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.
Get active; get NORML!

116 thoughts

  1. We’re all aware of the insanity of marijuana prohibition and the political corruption behind it all. Constantly getting worked up over it only energizes and strengthens the madness.
    Instead, accept what is and play by the rules. Support NORML, ASA and your local advocacy groups. Know where your candidates stand and vote.
    Even though Big Pharma and other threatened industries can afford to bypass the rules, look at all the battles that have been won so far– 16 and counting. Given time, sanity will prevail. Until then, be even more careful than ever.
    Why fuel the insanity? Accept it, knowing that its days are indeed numbered. Honestly, I’d rather focus on something positive.

  2. We’re all aware of the insanity of marijuana prohibition and the political corruption behind it all. Constantly getting worked up over it only energizes and strengthens the madness.
    Instead, accept what is and play by the rules. Support NORML, ASA and your local advocacy groups. Know where your candidates stand and vote.
    Even though Big Pharma and other threatened industries can afford to bypass the rules, look at all the battles that have been won so far– 16 and counting. Given time, sanity will prevail. Until then, be even more careful than ever.
    Why fuel the insanity? Accept it, knowing that its days are indeed numbered. Honestly, I’d rather focus on something positive.

  3. “Genesists will never compromise our principals or abandon our cause.”
    We know that there are many representatives that “do the peoples business” – and – they themselves are not prohibitionists. These are our brethren in office – and – deserve our whole support. From the ones making the laws to the ones enforcing the laws – anti-prohibs should receive our blessings.
    There’s some of this shit that gets in your head and don’t go away. Madness takes its toll. Madness is what we are going through. When you realize the effects of all the atrocities that have befallen us at the hand of prohibs – all that we have endured under the disguise of justice – we must examine or at least question our own sanity – or – we are derelict in our duty to self.

  4. This is real BS – destroying evidence ?!
    If they knock and hear nothing, then go away the evidence could be destroyed before they return and knock again. Anyway until they are sure a crime has been committed at that address there is no concept of evidence anyway. Smells are not an indication of crime being committed since you may have just finished your last bit and then you are not in possession are you. Very dubious decision – unworthy of any judge !

  5. I think this is the biggest crime of all. Arresting people because you think they are smoking marijuana in the privicy of their homes? Have all of you lost your mind, it’s a plant for Gods sake. The Supreme court, has no right to take the rights that OUR forfathers gave us!!! You or they have no right to, rewrite the amendment or Constituion to fit your agenda. We the people need to vote all of these jerks out of office. I just don’t understand why more people don’t get out and vote and change all of this!!I also don’t understand how or why the same ones are always voted back in?? Do you think they will change, or what??

  6. The laws must change we the people of the united states demand a careing Government not a money makeing Government. I live in Michigan the laws arnt quit as bad as the infamous five states,but they need to be changed as well. The so called Medical Marijuana has driven the price of pot thru the roof and it must be stoped. I should not have to give a doctor $150 for a medical card to use Marijuana,its safer then booze or tobacco or even caffine. Oh wait i foregot its a money game in the Good ole U.S.OF A. were did our values go? were is the pursuit to be happy as long as it dont hurt others? Free Marijuana its just not for smokeing anymore!

  7. I’m in Oklahoma. The amusing thing is, you would think that in a state so caught up in the drug war that people would have given up… that is not the case. We live our lives, we have to hide out, we have to be more careful, but it also breeds a sweetness in the turmoil. We know where the fight lies, we know what happens when the Constitution is trampled, and when we are actually able to get out of here I believe we have a greater understanding of the importance of basic human rights and decency. Are there helicopters over head every night? Yes. Is being pulled over the scariest thing in the world? Yes, but it’s worse in Texas. I hate being here, those that put down the “divine word” and picked up a thought stick simply do not belong. If anyone wants to give a job to a degreed twenty something to get me the hell out of here, I would be much obliged.

  8. Let’s face it – any state is the worst state to get busted in. It’s the getting busted that makes it no better or no less painful. Look – ask yourself – what’s the worst thing that can happen? Then – “accept it.” What’s really amazing here is that once you do that – everything gets better. You’ve got no place to go but up.

  9. “Andrew T Says:
    May 19th, 2011 at 3:58 pm
    “…those that put down the “divine word” and picked up a thought stick…”
    RE: Andrew,
    The SUPREME IRONY of those states whose majority of people claim
    unwaivering “belief” in “divine-word” is that their
    imperious “war on a plant-species”
    (one of many plant-species ALSO “made” by the same Creator-God),
    CONTRADICTS the “Holy Writ”
    they claim to “believe” in…!!!

  10. O how the redneck south fears the enlightened mind. And stop electing republicans people. They want you to keep getting arrested so big pharma keeps giving them their checks. There was a time when America was respected in the world, and now other countries look at us like we are just glorified rednecks who own yachts and hummers and still bitch about our taxes. People that are arrested cant vote to effect change, so please be careful out there. Smoke 4 all around…..

  11. I live in CA. I am moving to FL. Now what? From what I’ve read, if I’m discreet and paranoid (like the old days) it will be ok.
    P.S. I am a 70 year old woman with a PhD and a medical condition.

  12. norml why do you guys not create TV commercials. every article i read on the internet, probably 24 out of every 25 people are bewildered at marijuana laws while the other person says its wrong to smoke weed. if that even.. it blows my mind. obviously the majority of the country knows marijuana is relatively safe, minus people with pre-existing mental conditions, and i think anyone would agree that by legalizing marijuana we would vastly, so very vastly eliminate it from teenagers hands whose brains are still developing, as well as eliminate street gangs. WITH MARIJUANA ILLEGAL, THERE IS A CAUSE FOR A “DRUG WAR”, FOR THERE ARE STILL DRUG DEALERS. LEGALIZE IT, AND YOU VASTLY ELIMINATE THE BLACK MARKET! if drug dealers dont have pot to sell, they’ll likely find themselves going BANKRUPT trying to sell the more serious, less popular and much more damaging drugs.
    [Editor’s note: NORML’s run TV commercials before…see here. Also, NORML has run many radio, billboards and print ads since 1970s. See here for info about NORML’s ads.
    The two main problems with drug policy reform groups running pro-reform commercials are 1) Costs to produce and run sustained campaigns, notably in large and national media markets (to date, no drug policy reform group including NORML has had budgets large enough to make major media buys, i.e. 30 second ad buys during the Super Bowl), and 2) Even with well produced ads and sufficient cash in hand, major media outlets have no legal or moral obligation to run the ads (and most media outlets historically will not run pro-cannabis reform ads).
    No doubt that sustained, well conceived and produced pro-reform ads can only help hasten an end to Cannabis Prohibition. No doubt at all.]

  13. Why arent we out there with petitions and protest in the 5 worst states? This is America!!!! So in AZ and FL you go to prison and get a felony? and the rest of the usa gets a slap on the hands??? It should be the same laws in every state, Were suspose to be one country???? Your life is ruined in those 5 states and the rest of the usa nothing happens to you??? are we the people in those 5 states part of the usa??? Cose we dont feel like we are. This is totaly crazy. We the people need to help the people of oppressed states. Our rights and freedom to govern out own body is being stomped on. If anything should be illegal it should be ciggeretts, they cause lung cancer. What cancer dose pot cause????? Cigeretts drain the economy via medical problems in those states, what dose pot drain?? oh ya, the police get 150,000 in fines if they bust you. I would say thats the reason AZ has such tough pot laws. I dont think its for our well being. I think its to collect some easy cash.

  14. all i got to say is 1dime bag life sentences omg and you allow legsl handguns to be bought like candy , and alcohol being sold at corner stores here in canada we have barley any sentances for Marihuana but you get caught with a hand gun and its a instant 4 years in jail when have you heard of a pot head od kill or commit suicide over it,

  15. Well of course that would take away from the money-making LEGAL prescription drug business..and of course the money they make putting “pot” people in jail. Move to another state that isn’t so backward so you don’t have to worry about that sort of thing:)

  16. lol i live in texas……… why was i born here !!! lol its not fair damn it’s extremely cheap housing and flourishing economy. lol

  17. I am 62 and have lived in Florida or Georgia all my life and don’t know anyone who ever went to prison for possession of less than an once. And I’ve known a lot people over the years that got busted. Still, the fear of an over zealous judge looms large for even casual users.

  18. As a VFW Chaplain , service connected viet nam veteran; disabled I find marijuana more effective and less invasive as morphine or hydro cordons. My Drs at the VHS system would rather have me use mm rather than the opiates. In genesis god said he made the herb and said it was good. He made all for the good of his creation. By 2020 it is projected that 60 percent of mm patients will engest THC rather than smoke it. Delivery is a very big part of the marijuana debate. As for me, I am too old to be in pain when I don’t have to be. The VHS has recognized the right of a veteran to use mm in an approved state. Until the govt recognizes state rights, those states who would can’t. End of sermon

  19. Louisiana is really shitty when it comes to possession..i was in court with alot of good people being hit with huge fines for just smelling like pot..ridiculous…its true..dont get caught in this will cost ya…boooooo Louisiana…

  20. I live in Cail so I dont trip ill be posted blazing a dankass blunt while ya niggas be keepin it lowkey

  21. I live in Texas, i love the state and everything about it, except for their pot laws!!! In Austin everyone tokes up and usually cops turn a blind eye, but there is that occasional pig that comes sniffing at your car window…NO WONDER WERE PARANOID!

  22. Approximately 6 years ago..i was arrested in Greenville Pennsylvania. .Mercer county. .. for selling 4.0 grams of marijuana. … first offense and got 2-5 years in an upstate Prison. MUNCY. In the meantime. .. there were women Pedophiles. .. drug queens.. murderers.. doing way less Time. ….. and what kind of a world do we live in

  23. It takes decades to change the mind of a country. I’ve seen a lot of positive change in the last 50 years. I think we could be half way there. In the mean time don’t be their stooge. Grow your own stash and party in a controlled environment. Like your own home.

  24. I wonder if it is not a coincidence that three of the five states on this list are notorious for having to deal with major drug trafficking offenses – Texas, Arizona and Florida? Perhaps that is what gives them an incentive to be hard across the board?

  25. I lived in Missouri all my life and if you got caught in southern mo it was probation,fine 1st offense but selling 1/4 oz you were looking at serving 6 months in county jail fully. Unless you were in Kansas City. Everyone it seemed like bought sold and smoked and you wouldnt get in near as much trouble. KC Cops had bigger things to worry about and needed the jail cell space! Now Ive moved to WAShingto state.And its legal! If you have a medical card you can possess up to 24 ounces.if you dont have med card you can possess up to an ounce. IM LOVING this state. Theyre big on speeding in your car and duis. People working at Walmart here are long haired stoners and dont get fired! Everywhere you go people are very liberal and smell like weed in public. MOVE to Washington keep a clean criminal record!

  26. I am so amazed that it is still illegal that has anything to do with marijuana. How many ppl do you know that have died as a result of a car wreck killing a family of five due to the fact that the driver was under the influence of nothing but marijuana ? I have never heard of one such occasion. And yet there are liquor stores on every corner and ppl leaving bars who have obviously been drinking too much to be driving and yet law enforcement turns their heads away at this. People with numerous dwi’s continue to drive after many arrests and on the average get a slap on the wrist, a fine and the occasional 2-3 years in jail. Alcohol is a rampant problem in todays society. Not only for the adult population but with young ppl under age. How many lives have been lost due to alcohol use as opposed to any losses due simply to the use of marijuana??

  27. this is fucking reduciouls, they least i think they should do is decrimlized marijuana. when your o.k. state they fucking nail you its fucking bullshit, they should be focucs on get people with harder drugs

  28. I was pulled over yesterday on my way to work (I live 4 miles from work) I was going 40 in a 35, officer asked to search my vehicle for drugs and weapons and I said go right ahead, not a problem NOW ive read that I should have told them to get a search warrant, but again I had no clue it was in there.(I obviously DIDNT know there was .03 gram of bud in the truck it was old and dry brittle. Had no clue it was there, so I was given a citation and a court date. Now I face loosing my job, my drivers license for 2 years, and having this on my record for the rest of my life. I just moved to this state a month ago from Georgia, I dont even have a Florida drivers license yet. Something has to be done about this bullshit pot laws. I’m so depressed, its going to cost me $$$$$ that I dont have to get through this.

  29. In Louisiana the fines and punishments for using weed is very low, at least to minors.Most people don’t even get arrested.The most common thing that will happen is expellition ,6 months probation,and alternative school.This story is a bunch of bullshit.

  30. Jason Payne: I am not an attorney however, this is the smmation of much of what I have read and used.
    NEVER “let” a police officer search anything.
    When a police officer stops you, provide your information, DL and registration if asked. Wait for the police officer to TELL YOU why he pulled you over. He may wait until after he runs your information.
    If upon return he does NOT articulate cause, then ask him to ARTICULATE his cause for stopping you. He must comply. THEN ASK IF YOU CAN CONTINUE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS. If he sais yes, the thank him and LEAVE immediately.
    If an officer asks to search your vehicle or person, ask him to ARTICULATE his cause and justify the need to do so.
    After the explanation, ask if you can can continue on your business, it does NOT matter what reason he gives, unless he has arrested you for other than a civil infraction (speeding ticket etc)
    IF the officer tells you NO (you can’t leave), then ask what charges he has arrested you for. This places the officer on notice that he has already arrested you (taken you into custody and stopped your right to continue about your business). THis is a problem for 99% of all stops. it also creates the LEGAL requirement to articulate the actual charges and place you under arrest or to write a citation and release you.
    ANY time an officer asks to search anything, tell them NO.
    If the officer asks you to step out of your car, roll up your windows, step out and LOCK THE DOORS. DO NOT LEAVE THEM UNLOCKED AT ALL.
    The officer will ALWAYS ask why you dont want them to search and what you have to hide. Tell the officer “United States and State Constitutions protects me from unwarranted and unreasonable search and seizure”.
    Immediately ask again if you can continue about your business. THIS IS IMPORTANT, this is the third time you have asked.
    If he asks again tell him “no you may not search my person or my vehicle.”. DO NOT GIVE ANY OTHER STATMENT NO MATTER WHAT.
    If the officer continues to hold you there against your will, demand a supervisor be sent to the site immiadately. If the officer tells you he is a supervisor tell him to get his direct superior there immediately.
    Explain to any supervisor that you have already asked to go about your business X times and have been denied and not cited or given a statement of charges.
    Remember that the more times you ask if you can continue on your business, the more trouble the officer faces for not writing a citation or making an arrest and keeping you from your business.
    Remember to file a formal complaint against the officer if he holds you at all without charges or attempts ot search your vehicle without haveing made an arrest for more than a civil violation (misdemeanor or felony charge). EVen if he continually asks to search and will not let you leave. This is abuse of power, attempting to make you wave a constitutional right before he will let you go.
    Do NOT resist, however always state your rights and use the word “Articulate” . This word is the LEGAL notification that you understand your rights and that he must comply. It is the word that the supreme courts use in each decisison they make regarding police actions.
    Remember, of the officer can NOT explain it legally correctly he has violated your rights under law.

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