Alternet: ‘The Five Worst States to Get Busted With Pot’

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 16, 2011

    Police prosecute over 850,000 Americans annually for violating state marijuana laws. The penalties for those busted and convicted vary greatly, ranging from the imposition of small fines to license revocation to potential incarceration. But for the citizens arrested in these five states, the ramifications of even a minor pot bust are likely to be exceptionally severe.

    Alternet.org’s editors recently asked me to compile a list of ‘the worst of the worst’ states to be busted for personal pot possession. Without further ado, here they are:

    The 5 Worst States to Get Busted With Pot
    via Alternet.org


    1. Oklahoma — Lawmakers in the Sooner State made headlines this spring when legislators voted 119 to 20 in favor of House Bill 1798, which enhances the state sentencing guidelines for hash manufacturing to a minimum of two years in jail and a maximum penalty of life in prison. (Mary Fallin, the state’s first-ever female governor, signed the measure into law in April; it takes effect on November 1, 2011.) But longtime Oklahoma observers were hardly surprised at lawmakers’ latest “life for pot” plan. After all, state law already allows judges to hand out life sentences for those convicted of cannabis cultivation or for the sale of a single dime-bag.

    2. Texas — On an annual basis, no state arrests and criminally prosecutes more of its citizens for pot than does Texas. Marijuana arrests comprise over half of all annual arrests in the Lone Star State. It is easy to see why. In 2009, more than 97 percent of all Texas marijuana arrests — over 77,000 people — were for possession only. Those convicted face up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, even upon a first conviction.

    3. Florida — According to a 2009 state-by-state analysis by researcher and former NORML Director Jon Gettman, no other state routinely punishes minor marijuana more severely than does the Sunshine State. Under Florida law, marijuana possession of 20 grams or less (about two-thirds of an ounce) is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one-year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Marijuana possession over 20 grams, as well as the cultivation of even a single pot plant, are defined by law as felony offenses – punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In recent years, state lawmakers have revisited the state’s marijuana penalties – in each case electing to enhance Florida’s already toughest-in-the-nation criminal punishments.

    4. Louisiana — In Louisiana, multi-decade (or even life) sentences for repeat pot offenders are hardly a rare occurrence. Under Louisiana law, a second pot possession conviction is classified as a felony offense, punishable by up to five years in prison. Three-time offenders face up to 20 years in prison. According to a 2008 expose published in New Orleans City Business online, district attorneys are not hesitant to “target small-time marijuana users, sometimes caught with less than a gram of pot, and threaten them with lengthy prison sentences.”

    5. Arizona — Forty years ago virtually every state in the nation defined marijuana possession as a felony offense. Today, only one state, Arizona, treats first-time pot possession in such an archaic and punitive manner. Under Arizona law, even minor marijuana possession offenses may be prosecuted as felony crimes, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $150,000 fine. According to Jon Gettman’s 2009 analysis only Florida consistently treats minor marijuana possession cases more severely.

    For a comprehensive breakdown of state-by-state marijuana penalties, visit NORML’s online map here. To get active in changing the laws of your state, visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here, sign up for free NORML news and legislative alerts, get involved with your local NORML chapter (or start your own chapter here), and join national NORML.

    Get active; get NORML!

    116 responses to “Alternet: ‘The Five Worst States to Get Busted With Pot’”

    1. fishcreekbob says:

      Trillions of dollars wasted. Ten’s of thousands of lives lost. Millions of lives disrupted.

      All to protect the profit of the New World Order.

      Isn’t this against the law?

    2. TheOracle says:

      How about some $tati$tics on how much money states could be bringing in if they flicked off the Feds and actually opened up dispensaries, you know with licensing & taxes. So far, you have lots of states that have legalized MMJ in name only, especially on the east coast, you know, because they don’t actually have any dispensaries like California.

      If there isn’t a state in the union that is having a budget crisis, somebody let me know who all the other people are who are begging to pay more taxes. Cannabis is a CASH COW! I don’t hear anybody with a better idea to resolve the budget crises. Nobody else is shouting “I’m a CASH COW! Milk me for taxes!”

      Big oil was in front of Congress. They offered to give up nothing, and sure as hell don’t want to pay more in taxes. If they pass if on to the consumer, the American people won’t like it.

      Legalize & tax cannabis! Are you retarded?

    3. Luke says:

      Thank God I live in California!

    4. ricky d says:

      Just wanna say you obviously skipped Va…the laws are atrocious anything over 14g is a felony for starters. The state also sees fit to seize all assets that you can’t prove weren’t bought with drug money (I use the term drug loosely because that’s how they word it) if caught cultivating. Look into that!

      [Paul Armentano responds: Virginia’s marijuana laws are no doubt severe, though the information regarding the threshold to trigger a felony under state law is not accurate. You can read the laws and penalties here: http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?wtm_view=&Group_ID=4570. NORML and Virginia NORML has testified in the past few legislative sessions on behalf of decriminalization legislation in Virginia, and continue to coordinate with state lawmakers regarding this effort. You may wish to also become involved.]

    5. Anonymous says:

      Disgusting… That’s all I can say. Why do the people let this corrupt government stand?

    6. sandy says:

      WOW I guess these states will be falling way behind when it comes to healthy environments and healthy people as well.People will boy cot these states who may have ordinarily added them to their vacation spots.These are all great places to ignore when planning your vacation.there ole lonely heart cabin rentals are going to be a little more lonely than usual once word gets around.imagine an empty Florida beach whewww EFFECTIVE !!!

    7. penny says:

      of course oklahoma and texas are numbers1 &2 on the list. i live in texas, 10 min out of oklahoma. whats up jeb?

    8. TH says:

      Thanks for the list!!

      In FL it’s all about the $$$. High octane MJ keeps you under 20 and most (not all) LEOs are cool, if you are honest and if it’s for personal. But, like I said, it’s all about the money. If you get busted, fines and probation (with a monthly fee) are the most common punishments given.

      Can’t say what happens if you get busted multiple times for personal though. Everyone I know, myself included, seems to wise up after the first time and learns how to not get caught. Go figure.

      PS- Dress/look/act like a respectable, upstanding, law-abiding citizen and suspicion isn’t even raised. I don’t consider pot-smokers criminals; you shouldn’t either. ~===O¦ CDXX

    9. Clinton E. Cochrane says:

      I cannot believe this kind of ignorance is still around in regards to a PLANT that has been proven to be safer than Alcohol, Perceptional pills, some foods, and tobacco

    10. Dirt Nasty says:

      Fuck Florida lawmakers