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They vary from state to state

I just finished a short post about Marijuana possession charges and emphasized that while there are a lot of similarities, the laws about marijuana possession charges vary from state to state. I spoke in that piece about what often makes a marijuana possession charge a felony, which at common law is a crime that would be punished by a year or more in prison (though this has been changed by state statutes almost universally).

 

The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is often the quantity and the intent

In addition to felony marijuana possession charges there are also misdemeanor marijuana possession charges. As I had said before, the line between them often concerns quantity and intent. Often, a charge that comes from simple possession of a small quantity for what is ostensibly personal use, and most often that means less than an ounce.

In some states, laws concerning the personal use of marijuana are written such that possession of a small amount of marijuana is even considered at most a civil violation and subject only to a forfeiture of the contraband or perhaps a small civil fine, but there is not a possibility of incarceration. Furthermore, the act of possession may not be used to revoke probation or parole. In some forward-thinking states, the quantities which are considered “ok” for personal use may be quite a bit higher than has traditionally been the rule. Still more liberal states allow personal use to include growing marijuana, so long as the number of plants does not exceed a certain number.

 

Ongoing broad-scale decriminalization

Of course, with recent developments in Colorado and a few other states, it seems that we may be entering an age of broad-scale liberalization and decriminalization of marijuana possession. If you’re interested in specific state marijuana laws, I’d recommend visiting the NORML site, which maintains a compendium of all marijuana penalties by state. Just click here: http://norml.org/laws One caveat: reviewing the laws as they are written does not necessarily convey all you might want to know about your marijuana possession charge or even marijuana penalties by state since so much depends on how the laws are actually enforced and interpreted in any given state.

The very best idea is always to talk with a marijuana lawyer. He or she will be able to tell you not just “what the law says” but, more importantly, how it’s being interpreted and enforced by cops, prosecutors and judges in the state.

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