Decriminalization of marijuana typically means no arrests, prison time, or criminal record for first-time offenders found in possession of a small amount of marijuana. More serious offenses might still face stiffer penalties, but simple possession charges are essentially treated like minor traffic violations. Selling marijuana remains against the law in states that have only decriminalized it.
A handful of other states across the country have already legalized and decriminalized the drug for recreational and medical use, suggesting that voters have changed their minds about whether marijuana is a gateway drug and whether people deserve to go to jail for possessing it.
Despite the protestations of policy experts, medical professionals, and dedicated activists around the country, the federal government continues to classify marijuana as a schedule 1 narcotic. The Drug Enforcement Administration defines that particular class of substances as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” a phrase that quite objectively does not describe marijuana. But despite the federal government’s intransigence, it appears that more and more Americans aren’t taking Reefer Madness as gospel.
States Where Adult Recreational Use of Marijuana Is Legal
But it does seem that prohibition tends to be an inadequate public health response to drug use, and that legalization and decriminalization can help both remove the taboo of a drug, increase the amount of research put into the safety of that drug, and help people access that drug at a lower risk, as they’re honestly going to buy it no matter how legal or illegal it is. Research has shown time and time again that increasing safe access to potentially harmful substances, rather than restricting access and imprisoning those struggling with substance abuse issues, can help reduce the risk of death, sickness, and addiction.
For parents of color and parents of older teenagers, legalization for people over 21 comes as a positive good in a time where young adults can have their entire careers, lives, and educational futures derailed if they’re caught with a gram of weed on them.
And while you can’t yet buy legal weed in New Jersey, it is now officially decriminalized, and the rules that the legal cannabis industry will have to follow in the Garden State are now in place. In New York, which legalized weed on the last day of March, possessing marijuana is now legal, as is smoking in public anywhere you can smoke tobacco. But dispensaries are about a year and a half away.
Marijuana has been minimally studied, so the health and safety ramifications of legalization are not fully known. The data thus far is deeply limited on questions like the public health effect on teenagers.
Some businesses, particularly in cities, have special permits that allow designated areas for pot smoking; this cafe in West Hollywood, for instance, was established expressly to provide a classy environment for a toke.
But don’t dare try bringing your stash onto federal lands. Those include military bases and national parks, so don’t plan a Joshua Tree bacchanal unless you’re okay with being convicted of a federal crime.
No giving your purchase to minors—minors can’t even accompany you when you buy.
Be careful if you smoke in a hotel.
You will probably find those monikers more entertaining than useful. That’s why every dispensary worth its salt employs staff that can tell you exactly what each strain will do to you.
Keep a lid on it.
You don’t need to know exactly what you want.