The 28 States Where a Little Pot Can Still Send You to Jail

Tomorrow New Hampshire becomes the 22nd state to eliminate that possibility.



Tomorrow New Hampshire will become the 22nd state to eliminate the possibility of jail for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Under a law passed this year, adults caught with three-quarters of an ounce or less will face a civil fine of $100 for a first offense. Possessing that amount is currently a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $2,000 and up to a year in jail.

Eight of the states that have decriminalized marijuana possession, plus the District of Columbia, have eliminated all penalties for adults 21 older who stay below the legal limit (typically an ounce outside the home). Those eight states (green on the map below) also have legalized production and distribution for recreational use.

In 14 states (yellow on the map), possession of small amounts remains illegal but is punishable by no more than a fine. Possession is a civil offense in 10 of those states. In the rest (Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio), it is still a misdemeanor. The cutoffs range from 10 grams (about a third of an ounce) in Illinois, Maryland, and Missouri to three and a half ounces in Ohio.

Marijuana possession remains a criminal offense punishable by jail time in 28 states (red on the map). The maximum penalties for simple possession range from a $300 fine and 15 days in jail (Louisiana, for 14 grams or less) to a $6,000 fine and a year in jail (Alabama, any amount). Eleven of the states where you can still go to jail for a little pot have legalized marijuana for medical use.

In 2015, the latest year for which FBI numbers are available, police in the United States made 643,121 arrests for marijuana offenses, the vast majority (about nine out of 10) for possession. That total was a two-decade low but still more than twice the number in 1991.


Correction: The original version of the map erroneously showed South Dakota in yellow. Possession of two ounces or less is a misdemeanor there, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.