Decriminalization at a Glance: The Best States to Be Busted With Pot

Maryland and Washington, D.C., are poised to join the decriminalization club. Here’s a look at reduced penalties already in place.

Former Louisiana State University cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is placed in a police car bound for East Baton Rouge Parish prison after he and three former LSU teammates were found in an apartment with 18 grams of marijuana on Oct. 25, 2012. In some states the alleged infraction would be resolved with a fine.

Former Louisiana State University cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is placed in a police car bound for East Baton Rouge Parish prison after he and three former LSU teammates were found in an apartment with 18 grams of marijuana on Oct. 25, 2012. In some states the alleged infraction would be resolved with a fine.

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Possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal for adults over age 21 in two states – Colorado and Washington – but a significant number of states offer just a slap on the wrist for small-time pot possession.

Maryland and Washington, D.C., are likely to soon join the list of jurisdictions that have decriminalized minor marijuana possession. The Maryland legislature passed a decriminalization bill Monday and Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., intends to sign it. The D.C. Council passed a decriminalization bill March 4 and Congress has 60 days to review and possibly block it – but there’s no indication that will happen.

[DEBATE CLUB: Should Marijuana Be Legalized?]

American police arrested about 750,000 people for marijuana-related offenses in 2012, according to FBI data. A report from the American Civil Liberties Union found – based on 2010 data – that D.C. had the highest per capita arrest rate with 846 in 100,000 residents arrested.

Decriminalization often means no criminal record and a straightforward fine for people caught with marijuana, although policies vary among the states.

There are active campaigns to legalize marijuana in many states, and Alaska voters will consider legalization Aug. 19. Alaska's marijuana policy has ping-ponged from prohibition to sweeping decriminalization with court rulings, referendums and legislative action during the past four decades.

[ALSO: More Pot Packages Found in Mail Last Year]

As the legalization debate rages, here’s a look at where penalties have already been reduced (but where you'll still lose your weed if police find it):

Jurisdictions with pending fine-only decriminalization laws:

Possession of Up to... Ages Affected First Offense Second Offense Third Offense
Washington, D.C. 1 ounce 18+ $25  $25  $25
Maryland .35 ounce 21+ $100 $250  $500*

*Court-ordered drug education program possible.

States that have already ditched jail time (at least for first offenses): 

Possession of Up to...
Ages Affected First Offense Second Offense Third Offense
California 1 ounce 18+ $100  $100 $100
Massachusetts 1 ounce 18+ $100 $100 $100
New York .88 ounce 18+ $100 $200 $250; up to 15 days in jail
Ohio 3.5 ounces 18+ $150 $150 $150
Mississippi 1.05 ounce 18+ $100-250 $250; five-60 days in jail
$250-500; up to six months in jail
Connecticut .5 ounce 18+ $150 $200-500 $200-500
Rhode Island 1 ounce 18+ $150 $150 $500; up to one year in prison
Minnesota 1.5 ounces 18+ $200*
$200*
$200*
Vermont 1 ounce 21+ $200 $300 $500
Maine 1.25 ounces
(1.25-2.5 ounces)
18+ $350-600
($700-1000)
$350-600
($700-1000)
$350-600
($700-1000)
Nebraska 1 ounce 18+ $300*
$400; five days in jail
$500; up to seven days in jail
Oregon 1 ounce 18+ $650 $650 $650
Nevada 1 ounce 18+ $600*
$1000*
$2000; up to one year in jail

*Court-ordered drug education/treatment programs possible.
Notes: In Minnesota, possession in a car is a separate crime. In New York offenses reset after three years, and in Rhode Island offenses reset after 18 months.