The result of the 2008 vote to decriminalize possession for less than 1 ounce of cannabis means that an individual can only be fined a maximum of $100 if they are caught carrying more.
The impact of decriminalization in Massachusetts has been very dramatic, with a marked decrease in cannabis-related arrests following the ballot results (down from 10,000 in 2008 to less than 3000 arrests in 2009).
Though the state’s marijuana policy is relatively progressive, it appears that decriminalization has not gone far enough for the majority of voters. In a poll released last year by the Boston Herald, 53% of state residents were in favor of legalizing mail order marijuana, while only 37% were against it.
Proponents of cannabis legalization in Massachusetts are hopeful that they will soon have the chance to change the state law again in November 2016, with State Representative Dave Rogers and Senator Patricia Jehlen recently introducing a bill to fully legalize, regulate and tax recreational cannabis for adult use.
Max.fine for small amount: $100
Arrests (per 100,000): 577
Minimum penalty: Not classified
Originally the state of New York was one of the first to decriminalize cannabis, passing a bill in 1977. However, unfortunately, New York has one of the highest (cannabis-related) arrest rates of any other US state. This is in no small part down to the use (or abuse) of the public view’ loophole, which allows for possession of cannabis in one’s own home but rather weirdly, not in public (just how are you supposed to get it to your home exactly?).
Thankfully since 2014, as announced by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the state of New York will no longer be enforcing this rule. There are currently two bills to legalize and tax cannabis in the state, which are currently on break. However, cannabis enthusiasts are hopeful of seeing real progress on this issue soon.
Max. fine for a small amount: $100
Arrests (per 100,000): 56
Minimum penalty: Infraction
The state of California was at the forefront of early cannabis reforms in the 1970s and was one of the earlier adopters of cannabis decriminalization.
Eventually, this led to the passing of the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, which allowed medical cannabis use for medical treatment, on the advice of a medical professional.
In 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that reclassified the crime of marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction. Despite California’s historically progressive stance on the matter, cannabis has still yet to be fully legalized.
The bill for full legalization was eventually defeated by what was ultimately a very slim margin in 2010. However, this hasn’t stopped the movement moving forward, as since then 2 more bills have been put forward, and once again we are hopeful that we will see some progress in the coming year.
Max. fine for a small amount: $100
Marijuana arrests (per 100,000): 375
Minimum penalty: Civil offense
Recently the state of Maryland has undertaken its own Medical Marijuana program that allows certain doctors and medical professionals to prescribe cannabis to patients who have been diagnosed with a specified set of predetermined conditions. This has led to the opening of their first-ever cannabis dispensary (Greenway Consultations), which opened as recently as June 2015.
Even with recent developments, the possession of more than 10 grams of cannabis will still be looked at as a civil offense, while being caught with ‘intent to distribute’ still carries a draconian punishment of up to 5 years in prison with a $15,000 fine added into the boot.
However, there is reason to be cheerful if you live in Maryland as Gov. Larry Hogan recently signed a bill supported by cannabis legalization supporters during the current legislative session. The ‘Second Chance Act’ as it is being called, can under some circumstances, permit an individual convicted of possessing cannabis, to have their arrest shielded from some records requests. As in many states in the US, a majority of Maryland residents support the full legalization and regulation of both medical and recreational cannabis.