dismissal ("MACD"), meaning that if the offender commits no crimes and abides by any conditions set by the court, his or her case will be automatically dismissed after one year.[52]

North Carolina

Possession of .5 ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail (suspended sentence mandatory) and a $200 fine: possession of over .5 ounce to 1.5 ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by 1–120 days in jail (community service or probation possible) and a $500 fine: stricter punishments exist for possession of amounts over 1.5 ounces, sale, or cultivation. Sale or delivery of less than five grams, for no remuneration, is considered possession.[53]


In 1975, Ohio made possession and cultivation of less than 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cannabis and a gift of 20 grams (0.7 ounces) or less of cannabis a minor misdemeanor (same class as minor traffic violations) punishable by a $150 fine, a 6 month to 5 year drivers license suspension and a suspension of any professional licenses.[54] According to the Ohio Revised Code, although possession of less than 100 grams is only a minor misdemeanor, possession of drug paraphernalia, which may include a bowl or bong, is a misdemeanor with a maximum of 30 days in prison. Trafficking cannabis is a felony.[54]


In 1972, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis. Laws changed again in 1995 that reduced penalties. Possession of one ounce or less became legally defined as a "violation" (a crime that is considered a lesser offence than a misdemeanor) and now is punishable by a $500 to $1,000 fine that can be, in some jurisdictions, paid off by means of community service. Possession of multiple containers of any weight, or possession of more than one ounce can sometimes add the additional crime "Intent to Sell." In some cases, people who have no marijuana, but are caught at the scene of a drug bust are charged with "Frequenting." Stricter punishments exist for sale, cultivation, and proximity to schools.[55]


On April 5, 2010, Philadelphia decriminalized cannabis. Possession of 30 grams or less is punishable by a $200 fine for first time offenders and a $300 fine for all others. For possession of more than 30 grams, the punishment is unchanged. In other parts of Pennsylvania, possession of a small amount of marijuana can still result in stiff penalties, including jail time, lengthy probation terms and extensive fines.

Rhode Island

On June 13,2012, Rhode Island decriminalized cannabis. Possession of 28.34 grams or less is a penalty of law with a civil violation of $150 for most violations. The new law also dictates that three such violations within an 18 month period would be a misdemeanor with larger fines and and possible prison. The law will take effect April, 1st 2013. Harvard economist estimated that this proposal will save the state of Rhode Island up to $11 million dollars annually.

In addition, allowing law enforcement to issue a simple citation as opposed to making an arrest for marijuana possession will free up law enforcement time to prevent, investigate, and solve crimes of violence and against property. Earlier this month, the Rhode Island General Assembly overwhelming approved bills that would – for most offenses – remove the threat of jail time for the simple possession of marijuana. The companion bills – S2253/H7092 – would replace the current criminal charge for simple possession – up to a year in jail and/or up to a $500 fine – with a $150 civil offense.

Individuals under the age of 18 would be subject to the same civil violation and would also be required to attend a drug education course as well as perform community service. A third marijuana possession offense within 18 months could result in a misdemeanor conviction punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.


In theory, Texas law enforcement officers have the option of ticketing offenders in possession of less than 4 ounces (class B misdemeanor) instead of arresting. In practice, however, Travis County (Austin) is the one of the only jurisdiction that opts for this (Harris County policy follows similar suit). Most such cases get dismissed in Travis County after paying a fine, providing community service, and taking drug classes, depending on such factors as the details surrounding the arrest and the offender's criminal history.


Possession of less than 40 grams of cannabis is a misdemeanor crime in Washington state, punishable by a minimum mandatory sentence ranging from 1 to 90 days.

On February 19, 2009, SB 5615 - 2009-10 was introduced in the state legislature. The bill would have reclassified possession of forty grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a class 2 civil infraction.

The bill did not pass.

Seattle, Washington: Initiative 75, passed by the 58% of Seattle, WA voters in September of 2003, requires that "the Seattle Police Department and City Attorney’s Office shall make the investigation, arrest and prosecution of marijuana offenses, when the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the city’s lowest law enforcement priority." The ordinance subsequently adopted by the Seattle City Council to implement the new policy included provisions for the president of the city council to appoint an eleven-member Marijuana Policy Review Panel to assess and report on the effects of this ordinance.

Tacoma, Washington, municipal voters overwhelmingly favored local ballot measures to mandate that the criminal enforcement of cannabis possession offenses be law enforcement’s lowest priority. In Tacoma, 65% of voters decided in favor of Initiative 1, which states that minor marijuana offenses shall be “the lowest enforcement priority of the City of Tacoma.”


Cannabis is not decriminalized on a statewide basis.

On April 5, 1977, Madison passed Ordinance 23.20, which made possession of less than 112 grams (almost a quarter pound) of marijuana or 28 grams of cannabis legal when for personal use in a private place.[56]

On May 13, 1997, Milwaukee mayor John Norquist signed a measure into law, which made possession of less than 25 grams (0.88 ounces) of cannabis a municipal ordinance violation with a fine of $250 to $500 or imprisonment for 20 days. Although, prosecutors in Milwaukee can still charge offenders under more severe state law.[57]

See also


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External links