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What are the Pot Laws?

Navigation:  Home > Legal Questions > Current Pot Laws


Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. There were an estimated 2.6 million new marijuana users in 2001.


According to the Axis of Logic Website, under U.S. federal law it is illegal to possess any amount of marijuana anywhere in the United States. Penalties for a first marijuana offense range from probation to life without parole. The site states that, although 11 states have decriminalized marijuana, most still have tough laws against the drug. In Louisiana, for instance, selling one ounce can lead to a 20-year prison sentence. In Washington State, as another example, supplying any amount of marijuana brings a recommended prison sentence of five years. Moreover, "about 700,000 people were arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws in 2002 - more than were arrested for heroin or cocaine. Almost 90 percent of these marijuana arrests were for possession, a crime that in most cases is a misdemeanor."


Thirteen states have physician prescription laws; while they are similar to rescheduling provisions in protecting doctors who write a prescription for marijuana, they can have a much broader effect because many of those laws also enable doctors to discuss medicinal benefits with their patients.


You can view state by state pot laws at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.


In Canada, marijuana has is in the process of being decriminalized, which does not mean that it is illegal. It merely means that the penalties for possession of marijuana are not very severe. A bill is being passed through the parliament that recommends that those caught with 15 grams or less of the drug will only be fined and will not get a criminal record or jail term. However, the bill will make penalties on those growing marijuana even stiffer. Nevertheless, the United States does not support the decriminalization.

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