The Marijuana Laws in These States Are Ridiculously Harsh

When it comes to marijuana laws, things are changing. Most of the population favors marijuana legalization. More and more baby boomers are smoking pot. Heck, the numbers show marijuana is more popular than ice cream and Girl Scout cookies. Thanks to states with some very loose marijuana laws, the people who want it have easy and legal access to it.

Yet not all states are the same. There are still some states where judges throw the book at you if you’re caught with even a little bit of marijuana. Maybe lawmakers are buying into Jeff Sessions’ lies about marijuana. Perhaps legislators are worried more about marijuana’s side effects rather than its potential health benefits.

Whatever the reasons, there are some states where the marijuana laws are shockingly strict. Expect arrests, fines, and jail time if you’re caught in these states with harsh marijuana laws. If you value your freedom and your personal record, definitely avoid our final entry on the list.

1. Arkansas

A welcome sign marks the state line between Arkansas and Oklahoma
Arkansas is tough on people who break marijuana laws more than once.| wellesenterprises/iStock/Getty Images
  • Amount: 4 ounces or less
  • Jail time: 1 year or less
  • Maximum fine: $2,500

Arkansas shows you a little leniency the first time you’re arrested on pot charges. Simple possession of 4 ounces or less is a misdemeanor, albeit with up to a year of jail time and a healthy fine included. The marijuana laws in Arkansas are a lot stricter beyond that. The second time you’re charged with possession, it’s a felony with up to 6 years behind bars and a $10,000 fine.

Next: Penalties quickly get very harsh in our next state.

2. Florida

Florida Keys
Possessing more than 20 grams of marijuana in Florida could lead to a felony conviction. | Bertl123/iStock/Getty Images
  • Amount: 20 grams or less
  • Jail time: 1 year
  • Maximum fine: $1,000

Florida’s marijuana laws become incredibly harsh incredibly quickly. First-time offenders charged with possession or sale of 20 grams or less can get off with a misdemeanor. The punishment is more severe if you have more than 20 grams. We’re talking a felony, 5 years in prison, and a $5,000 fine.

Next: You shouldn’t expect any change to marijuana laws here.

3. Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia, USA downtown skyline at dusk.
Georgia might have a financial incentive to stick with tough marijuana laws. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images
  • Amount: 1 ounce
  • Jail time: 1 year
  • Maximum fine: $1,000

Georgia’s marijuana laws are basic enough. They follow a 1-1-1 rule. An ounce or less and it’s a misdemeanor charge with up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, nearly every other offense in the state is a felony. Georgia probably won’t legalize marijuana anytime soon, and why would it? The fines it collects from more than 27,000 marijuana arrests — including these ones — are boosting the budget.

Next: A state with strict marijuana laws that shows some leniency.

4. Idaho

Welcome sign on the boarder to Idaho State
Most marijuana offenses in Idaho are felonies. | oscity/iStock/Getty Images
  • Amount: 3 ounces or less
  • Jail time: 1 year
  • Maximum fine: $1,000

Like the state we just visited, Idaho probably won’t make weed legal anytime soon. The marijuana laws there reflect that attitude, and most offenses are felonies. However, the state does show some leniency. If you’re caught possessing 3 ounces or less, you’re charged with a misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail, and up to $1,000 in fines. That’s not ideal for marijuana lovers, but as long as you’re not selling it or growing it, the punishment is manageable.

Next: Where 6 months in jail is just a start.

5. Indiana

Indianapolis skyline at sunset
The home state of Mike Pence has strict marijuana laws. | RudyBalasko/iStock/Getty Images
  • Amount: Any amount
  • Jail time: 180 days
  • Maximum fine: $1,000

The Hoosier State is one of the cheapest places to live. It also happens to have some of the harshest marijuana laws in the United States. Get arrested with any amount of pot in your possession and you’re looking at up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. If it happens again, the punishment is 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Those are strict laws, but at least those are misdemeanors instead of felonies.

Next: A place with terrible taxes and tough marijuana laws.

6. Iowa

Here we have the Des Moines Skyline, Iowa Women of Achievement bridge and the river all in one great night shot
Habitual pot smokers might want to leave Iowa. | KudicM/Getty Images
  • Amount: Any amount
  • Jail time: 6 months
  • Maximum fine: $1,000

Iowa has some of worst state income tax rates in the United States. Likewise with its marijuana laws. Like we just saw in Indiana, a first-time offender with any amount is charged with a misdemeanor. A first offense also carries up to 6 months in jail and $1,000 in fines. Get caught a second time with any amount and you’re looking at 1 year and $1,875 in fines. A third offense, though still a misdemeanor, brings with it up to 2 years in jail and $6,250 in fines. So if you can’t live without pot in your life, you might want to consider getting out of Iowa.

Next: Two strikes, and then you’re in trouble.

7. Kansas

The Kansas state capitol building is located in downtown Topeka on land donated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad company. Construction began in 1866 and was officially completed 37 years later in 1903 at a total cost of just over 3.2 million dollars. The building is over 300 feet tall and is 17 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.
Kansas takes a tough position on marijuana. | fotoguy22/iStock/Getty Images
  • Amount: Any amount
  • Jail time: 6 months
  • Maximum fine: $1,000

You can be charged with a crime for having any amount of marijuana in Kansas. The first time you’re caught (and the second, if you’re unlucky enough), it’s a misdemeanor charge with up to 6 months in jail and $1,000 in fines. After that, you’re entering into felony territory and facing ever harsher penalties.

Next: Just don’t get your hands dirty.

8. Louisiana

Venice, Louisiana, doc
It’s risky to grow marijuana in Louisiana. | MIRA OBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images
  • Amount: 14 grams or less
  • Jail time: 15 days
  • Maximum fine: $300

The punishments for simple possession shown above aren’t why Louisiana makes this list. You have to possess 60 pounds or more before you get into felony territory. If you get your hands dirty growing, that’s when you face Louisiana’s tough marijuana laws. Get caught with one plant, even one that’s not mature enough to produce marijuana buds, and the punishment is a minimum 5 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Next: Where pot and parks don’t mix.

9. Michigan

Campus of the University of Michigan
Even a smal amount of marijuana could land you in jail for a year. |
  • Amount: Any amount
  • Jail time: 1 year
  • Maximum fine: $2,000

We’ve already covered a couple states in the Midwest with strict marijuana laws. Michigan is right there with them. Possessing any amount is a misdemeanor with up to 1 year in jail and a $2,000 fine. The punishments are worse if you’re in a park. If you’re caught using, you’re looking at another 90 days and $100. So long story short, it’s best to leave your stash at home if you live in or travel to Michigan.

Next: All in all, this state’s laws aren’t that bad.

10. North Dakota

Downtown Fargo city in North Dakota
Get caught with more than 1 ounce of marijuana in North Dakota, and you could be in big trouble. | csfotoimages/iStock/Getty Images
  • Amount: 1 ounces or less
  • Jail time: 30 days
  • Maximum fine: $1,500

Of the states on this list, North Dakota has the softest marijuana laws. First-time offenders with an ounce or less are slapped with a misdemeanor charge, moderate jail time, and a fine. Convictions for first-time offenders are sealed as long they stay out of trouble for two years. Just don’t get caught with anything more than an ounce. That’s when you’re looking at felonies, multiple years in jail, and five-figure fines.

Next: Don’t sell marijuana and your punishment won’t be too bad.

11. Oklahoma

Oklahoma City area on a map
Oklahoma doesn’t look kindly on dealers. |
  • Amount: Any amount
  • Jail time: 1 year
  • Maximum fine: $1,000

Like most of the states we’ve seen so far, possessing any amount of marijuana puts you in jail in Oklahoma. That’s a strict law, but on the plus side, it’s a misdemeanor charge. Subsequent possession arrests are also misdemeanors. It’s not until you’re caught selling or distributing that Oklahoma’s marijuana laws lead to felony charges.

Next: Felonies follow your first marijuana conviction in this state.

12. South Dakota

sign board saying ' South Dakota'
Marijuana possession could lead to a felony convistion in South Dakota. |
  • Amount: 2 ounces or less
  • Jail time: 1 year
  • Maximum fine: $2,000

We saw just a minute ago how North Dakota has some of the softest marijuana laws of the states on this list. It’s cousin to the south isn’t on the same page. Possession of 2 ounces or less is a misdemeanor charge with up to a year in jail. Almost all other charges in the state are felonies with far harsher punishments.

Next: Don’t mess with possession.

13. Texas

view of Texas Capital Building
More than 72,000 people in Texas were arrested for marijuana possession in 2012. | iStock/Getty Images
  • Amount: 2 ounces or less
  • Jail time: 180 days
  • Maximum fine: $2,000

No matter what happens in the rest of country, Texas won’t be changing its laws any time soon. The state made more than 72,000 people marijuana arrests in 2012, leading to a financial windfall. A staggering 97% of Texas marijuana arrests are for misdemeanor possession with the punishments covered above. One thing is for sure: You don’t want to mess with possession in Texas.

Next: A state where fines go up 500% if you’re caught twice.

14. Virginia

University of Virginia
Multiple possession charges lead to jail time in Virginia. |
  • Amount: 0.5 ounces
  • Jail time: 30 days
  • Maximum fine: $500

Virginia’s laws get harsh very quickly. The first time you’re arrested for possession, the misdemeanor charge carries a maximum 30 days in jail and $500 fine. If you’re caught a second time, you won’t be so lucky. Subsequent possession charges can lead to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Next: A state with simple and strict laws.

15. West Virginia

Beckley, West Virginia
West Virginia’s marijuana laws are simple and strict. | Tim Kiser/Wikimedia Commons
  • Amount: Any amount
  • Jail time: 90 days
  • Maximum fine: $1,000

West Virginia’s marijuana laws are simple — and strict. All possession charges are misdemeanors with up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The state gives a little leeway for first-time offenders, who can go on probation and eventually have the charges dropped if they pass drug tests. Everything else is a felony, including trafficking any amount into West Virginia.

Next: Say cheese, because you’ll definitely be in a mugshot if you’re caught with pot.

16. Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Capitol building
Wisconsin has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the U.S. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
  • Amount: Any amount
  • Jail time: 6 months
  • Maximum fine: $1,000

Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland. You’ll definitely be saying cheese as you pose for a mugshot after being caught with marijuana there. The state’s marijuana laws are among the harshest in the country. First-time possession offenders are charged with misdemeanors. After that, every single possession, cultivation, sale, and trafficking charge is a felony with mammoth penalties. Surrendering your driving privileges is one punishment. That’s pretty bad, but it’s not even close to the ridiculously harsh penalties we’re about to see.

Next: The state that by far has the worst marijuana laws in the country.

17. Arizona

Phoenix Arizona with its downtown lit
Arizona has the most ridiculous marijuana laws in America. | Dreamframer/iStock/Getty Images
  • Amount: 2 pounds or less
  • Jail time: 4 months
  • Maximum fine: $150,000

Here we are, the state with the harshest marijuana laws in the land. If you’re arrested with a few flakes of marijuana in Arizona, you’re facing the punishments listed up above. All marijuana charges in Arizona are felonies. Every. Single. One. First-time offenders can bargain for probation and eventually have the charges sealed, but that’s the only shred of relief.

Considering neighbor states California and Nevada have loose marijuana laws, maybe Arizonans need to lobby lawmakers to rewrite the rules and bring the state up to speed with current trends.

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