Honolulu, HI: Senate lawmakers this week unanimously approved legislation making minor marijuana possession offenses a non-criminal, fine-only offense. Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 472 by a vote of 25 to zero. It is the second year in a row that Senate lawmakers have unanimously approved legislation to decriminalize cannabis.
The measure now awaits action by House lawmakers. NORML’s written testimony in support of the measure is available online here: http://norml.org/library/item/written-testimony-in-favor-of-senate-bill-472.
Under present law, the possession of marijuana for non-medical purposes is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Fifteen states have reduced marijuana possession to a fine-only offense. In nine of these states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island (beginning April 1, 2013) – the law defines the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by adults as a civil, non-criminal offense. Five additional states – Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio – treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense. Alaska imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Similar decriminalization legislation is pending in nearly a dozen additional states, including Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont.