States with the Most Lenient Marijuana Laws: Part 1 of 2

2012 marked a year of marijuana reform, legalization and heightened freedoms for recreational users. While some states have taken steps back, others have begun to pave the way and have inspired conversations among lawmakers.

In 2012 Governor John Hickenlooper signed Amendment 64 into law and officially made it legal to possess and smoke marijuana in Colorado.

Under A64 adults over 21 years old can possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants privately. According to A64, only three of the plants may be mature and flowering. If a person carries more than one ounce they will be penalized unless they are medical marijuana patients. Only medical patients may purchase marijuana from dispensaries.

There is no residency requirement under A64, meaning that anyone who is present in the state may enjoy the freedom to recreationally use marijuana. The law does, however limit the use of the drug. Adults may not smoke marijuana publicly, and the law requires users to smoke within the confines of their own homes.

Last year, marijuana became legal under Washington state law when Initiative-502 passed. Washington and Colorado became the first states to vote to decriminalize and regulate the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.

Initiative-502 legalizes the possession of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. Washington farmers and businesses will be allowed to apply for special licenses to sell and grow marijuana, and the drug will only be available in state agency-regulated stores that sell no other products that are located at least one thousand feet from schools, playgrounds and parks, and do not display marijuana in a way that is visible to the public.

Washington state laws require users to be taxed, and the state will benefit by creating hundreds of millions of dollars a year to go to school, health care and more. An estimated $582 million in new revenue is expected to be generated every year with I-502.

In 2010 California's marijuana policy became the nation's most liberal and progressive. Since that year it has fallen behind Colorado and Washington, but remains among the top three states in the nation with the most lenient marijuana laws.

Possession of an ounce of less was downgraded in 2010 to an infraction rather than a misdemeanor, and instead than having the offense land on your criminal record an offender will simply need to pay a citation of $100. This is a lesser fine than most traffic violations. According to a study entitled “California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low,” a drastic improvement in underage crime rates can be attributed to the decriminalization of marijuana.

Medical marijuana laws exist in California. This is not to say that cultivating medical marijuana is legal under all circumstances – limitations must be adhered to and certain regulatory laws remain in place.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeremy S. Geigle
Jeremy Geigle is an Arizona criminal lawyer and shareholder at JacksonWhite Law. His practice mainly focuses on felony and misdemeanor matters in both adult and juvenile courts. Mr. Geigle has been practicing law since 2002.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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