Uh oh–you’ve been caught with weed. Now what’s gonna happen? Depending on where you live and how much you have on you, getting caught with marijuana can either spell big trouble or just an expensive fine.
Chicago is considering a new policy that would give anybody over 18 caught with weed in small amounts a fine instead of a criminal charge (provided the person has ID and isn’t wanted for anything else). This isn’t to say that it’s legalizing marijuana, because you’re still getting fined for it. In fact, most people are actually getting into more actual trouble with the law now that the new policy is in place–because before, adults caught with weed were charged with misdemeanors, but nine out of 10 of those cases wound up being dismissed. By simply imposing a fine for possessing small amounts of marijuana, it frees cops up to pursue more serious crime. Note, though, that if you’re caught with weed in a school zone or park or in public openly smoking marijuana, you’ll still get arrested!
Chicago’s policy is taking the same route as some other cities and states before it. Governments are beginning to realize that no matter what they say or do, people are still going to use pot–which makes cops and courts super busy just dealing with people who otherwise aren’t really hurting anybody. Decriminalization of marijuana gives everyone caught with weed less of a hassle, as well as those who are supposed to catch them–because they won’t wind up tied up over something relatively trivial when there are (oh, I don’t know) murders going on across town.
California officially decriminalized marijuana, so if you’re caught with weed there (an ounce or less, mind you), it’s a civil offense instead of a criminal one–meaning it’s punishable by a fine, but you won’t get arrested. Massachusetts replaced criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana with a $100 fine and prevents minor marijuana-related infractions from going on your criminal record. Rhode Island, Maryland, and Oregon also have lax or decriminalized marijuana policies, and Arizona is waiting on a bill to pass to join them.
Some individual cities have altered their own marijuana laws, despite state and federal laws being different from (and likely trumping) them–and this leads to a lot of confusion! In Denver and Breckenridge, Colorado, local laws decriminalized possessing up to one ounce of marijuana–but the state laws in Colorado still see it as a crime, so if a state trooper catches you instead of a local cop, you’re still liable to get arrested. Yikes! Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan make getting caught with weed in small amounts a civil infraction instead of a criminal one, but criminal law is still in place on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor–so be careful!
It’s important to note, too, that even in areas that decriminalize using or possessing small amounts of marijuana, being caught with weed that you’re clearly intending to sell is bad news bears everywhere–and will almost definitely land you in the slammer.
Though we think it’d make sense to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana just to free up a lot of everyone’s time and money for more important stuff, we’re not condoning smoking pot. It can still get you in deep doodoo in most places, and it can affect developing brains differently than those of fully grown adults. But we know a lot of you currently do or will use marijuana anyway, so we just want you to be prepared and know what you’re in for if you’re ever caught with weed. Know your rights, be responsible, and use common sense!
Have you ever been caught with weed? Do you think marijuana should be decriminalized or legalized? How do you think someone who gets caught with weed should be penalized? Tell us in the comments!