The legal status of marijuana has been a hot topic for a long time, but
it’s really heated up in the past few years. Ever since Colorado
and Washington opened the door back in 2012, everyone seems to be talking
about the pros and cons of what to do with weed.
One point of confusion many people have is the difference between legalization
and decriminalization of pot. These two terms imply different things,
but are still confused frequently.
Legalization vs Decriminalization
Decriminalization is the less extreme option of the two and so far 20 states
have decriminalized weed in some form. In general, when a state decriminalizes
pot it means that anyone caught with a small amount of weed for the first
time will not be arrested, serve jail time, or have a criminal record.
Instead, states will typically seize the pot and issue a ticket, like a
traffic violation. The exact definition of “small amount”
varies from state, as do the penalties.
Legalization means the weed can be bought, sold, and used freely, but it’s
regulated by the state. It’s a very similar setup to how alcohol
is controlled. Users need to be at least 21 or older, and sellers have
to be licensed. There are laws that prevent users from driving a vehicle
while under the influence of marijuana.
Federal vs State
One grey area that has yet to be resolved is the difference between state
laws and federal laws. Although several states have legalized or decriminalized
pot, the federal government has not. This means that a person in Colorado
could be prosecuted under federal laws for possession of pot, even though
he or she is protected under state laws.
This kind of situation hasn’t happened yet, and it’s very unlikely
to happen in the future. However, eventually there will have to be a reckoning
of state and federal laws.
In Florida pot is still very much illegal and has surprisingly harsh penalties,
even for first time offenders. If you need legal help for any kind of
marijuana charge give us a call.