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.