What does it mean when a state decriminalizes cannabis? If we were to pull out a dictionary and look up “decriminalization,” we’d see that it’s “the action or process of ceasing to treat something as illegal or as a criminal offense.” In recent months, some states took the extra step to decriminalize cannabis due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But this does not mean that it’s legal, either. Here’s everything you need to know about cannabis decriminalization.
The Varying Cannabis Laws
Even in 2020, cannabis legalization falls somewhere in between black and white, depending on where you reside. In states like California, Colorado, and Washington, cannabis is considered legal for both growing and selling purposes. These states have recreational dispensaries and may allow you to grow up to six plants on private property, such as your home.
In states like New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, cannabis is only legal for medical purposes. Patients with a medical card from their doctor may access cannabis products from medical dispensaries. As long as they’re at least 21-years old, of course. That law applies to all 50 states.
Which States Have Decriminalized Cannabis?
There seems to be three levels to cannabis legalization, and they happen in chronological order.
- Level One: Decriminalization
- Level Two: Medical Cannabis
- Level Three: Recreational Cannabis
Meaning, that since recreational cannabis is legal in Alaska, lawmakers have already granted Level One and Two. Many states gradually move up the ladder year after year. Others, however, are still stuck on Level One. But, hey, at least it’s some sort of progress. The following states have decriminalized cannabis and remain at Level One…
- North Carolina
As you can see, it’s a pretty short list. Even states that you might not expect to have medical cannabis moved onto Level Two…
- North Dakota
Cannabis Decriminalization In Virginia
As of April 2020, Virginia became the 27th state to decriminalize cannabis. In our humble opinion, we think it’s ridiculous that people can be thrown into jail and have a permanent mark on their record for cannabis use. This type of mark can later prevent people from getting jobs or education. They’re seen as “criminals” for something as harmless as cannabis use
Okay, back to Virginia. On Sunday, April 12, “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced he signed a bill that will eliminate jail time for simple marijuana possession, leaving only a civil penalty with a fine in place for the first offense,” according to Vox.
Keep in mind, though, that this is not full legalization. It simply means, “Under decriminalization, penalties carrying jail or prison time are removed, but lower-level penalties, like a fine, remain in place and sales remain illegal.”
Will All States Decriminalize Cannabis?
That remains to be seen. The future looks promising as only 12 states have yet to make the first step toward legalization. We’ll call this Level Zero. These states include Texas, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Indiana. We certainly hope that all states will eventually decriminalize cannabis to keep adolescents and teenagers out of juvenile detention centers.
Cannabis Decriminalization & COVID-19
Virginia Gov. Northam claims cannabis decriminalization has long been on his to-do list. But maybe, just maybe, the outbreak of COVID-19 inspired him to act faster. It comes as no surprise to us that people turn to cannabis for stress relief during these anxious and uncertain times. Cannabis, as well as the non-psychoactive CBD, have shown to be immensely effective in users with chronic stress, insomnia, wandering thoughts, and suicidal thoughts. Every single one of us is on edge right now.
Moving In The Right Direction
Even though cannabis decriminalization may sound like a small step to you, we can’t ignore the fact that cannabis has come a long way in the past decade. We predict that more and more states will gradually take the right steps toward cannabis legalization—full legalization.