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Survey of Marijuana Law in the United States: Decriminalization of Marijuana

Cities that have Decriminalized Marijuana

​Cities in Michigan: 

  • Ann Arbor
  • Berkley
  • Detroit
  • East Lansing
  • Ferndale
  • Flint
  • Grand Rapids
  • Huntington Woods
  • Lansing
  • Jackson
  • Keego Harbor
  • Mount Pleasant
  • Pleasant Ridge
  • Portage
  • Port Huron
  • Saginaw

Other Cities:

  • Berkeley, CA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbia, MO
  • Miami, FL
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Monona, WI
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New York, NY
  • Orlando, FL
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Tampa, FL
  • Toledo, OH
  • Wichita, KS


Decriminalization of Marijuana by the States


Twenty states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. This generally means certain small, personal-consumption amounts are a civil or local infraction, not a state crime (or are a lowest misdemeanor with no possibility of jail time).

Decriminalization states are Alaska (also now with legal provisions), California, Colorado (also now with legal provisions), Connecticut, Delaware (enacted in 2015), Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon (also now with legal provisions), Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington (also now with legal provisions), and the District of Columbia (also now with legal provisions).

Of those, six—Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio (and Oregon before legalization)—have it as a low-level misdemeanor, with no possibility of jail for qualifying offenses. The other states with decriminalization policy have specified small amounts of marijuana as a civil infraction, or the like.

2016 Legislation

A New Hampshire measure (SB 498) now before the governor makes possession of one-quarter ounce or less of marijuana a violation, and also provides for a statewide marijuana education program. Decriminalization bills currently are pending in legislatures in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and South Carolina. Bills to decriminalize certain amounts of marijuana have failed so far this year in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming. Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly overrode the governor's veto of a 2015 measure (SB 517) that decriminalizes marijuana paraphernalia and imposes civil fines of $500 for public cannabis use. Bills in Massachusetts and New York also would amend existing decriminalization laws. Rhode Island bills addressing subsequent offenses and minor possession will be held for further study. The Hawaii House adopted a resolution (HCR 127) providing for a legislative study of potential impact of marijuana decriminalization.

Recent Recap

In 2015, Delaware (HB 39) decriminalized personal use amounts of marijuana. Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults is a civil violation with a $100 fine. The Illinois governor issued an amendatory veto to the General Assembly's HB 218, which would have decriminalized possession of not more than 30 grams of cannabis, making it a petty offense with a fine of $125. Bills to decriminalize marijuana were before legislatures in 15 states in 2015, and some are among those pending in 2016. A Hawaii bill passed the Senate but was not advanced in the House.

Maryland approved decriminalization (SB 364) in 2014, making possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil, rather than criminal, offense, subject to a fine ranging from a $100 to $500, depending on the number of violations. Funds go to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for drug treatment and education programs. The act requires appearance in court by violators younger than age 21, and establishes separate procedures and consequences for those younger than 18 years old.

A 2014 act in Missouri (SB 491) made first-time offense of possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana a Class D misdemeanor, which has no statutory jail time, rather than a Class A misdemeanor. Also in 2014 and preceding the successful legalization ballot measure, the District of Columbia enacted legislation (BB 409), which passed congressional review and was assigned Law #126. It made possession or transfer without remuneration of one ounce or less of marijuana a civil violation subject to a fine of $25 and seizure of any marijuana and paraphernalia visible to the police officer at the time of the violation. Vermont decriminalized marijuana possession in 2013,  and in 2014 the General Assembly adjourned without advancing a measure that would have decriminalized several additional offenses.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, Marijuana Overview. Current as of May 24, 2016

20 States and the District of Columbia have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana

  •  Alaska
  •  California
  •  Colorado
  •  Connecticut
  •  Delaware
  •  District of Columbia
  •  Illinois
  •  Maine
  •  Maryland
  •  Massachusetts
  •  Minnesota
  •  Mississippi
  •  Missouri
  •  Nebraska
  •  Nevada
  •  New York
  •  North Carolina
  •  Ohio
  •  Oregon
  •  Rhode Island
  •  Vermont
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