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  Which States Have Decriminalized MJ Possession?
Posted by FoM on February 15, 2001 at 16:11:06 PT
By Chris Suellentrop 
Source: Slate 

cannabis New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican, has sent to the state legislature a bill that would decriminalize possession of 1 ounce of marijuana. The New York Times reported today that 10 other states have already done that. Which states are they? And what does it mean to "decriminalize possession"?

The states are Alaska, California, Colorado, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, and Oregon.

These state legislatures (except Alaska's) decriminalized marijuana possession in the 1970s. Oregon was the first, in 1973, following the recommendations of the Nixon administration's National Commission on Marijuana Use (also known as the Shafer Commission). Nebraska was the last, in 1979. Another state, Mississippi, decriminalized marijuana possession in the '70s but later recriminalized it as a misdemeanor offense.

The state of decriminalization in Alaska is unclear. A 1975 state Supreme Court decision decriminalized marijuana possession, but voters approved a state referendum in 1990 that recriminalized all possession. Subsequent court rulings have upheld the 1975 decision, but the state's high court hasn't ruled on the matter, so the law remains ambiguous.

What does it mean to decriminalize possession? Decriminalization treats the possession of small amounts of marijuana (such as 1 ounce) as a civil, rather than a criminal, offense. Offenders are given a citation and fined, and their marijuana is confiscated. Possession of larger amounts is still a criminal offense because it implies an intent to sell.

(The laws differ from state to state. Ohio, for example, decriminalizes possession of up to 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces. Click here for a state-by-state guide to marijuana penalties.)

Legalization, as opposed to decriminalization, would create a legal, regulated market for marijuana, presumably with age limits and quality controls similar to those placed on alcohol. Decriminalizing possession is also different from the decriminalization of "medical marijuana," which allows patients to use and sometimes cultivate marijuana for therapeutic purposes, with the permission of a doctor.

Explainer thanks Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

NewsHawk: Schmeff C.
Source: Slate (US Web)
Author: Chris Suellentrop
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2001
Copyright: 2001 Microsoft Corporation

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Comment #14 posted by jimbo on August 29, 2002 at 11:32:26 PT
marijuana laws
They say this is a free country. We vote for people we want elected. We pay mad taxes to pay these salaries, but we have laws that pursicute 15 million americans for something they recreationally do. How free is that. It is time to do away with the out dated out right ridiculous laws placed on the use, cultivation, and or sale of marijuana. You have been living under a rock for the last 30 years if you still think there is a difference between smoking a joint and taking a shot of whiskey. (other than the laws that pursicute the marijuana user and not the whiskey drinker). It's time the propaganda stops and these polititions pull there heads out of there asses and realize that they want to sent hard working, tax paying americans to jail over something god put on the green earth.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #13 posted by rchard gordon on August 09, 2001 at 14:15:44 PT:

schools and drug paraphenalia
recently, my 15 year old son had left a pipe in a friend's car and a police officer (deputy) alleged saw it, searched the car, and accosted my son while in school. at present, he is to appear at a "pins" assessment at a counseling and mental health center nearby. my question is this; what are my rights as his parent, and how can i keep the school authorites at bay? this took place in new york state.
i appreciate your help.
Thanx, richard gorodn

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Comment #12 posted by decriminalizeIT on August 09, 2001 at 08:41:58 PT
nice site with state by state laws on possession
see link below for excellent state-by-state coverage on the penalties of possession..etc...


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Comment #11 posted by Dr.Greenfist on February 19, 2001 at 08:23:34 PT:

Criminal Record - How will it affect me ?
I am going to trial in a few weeks for Possesion and cultivation.

I can plead guilty and walk with nothing but a record right now.... or i can goto trial and risk it all !!!
What do you guys think? I have a decent case and my lawyer thinks it can go 50 - 50!

I am canadian and i am wondering if anyone know how a criminal record is going to affect the rest of my life.
I am 23 and am working legit now.

Any URL's or comments we help.
Thanks in advance for any help.

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Comment #10 posted by freedom fighter on February 18, 2001 at 13:33:57 PT
Thanks FoM
I am hanging on.. I had bad flashbacks of seeing many guns and shotguns in my head. Just before I wake up, I would see flashes coming out of the muzzles, and I wake up with a cold sweat, my tummy all knotted up..
As time goes by, I am hanging on and am feeling better.

Thanks for caring and asking me how I am doing..



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Comment #9 posted by nekabue on February 17, 2001 at 20:48:02 PT:

Ohio - decriminalized?
Hello folks. I'm in Ohio and let me assure you that they will arrest you here for small amounts of pot. But even worse, they get around the minor misdemeanor of pot possession by getting you in 2 other ways:
1) charging you with a 4th degree misdemeanor for drug paraphenalia (that includes matches and lighters, folks)
2) Automatic suspension of your drivers license for 6 months (that's even with the minor misdemeanor, which carries a $100 fine and no jail time).

So I ask you, is this decriminalization?

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Comment #8 posted by FoM on February 16, 2001 at 17:13:29 PT
Hi Freedom fighter
I can't enlighten you on Alaska but I just want to say hello and hope you are holding up ok.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #7 posted by freedom fighter on February 16, 2001 at 17:10:32 PT
Bit confused about Alaska tho..
I thought Alaska Supreme Court have already said that recriminalization of Ravin Decision was unconsitutional..

Can someone enlighten me??


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Comment #6 posted by pizza pie on February 16, 2001 at 14:10:58 PT:

I agree with "valtier" all this education etc. is a penalty but decriminalization is definetly a step in a right direction in my mind. Legalization, of course, being the ultimate goal I would except a law something to this effect: at the age of 18 or older paraphinalia, and cured and ready to smoke grade A marijuana can be sold at establishments which held a license similar to a liquor license. Laws relating to driving while intoxicated would still hold. What do you guys think? Should I run? :)~

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Comment #5 posted by Nate H. on February 16, 2001 at 07:14:24 PT
Municipal decriminalization
Just to make things even more confusing, certain American cities have decriminalized simple marijuana possession as well.

Ann Arbour, Michigan is the most famous example. Back in the early 1970s, radicals won election to city council and made the penalty for possessing pot a $5 fine. I believe it's now up to $50-100. The councillors wisely put this decrim measure in the city charter, and it's withstood all efforts to repeal it (so far).

East Lansing, Michigan has also decriminalized, as have (I believe), Seattle and Atlanta.

In Berkely, California, locals passed a municipal referendum that instructs cops to place simple marijuana busts on an extremely low priority.

In 1997, the city council of Milwaukee, Wisconin decriminalized pot.

And just a few months back, citizens in Marin County, California, approved a decrim cultivation measure that more or less tells local police to keep their hands-off small-scale growers.

Because all criminal law is federal in Canada, Canadian cities do not have the power to decriminalize pot.

That said, local authorities can instruct police to ignore minor marijuana crimes, thus effecting "de facto decriminalization".

This is what happened in Vancouver, BC a few years ago. Today, very few people get busted just for simple possession in that city.

-Nate H.

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Comment #4 posted by Valtier on February 16, 2001 at 05:07:54 PT
omitted NY
New YorkI count only 5 states as "decriminalized" for varying small amounts: California, colorado, Ohio, Maine, Oregon

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Comment #3 posted by Valtier on February 16, 2001 at 05:01:31 PT
N. Carolina: < 0.5 oz.: 0 - 30 days, suspended sentence possible

NY:Alaska:< 8 oz.: 0 - 90 days; $1,000

Nebraska:Personal use: 0 - 7 days; $500

In my mind these leave only six of the ten listed states as having "decriminalized". Minnesota's law is unclear to me:

Minnesota:(How many times will Minnesota "educate" the offendor?)

Promises of jail or "education" do not seem compatible with the notion of "decriminalized".

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Comment #2 posted by FoM on February 15, 2001 at 19:51:41 PT
I think
Hi nl5x,
Ohio decriminalized back in the late 70s. I think Ohio isn't too bad. You want to keep it under the amount that is stated and if you do they leave you alone basically I've been told. I think that this applies to cultivation if it is under the 3 and one half ounce maximun. I could be wrong on that though.

(The laws differ from state to state. Ohio, for example, decriminalizes possession of up to 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces. Click here for a state-by-state guide to marijuana penalties.)

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by nl5x on February 15, 2001 at 19:04:46 PT
decriminalization of possession
No states that I know of have decriminalized cultivation.

Economics of Cannabis Legalization

by Dale Gieringer, Ph.D.
Coordinator, California NORML
“The basic flaw in (full)decriminalization is that it does not make allowance for pot users who cannot or will not grow their own. The result is to create an illicit black market for cannabis that is neither regulated nor taxed, leaving many of the same basic enforcement problems as prohibition.”

From --

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