Where's Weed

What Does Cannabis Decriminalization Mean?

Where's Weed

Published on Nov 16, 2021

There are now 18 states that have legalized recreational weed! Of the 32 states that have yet to legalize adult-use cannabis, 14 have decriminalized cannabis use. While this is better than nothing, decriminalization doesn't make the use or possession of weed legal. So what does decriminalization mean and how does it affect people in the cannabis community where weed isn't legal? What's the difference between decriminalize vs. legalize?

What Is Decriminalization?

The concept can be a bit confusing, especially against today's constantly changing cannabis political landscape, so it makes sense if you're asking, "What does decriminalized mean if it doesn't mean weed is legal?" Decriminalization can be looked at as the first step between illicit and legal. States where marijuana is illegal, and not decriminalized, can have some fairly intense repercussions for possession and use, including misdemeanors or felony charges, months or years of jail time, and up to thousands of dollars in fines. Decriminalization raises the threshold for these charges, making small amounts of possession pardonable with lesser consequences. This is the big difference between decriminalization vs. legalization. When cannabis is legalized, possession up to a certain amount isn't met with any penalties, while decriminalization means you'll still get a slap on the wrist, even if it isn't much. However, each state has cannabis laws and penalties that vary widely depending on the state.

States Where Marijuana is Decriminalized

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As of September 2021, the list of marijuana decriminalization states adds up to a total of 27 (plus Washington, D.C.). Of those states, 13 have fully legalized recreational weed, which supersedes the decriminalization policy. Here's a breakdown of all 27 states, when they decriminalized, and what their specific marijuana decriminalization policies are.

Alaska

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession of 1 ounce or less. This is increased to 4 ounces or less if in your residence. 

California

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession up to 1 ounce. Up to 28.5 grams is met with misdemeanors and greatly reduced jail time and fines. 

Colorado

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession of 2 ounces or less. Petty offense and $100 fine for public display of 2 ounces or less.

Connecticut

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession of up to 1.5 ounces in public and 5 ounces in a private residence.

Delaware

Decriminalized with a civil penalty and a $100 fine for possession of up to 1 ounce.

Hawaii

Decriminalized with a $130 fine for possession of up to 3 grams.

Illinois

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession of 30 grams or less.

Louisiana

Partially decriminalized with a misdemeanor and $100 fine for possession of 14 grams or less.

Maine

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession of 2.5 ounces or less.

Maryland

Decriminalized with a "civil offense" and a $100 fine for possession of fewer than 10 grams.

Massachusetts

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession for up to 1 ounce in public and 10 ounces in at your private residence.

Minnesota

Partially decriminalized with a misdemeanor and $200 fine for possession of 42.5 grams or less.

Mississippi

Decriminalized with a $250 fine for possession of 30 grams or less on the first offense. Individuals are assigned a misdemeanor and increasing incarceration time for second and third offenses.

Missouri

Partially decriminalized with a misdemeanor and $500 fine for possession up to 10 grams on the first offense. The second offense may result in 1 year of incarceration and a $2,000 fine.

Nebraska

Decriminalized with a $300 fine and an "infraction" for possessing 1 ounce or less on the first offense. Increased fines and time in jail with a misdemeanor for second and third offenses.

Nevada

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession up to 1 ounce and reduced fines with no jail time for possession or use in public and possession over 1 ounce.

New Hampshire

Decriminalized with a "civil violation" and $100 fine for possession up to 3/4 ounce on first and second offenses.

New Jersey

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No criminal charges, incarceration, or fines for possession under 6 ounces.

New Mexico

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession up to 2 ounces.

New York

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession of any less than 3 ounces. 

North Carolina

Partially decriminalized with a misdemeanor and $200 fine for possession of 0.5 ounces or less.

North Dakota

Partially decriminalized with a "criminal infraction" and a max $1,000 fine for possession of fewer than 0.5 ounces.

Ohio

Partially decriminalized with a misdemeanor and $150 fine for possession of fewer than 100 grams. 

Oregon

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession of 1 ounce or less. A $650 fine and no jail time for anything between 1-2 ounces.

Rhode Island

Decriminalized with a "civil violation" and a $150 fine for possession of 1 ounce or less.

Vermont

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession of 1 ounce or less.

Virginia

Decriminalized and adult-use legalized. No penalties, incarceration, or fines for possession 1 ounce or less and just a $25 fine and civil violation for anything below 1 pound. 

Decriminalization of Drugs Other Than Cannabis

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Cannabis isn't the only drug to be decriminalized in the United States. In November 2020, Oregon became the first state to instate the decriminalization of drugs - all drugs. In Oregon, possession of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and other drugs is no longer considered a criminal offense - instead, the state is considering possession a civil offense and is focusing on therapy and rehabilitation. There have also been several cities in California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., and Michigan that have decriminalized the possession and use of certain natural psychedelics like psilocybin

Do you live in a state where cannabis has been decriminalized? Let us know what you think about decriminalization and when you think policies will continue to change. Comment below!


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