Alternet: 'The Five Worst States to Get Busted With Pot'

Police prosecute over 850,000 Americans annually for violating state marijuana laws. The penalties for those busted and convicted vary greatly, ranging from the imposition of small fines to license revocation to potential incarceration. But for the citizens arrested in these five states, the ramifications of even a minor pot bust are likely to be exceptionally severe.’s editors recently asked me to compile a list of ‘the worst of the worst’ states to be busted for personal pot possession. Without further ado, here they are:

The 5 Worst States to Get Busted With Pot
[excerpt] 1. Oklahoma — Lawmakers in the Sooner State made headlines this spring when legislators voted 119 to 20 in favor of House Bill 1798, which enhances the state sentencing guidelines for hash manufacturing to a minimum of two years in jail and a maximum penalty of life in prison. (Mary Fallin, the state’s first-ever female governor, signed the measure into law in April; it takes effect on November 1, 2011.) But longtime Oklahoma observers were hardly surprised at lawmakers’ latest “life for pot” plan. After all, state law already allows judges to hand out life sentences for those convicted of cannabis cultivation or for the sale of a single dime-bag.
2. Texas — On an annual basis, no state arrests and criminally prosecutes more of its citizens for pot than does Texas. Marijuana arrests comprise over half of all annual arrests in the Lone Star State. It is easy to see why. In 2009, more than 97 percent of all Texas marijuana arrests — over 77,000 people — were for possession only. Those convicted face up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, even upon a first conviction.
3. Florida — According to a 2009 state-by-state analysis by researcher and former NORML Director Jon Gettman, no other state routinely punishes minor marijuana more severely than does the Sunshine State. Under Florida law, marijuana possession of 20 grams or less (about two-thirds of an ounce) is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one-year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Marijuana possession over 20 grams, as well as the cultivation of even a single pot plant, are defined by law as felony offenses – punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In recent years, state lawmakers have revisited the state’s marijuana penalties – in each case electing to enhance Florida’s already toughest-in-the-nation criminal punishments.
4. Louisiana — In Louisiana, multi-decade (or even life) sentences for repeat pot offenders are hardly a rare occurrence. Under Louisiana law, a second pot possession conviction is classified as a felony offense, punishable by up to five years in prison. Three-time offenders face up to 20 years in prison. According to a 2008 expose published in New Orleans City Business online, district attorneys are not hesitant to “target small-time marijuana users, sometimes caught with less than a gram of pot, and threaten them with lengthy prison sentences.”
5. Arizona — Forty years ago virtually every state in the nation defined marijuana possession as a felony offense. Today, only one state, Arizona, treats first-time pot possession in such an archaic and punitive manner. Under Arizona law, even minor marijuana possession offenses may be prosecuted as felony crimes, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $150,000 fine. According to Jon Gettman’s 2009 analysis only Florida consistently treats minor marijuana possession cases more severely.

For a comprehensive breakdown of state-by-state marijuana penalties, visit NORML’s online map here. To get active in changing the laws of your state, visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here, sign up for free NORML news and legislative alerts, get involved with your local NORML chapter (or start your own chapter here), and join national NORML.
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116 thoughts

  1. Oklahoma has the toughest marijuana laws by yet Oklahoma County Sheriff Wetsel can break the law. He has been sued by OU medical center 3 times for not paying medical bills for inmates. He didn’t pay $900k and it cost us Oklahoma tax payers millions of dollars. Wetsel refused inmates medical service and released them from jail and dropped sick inmates off at OU medical so us doctors helped them and the corrupted oklahoma Sherrif didn’t pay carp because he is too busy skimming off the top and stupid okies keep voting him back into office. No wonder that state couldn’t get a pro sports team for years and they finally got the thunder from sheer incompetence by the Seattle owner. When they lose Kevin Durant they will be off the band wagon until something else good cones around. Oklahoma is full of racist red neck trailer park trash dirty poor idiots that commit incest and produce mentally disabled children. They are a bunch of moon shine miller high life drinking alcoholics that are pure white trash. No wonder they get earthquakes and tornados and have home frown terrorist blow up their own buildings. Because oklahoma is full of evil. No body wanted the land in oklahoma that’s why they gave it to the Indians. Now the indians are sucking them dry with the Indian casinos all the r ednecks are blowing their checks on gambling and drinking.

  2. I agree. Oklahoma is full of apostates. They claim to be religious but they are hypocrites and hate anything that’s different. If your a redneck then you will fit in. But if your a normal educated american then you already know to avoid Oklahoma. No wonder it is dirt cheap to live their. You can buy a mansion for only $7000 a month. I paid more then that for my apartment in new York. Oklahoma is dirt cheap to live there but its not worth it because it is a very boring and bland state. Crappy weather, crappy food , no rolling hills or any type of natural landscape. If they were smart they would legalize marijuana and collect tax off it to improve their state but their too stupid to do that. They would rather have drunks fighting and wrecking then legalize something harmless like pot. They would also rather be meth heads then pot heads. Oklahoma sure loves their meth and Wal-Mart’s. Lol. Hahaha. Pure trash. The most trashiest dirtiest ignorant meth heads in the world.

  3. Need to update your site. In kansas now if your caught with 450 grams of marijuana your facing a mandatory minimum of 8 years in prison and anything over 25 grams is 54 months. Scary stuff.

  4. Its time the decisions about sentencing goes back to the judges and not politicians and lawmakers looking for promotions. They are only ruining lives and destroying families. Marijuana isn’t going away and it was only made illegal off of made up propaganda.

  5. I live in Oklahoma and got busted with about 1/2 a gram and not only do I have to pay a $1600 fine, having a drug charge on my record means no more student loans, grants, scholarships, any private loans I take out will have a high risk interest rate, I pretty much will never have a nice job, and worse of all the dreams of becoming an engineer I’ve been working towards my whole life are now almost certainly gone.
    And I’m not alone I’ve just joined a new club sorta speak with many other people who in some cases are highly intelligent.

  6. I don’t smoke pot. Never did like the high, nor do I smoke cigs. However the mandatory sentencing laws are hypocritical to the extreme. I am sure the DUI laws drug laws and other non violent laws are simply there for the state to extract money from the poor and very most helpless of citizens. Small comfort that history will condemn the law makers and Gestapo power worshiping cops that do their bidding. They are all no better than the murderous Islamic terrorists, they simply destroy lives by using ill-moral sentencing laws rather than explosives. Lives ruined because a citizen possessed or used a harmless but so called illegal herb. I despise all of them because they know what they are doing is evil and seem to enjoy destroying families, lives and everything good. GODDAMN ALL OF THEM. They are public servants, I would like to see them prosecute violent criminals who get off eaiser in the court system than drug offenders do. Its a nutty evil screwed up system and we, the nonviolent protesters and those that live in what was once a freedom loving country who cant use an herb for medicine or recreation who are suffering their stupidity.

  7. I seen in the news paper the other day in Kansas that someone did a drive by and received probation. In the same news paper someone scammed 88 thousand dollars from his customers and received probation but then in the same paper someone selling marijuana received 96 months in prison for 1 pound. And lawmakers dont under stand why the entire country says the justice system in broken. Only dumb ass lawmakers could possibly think that violent crimes or stealing almost 100k isnt as bad as selling marijuana.

  8. Marijuana will be legalized at the federal level as soon as we elect a non-muslim president. Any sitting president that is clueless on terrorism and refuses to be proactive on marijuana laws is practicing sharia law as far as I am concerned.

  9. Can you share the average fine for having been prosecuted for not having a top on their outdoor crop in Michigan?

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