Do Some Localities Still Have Severe Marijuana Penalties?

Marijuana has always been a popular substance worldwide – so popular that most countries eventually established laws against its use. In America, the use of marijuana has been illegal under federal law for many years; the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 labeled marijuana as an abusive drug without medical use. The use, possession, and cultivation of this plant are all punishable with penalties including, but not limited to, fines and imprisonment. Offenders can be charged with either felonies or misdemeanors.

Over time, more and more people have recognized the medical benefits of marijuana use. At first, marijuana could only be used in America for FDA-approved research programs. Over time, though, pressure for legalization of medical cannabis use and sale grew so large that a number of states passed laws to allow for a carefully controlled medical marijuana industry to develop. In a few states, recreational use has been legalized as well.

However, nearly half of all states still have no laws allowing the use or sale of cannabis in any form for personal use – and in those states, localities are free to institute their own penalties. Some are quite severe, with imprisonment for simple possession still a very common penalty in strict states. Additionally, federal law still bans the use or sale of cannabis, making for a very tricky legal landscape.

Which States Consider Marijuana Use Legal?

Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and Washington allow the use, sale, and possession of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. More than 20 other states have legalized cannabis (to some degree) for medicinal purposes. The District of Columbia allows the use of marijuana but not the sale of the drug and Native American reservations are exempted from the marijuana restriction due to cultural reasons. In those states, there are no local penalties as long as the restrictions contained in state laws are obeyed.

A number of other states are due to consider full legalization in the next few years, and in those states the tricky situation of recreational users “skirting” the law with questionable medical prescriptions will be resolved. Until then, however, it’s always possible that a person without a valid medical reason to use marijuana could be subject to local penalties.