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.

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  1. I don’t need a stinking permission slip from government to grow, eat, drink, and smoke what I want.

    Only a commie would think otherwise.

    Only a commie rat would think otherwise.

    1. Then more than half of the states of the USA (land of the free, home of the brave) are run by commie despotic rats! Whatcha gonna do, when they come for YOU?

      (Maybe Trump and his buddy Joe-Arapaio-Stalin will save us all!)

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          This is what I do…

    2. I’m reporting you to the authorities for disobedience.

      1. I’m reporting you to the authorities for reporting disobedience.

          1. These masturbation euphemisms are becoming kind of abstract.

            1. I’ll take it down then, “Masturbaters, masturbate thyself.”

              1. I’m making over $12k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do,…Go this web and start your work… Good luck..

  2. Twice the # in 1991! That is crazy. And still, getting the contraband is easier than ever, with excellent quality and stable prices.

    It’s a goddam jobs program built on the backs of the poor.

  3. 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.

    Seems strange that of all places, NH went with this running-up-to-the-line approach to legalizing Marijuana. Just couldn’t see their way to take one more step and make it legal? Or are they still hammering out the taxing, regulating and licensing aspect before they go full-on, wild west, no-holds-barred, cocks-out legal?

    1. New Hampshire doesn’t have a ballot initiative process like Colorado, Nevada, etc. The only way cannabis is getting legalized in NH is if the state government does it and so far Governor Chris Sununu and most of the State Senate oppose legalization. Really NH residents sort of lucked out they got decriminalization passed. The state’s last two Governors (both Democrats) opposed decriminalization. Sorry to say this is the best NH is getting passed for now.

      1. Live Free or Die indeed.

  4. I find it odd that pot illegality is most untouchable in the south.

    When I was growing up, pot use was routine in the south. In North Carolina (a tobacco state), pot was a huge cash crop. Probably second only to California in pot production.

    So seeing them cling to prohibition is a bit unseemly. The guys making the laws are my generation now, by and large. They probably all smoked pot as teenagers. And they probably all considered themselves “rebels”. And they all probably celebrated the southern tradition of running moonshine and avoiding the “revenuers”.

    Yet they can’t end prohibition.

    1. A fairly good guess is this is to be blamed on Bible-belt self-righteousness.

      Good Southern Baptists, ya know… Jesus don’t like no pot smokers! Good people don’t smoke pot, ya know!

      They just never get around to reading the part about “Let he who is without sin, throw the first stone”.

      So they keep throwing the stoners in jail, like the self-righteous twits and hypocrites that they are!

    2. There are still dry counties all over the south. Come on you assholes… it’s been almost a 100 years!

  5. Illinois is planning to legalize as soon as Rauner is no longer Governor.

    They need the money.

  6. Ohio continues to move in the right direction at least in pot. Need to move faster. So many assholes to contend with though.

  7. Does anyone know what the actual motives are, at this point, for keeping this plant illegal? I am aware of the idiotic hysteria that made it illegal in the first place, but how do politicians continue to justify to themselves that they can destroy people’s lives for growing or possessing or ingesting a relatively harmless plant? This aside from how they justify to themselves the principle of prohibition in the first place. Is it a finger in the wind sort of thing? – not when most people think pot should be legal. Is it pressure from the cop/prison industry? Is it pressure from the liquor industry? Is it just a matter of an unwillingness to change because change is difficult? I just don’t fucking get it.

    1. Science and widespread experience have shown marijuana is less “addictive” than coffee and FAR less harmful than alcohol. Polls show public support for ending marijuana prohibition is now over 60 percent – nationwide. So why do we still have this barbaric persecution?

      Because police and prosecutors build their careers and empires on the fraudulent marijuana prohibition. Because industries like alcohol and pharmaceuticals don’t want the competition. Because other interests like the drug treatment/testing industry and the prison industries depend on it for their life’s blood. Because many banks and shaky corporations couldn’t exist without the laundered money. Because corrupt politicians, like Richard Nixon and Jeff Sessions, use the insane war on marijuana consumers to oppress and prevent community organizing of minorities and progressive groups.

      The billions of dollars made by drug gangs have not been buried in the ground. They are invested in legitimate business, creating more powerful support of this war on Americans. Add to these all the ancillary industries that sell to or service the above groups, and you begin to understand the enormity of the greed-driven resistance.

    2. The smell of marijuana is a conveniently impossible to disprove pretext for fucking with people.

    3. As one Louisiana sheriff told me, the
      “pot laws help handle smart ass criminals who avoid getting caught breaking the law.”
      You mean, innocent people??
      “Well, technically we can’t prove they are guilty, but our sources know the bad dudes. You can always smell pot when you pull them over, and finding a little plant material under the front seat is easy”

  8. Ayn Rand explains gratuitous coercion as the very death-worship George Orwell described in the Newspeak portion of 1984. You can’t coerce an adult without death threats, and “examples” are made in human sacrifice to every such law. Economically, prohibition was use of superstition by the yeast and glucose trust to eliminate brewers and distillers as middlemen. Folks like Capone rented breweries and filled the economic niche until tax laws were used for prohi enforcement. This destroyed the economy as it did again in 1987 and 2007. The 1929-1933 crash & depression was understood as a result of Republican prohibition. The FDR victory and repeal did not repeal the income tax, so the depression persisted, cut into excise revenue and hemp was blamed and banned. As soon as Americans again understand that prohibitionism causes economic disaster, we’ll be rid of it.

  9. California’s retail sales go on-line in just four months (January). – Since that state is so populous and is the sixth largest economy in the world, all by itself, their marijuana market will become an economic and cultural juggernaut that will sweep the country – as has long been the tradition with the progressive, trend-setting state.

    The fraudulently enacted, massively unpopular marijuana prohibition will not survive this shift.

  10. I’m not embarrassed to be from NH, but theres nothing to be proud of. The local level of respect for the state motto is beyond parody. I guess we aren’t the last state in the whole country to decriminalize pot, but we were the last in the northeast.

    1. Don’t feel bad, Eman. – Consumers in 28 states would love to have your new laws. – Anyway, the whole, fraudulent marijuana prohibition wall is just about to crumble.

      It won’t be long before young folks are saying, “Prohibition? – What’s that?”

  11. It seems as though lots of arguments for legalizing cannabis take the “it’s not very addictive” route.

    Whether it’s highly addictive or not addictive at all, the government has no business regulating what grown adults smoke, eat, drink or otherwise ingest voluntarily.

    Furthermore, “addictive” only describes a general perception, not an absolute. While many are addicted or dependent on various drugs and/or behavior, there are many variables that are different depending on the individual. Some people are more prone to dependence and some are less. There are people who use hard drugs occasionally and those who depend on them. It runs the gamut.

    1. Please don’t fuzzy up the term, addiction. — Addiction involves severe withdrawal symptoms that compel continuous use to be avoided. — Marijuana doesn’t have them, so is not addictive.

      “Dependence” is just a bogus term made up by prohibitionists and “treatment” quacks when they couldn’t get away with calling marijuana addictive anymore. – When you look closely at their criteria for this “condition,” it turns out to just be repetition of an enjoyable experience — like playing golf, watching movies, or eating peaches.

      Marijuana’s non-addictive nature is one of the things consumers like about it. – They can easily turn their attention and days away from it if they so desire or need to.

  12. Who can afford an ounce of weed?

  13. Really, 3/4 of an ounce? Not cool.

    Must have been a lot of push from the black market dealers to keep it under a Z so they don’t have to give any breaks on price. “Well its 175 for a half, 300 for an ounce that you can get arrested for or I have this terrific deal on 3/4 for 270”

    Or so, I would think if I knew anything about that sort of stuff.

  14. Don’t kid yourselves folks. Marijuana is still federally illegal in every state and territory in the union. Grumpy Trumpy just has to wave his imperial pen to send in the DEA troopers. The legal pot dispensaries are easy to find. They could grab a bunch of cash, throw a bunch of people in jail, make America safe for kids and piss off a bunch of liberals in Blue States. Major wins all around for a “law and order” Republican. I’m surprise he hasn’t done this already. I suppose he’s keeping it in reserve for when another major “wag the dog” moment comes along.

    – Jake

  15. Maybe Trump knows upstanding successful persons that engage in MJ reefers. Maybe Trump realizes that the DEA and their war on reefers has been a failure. Maybe Trump and Little John engage in uninhibited reefer inbibement? I need to know what future president Charles Schumer thinks.

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