Top 10 States with Insanely Harsh Marijuana Laws

Is your State on the List?

Let’s do this old-school, “Dave Letterman” style: The top 10 states with insanely harsh hash laws, in reverse order, from the most lenient, to the ones harshing on people’s marijuana mellow in a truly criminal way.

10. Wyoming

Now, Wyoming is not necessarily known for its overall liberal viewpoints. Still, Wyoming is moderately lenient concerning marijuana usage, despite the government’s apparent conservative stance on medical marijuana: they would prefer to keep it illegal, which runs counter to the general populace’s views. Gee, Wyoming state government, out of touch, much?

So, what do you face if you’re in Wyoming and you’re caught with cannabis? The maximum sentence is six months in jail and a fine up to $1K. The penalty for selling however is way stiffer: 10 years in the slammer and a $10K fine. Ouch. Not only that, but Wyoming frowns on public intoxication (though isn’t the word “intoxication” supposed to just refer to being drunk?) and you can find yourself behind bars for three months with a $100 fine. While Wyoming isn’t the most hardcore state, it certainly isn’t as liberal as its snow-capped mountainous sister to the south, so the best advice would be: What gets smoked in Colorado, stays in Colorado.

9. Virginia

This is another state that has some weird ideas when it comes to weed. First-time offenders are kinda-sorta forgiven, especially if they only have less than ½ ounce and they choose between a month in prison and a $500 fine (which is less than a $600 ticket in Iowa for no car insurance!), or a “first offender diversion program.” That said, many employers would look down on the choice of that program in the same way they’d shake their head and “tut-tut” at a 30-day stint in jail, with no chance of someone with a marijuana charge getting hired.

However, you kinda wonder if Virginia’s state government is in cahoots with Big Pharma (hard to prove, but it’s a progressive’s educated guess), because they have made no moves towards legalization of medical marijuana, and the minimum prison sentence for anyone carrying over ½ ounce of weed, let alone growing and selling it, is 1 year. That’s a minimum sentence, peeps. And they don’t even like you going after weed only for medical purposes. So you might as well forget about trying to win them over with doctor’s notes excusing you from being schooled in their anti-weed ways.

8. Texas

The one state in the Union that definitely believes in “go big or go home,” and this definitely applies to their near-Javert-like attitudes towards marijuana. First off, over half the arrests made in Texas are about marijuana, and just about half of those concern pot possession. Regardless of the more lenient types pushing for legislation that would relax the tight sentences for small-time offenders, the Texas government’s attitude is so uptight, they don’t even want to contemplate voting on the issue, let alone have a decent debate about it.

Just possessing up to 2 ozs of weed can win you the dubious “prize” of 180 days in prison and a max fine of $2K. More than 4 ounces turns that maximum sentence into a minimum sentence. Seriously, carrying marijuana in Texas is not a game you want to play. Roll for damage to your record, reputation, etc.

7. South Dakota

You’d think that for all that glorious wide open space to worship Jah/Great Spirit/Goddess in your own way, the marijuana laws would be fairly lenient, or that they’d legalize the stuff. But ironically, they are quite a conservative state, thus they continue to say “nope” to dope. Here’s what you get if you find your stoned-off-your-rear self cuffed and in the back of a South Dakota state cruiser, or a sheriff’s car, if you’re in a town or city:

Less than two ounces is a misdemeanor. That is, until they discover any intent to sell the stuff. Then it turns into a minimum of 15 days in the slammer. Oh, and if you test positive for pot during a drug test, you are charged with the “less-than-two-ounces” sentence that can put you in the pokey for a year, topped off with a maximum fine of $1K. Oh, and glass blowers? You might want to rethink your plans for making bongs. Selling marijuana paraphernalia is a felony.

Overall Advice: If you want to commune with Spirit with a spliff, you might as well pay your final respects to the Badlands, Mt Rushmore and Custer State Park, then pack up your stuff and head to Colorado, Washington State, California or Oregon.

6. Oklahoma

Warning!! This is not a place for shiny, happy hippie people holding hands and sharing spliffs. Jah looks on pot smokers with more favor than this state ever will. Check this out: as of November 1st of 2011, if you are caught selling or distributing weed in any amount, no matter how small, you can easily face a life sentence. Yes, you read that right: Life. Sentence.

Let that sink in a while. We’ll help you pull your jaw off the floor long enough to take another hit just to absorb the shock of that. Ready to move on? Okay. The charge for having pot on your person is also worthy of a “WTF.” First time offenders face a potential 1-year jail term and up to ten years for further charges. If you think this sounds more than a bit bogus, think about this little factoid: a woman was put in prison for 12 years for selling just $39 worth of weed to someone on undercover duty.

So, even if you plan on trying to go vape to hide the scent of getting high, you still might as well consider Oklahoma a “no-fly zone.”

5. Lousiana

Ah, Louisiana. Home of Mardi Gras, Cajun-French accents, shrimp gumbo, crawdads, bayous and alligators. Oh, and a seriously strict “no-marijuana” policy. “Sacre bleu!” we hear you exclaim. Uh-huh. You got that right. You’d also be right in thinking Inspector Javert would be at home here. (Yeah, that 19th-century French cop going relentlessly after Jean Valjean that we mentioned earlier.) Not just because French is spoken here, more or less, but because Louisiana is seriously cray-cray about pursuing and arresting small-time cannabis consumers. A good 90-something percent of yearly weed-related arrests involve simple possession and come with long prison sentences.

This said, if you’re a first-time offender, the punishment is fairly reasonable: you can simply be hit with probation instead of a six-month stint in the slammer and a $500 fine. But if that’s not enough to deter you from sneaking another spliff once you’re off the hook, check it out: if you’re caught again, you’re gonna be singing your own “Les Miserables” songs. One guy got a life sentence on a fourth conviction, even after his first three convictions were merely probations. Cultivation and distribution sentences are worse still: pot sales of 60 lbs and under net you 5-30 years’ worth of jail time plus fines up to $50K. And yes, that does include possession of your own plant.

4. Iowa

Soaring up to the Hawkeye State, we find that their recreational use laws are not as strict as their issues with distribution. A head-scratcher, we know, as recreational use is dependent on people selling and distribuing. Ergo, it seems they think if they can’t catch people smoking doobies on their deck, they can circumvent actual possession by hitting people in the hash harvest and sales. Yippee-ki-yo-ki-yay, right? Right.

Selling sativa in amounts of 50kg or less nets you a felony charge, up to half a decade in the “county Hilton” and a $7500 fine. The same charges apply to cultivation. As Iowa has not yet approved of medical marijuana (no thanks to three-time right-wing governor Terry Branstad), peeps who bring out the bongs for medical use still look at major prison time even if they don’t distribute. If all that doesn’t clip your weed-wings, what will? So if you’re in the Hawkeye State and are eager to coast on the cannabis currents, even for healing purposes, you’d best fly the coop while you can.

3. Idaho

All crude jokes about this state’s name aside (and yeah, get your mind outta the gutter while you’re at it), you’d best pay attention, pot lovers. While a movement towards medical marijuana is being forged in this state, you might want to keep your cannabis consumption on the serious downlow if you’re in Idaho.

Idaho’s laws are kind of intricate, so take notes:

• 3 ozs or less of weed = misdemeanor, with a sentence up to 1 year in the pokey and a maximum $1K fine.
• Small-time recreation users merely being caught with paraphernalia = misdemeanor charge #2 w/same punishment.
• Public intoxication = additional 6 months in jail.
• 3+ ozs of pot = steel yourself for a felony charge.
• 1 lb or more = at least 1 year—automatically–in the ugly orange jumpsuit.

2. Florida

Florida, the land of Disneyworld, retirees playing shuffleboard…and tough-as-nails penalties for possessing weed? Yup. In a state where they actually have a section of clothing-optional beachfront, you can get nailed with a misdemeanor charge, plus the possibility of up to a year in prison for having up to 20 grams of cannabis on you. More than 20 grams will earn you a third-degree felony charge and five years’ worth of wearing the infamous orange jumpsuit.

Oh, and for peeps who aren’t schooled in metric-to-imperial conversion rates, 20 grams is less than an ounce. Yeah, ouch is right. To make the threat of prison more imposing, the Florida government has voted to step up the penalties. So if you lean a little on the side of Rasta and the holy sacrament of hash, Florida is not the state for you.

1. Arizona

Despite the fact that this state boasts Sedona, the ultimate New Age mecca for the US, the rest of the state is just not that into the whole Aquarian Age thing—especially not where weed is concerned. In fact, if you so much as possess even the tiniest amount of pot, and are caught with it, it is instantly a felony. First timers caught with any amount up to one pound will be faced with four months up to two years’ worth of jail time. Yeah, for first offenses. Cultivation of the same amount will net you a similar sentence.

Add to that the fact that getting caught selling slaps the cuffs on you for a minimum of 1 year in jail. It gets better—not! If convicted of possession, you’ll be $150K in the hole. That’s more than the current average amount of college loan debt. Talk about a way to say, “Stay and school and don’t do drugs,” right? Right.

What’s chokeworthy about these penalties for recreational use is that Arizona allows medical marijuana. So, on the off chance that your hippie-era grandparents are chillin’ in Sedona with prescription pot, you might be able to bum some off them and have a “stick-it-to-the-man” bonding moment. It’s not a likely scenario, but it might be worth a shot.

This 1/5th section of the country is, as you may have guessed, is conservative overall. True, in many things, Iowa seems to be the more liberal of this bunch, but it’s still kinda right-wing when it comes to why you suddenly have a sudden “munchie” urge to head for a White Castle restaurant, a la “Harold & Kumar.”

The rest of that 1/5th anti-cannabis collective, however, suffice to say that if caught with cannabis in these 10 crazy states, your ass is grass!


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