> Max. fine for small amount: $600
> Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 8,524
> Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 309
> Minimum penalty classification : Misdemeanor
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Nevada is one of 20 states to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Though no one found in possession of under an ounce of the drug can face incarceration or felony charges, Nevada’s penalties for possession are among the harshest of all the states that have decriminalized. Unlike some states that have decriminalized the small amounts of the drug, like Massachusetts and California, first time offenders in Nevada can still be charged with a misdemeanor and be compelled to undergo mandatory drug treatment.
Despite the harsher penalties, next year Nevada could become the fifth state to legalize recreational use of drug. Voters will have a chance to pass the Initiative to Tax and Regulate Marijuana in November 2016. If passed, legalization will have a dramatic effect on arrest rates and police resources. As of 2012, there were about 8,500 marijuana-related arrests in Nevada, the 14th highest arrest rate in the country.
> Max. fine for small amount: $100
> Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 21,256
> Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 56
> Minimum penalty classification : Infraction
California was in the vanguard of state marijuana reforms in the 1970s and an early adopter of decriminalization. In 1996, the state passed the Compassionate Use Act, which permitted physician-recommended marijuana use for medical treatment. In 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that reclassified the crime of marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction. Despite the state’s historically progressive stance, marijuana has yet to be legalized. In 2010, a motion to legalize failed by a slim margin.
Two bills proposing marijuana regulation are now on the table, although the success of each remains to be seen. A great deal may be at stake in the success or failure of marijuana law reform in California. According to St. Pierre, because of the state’s sheer size and influence, the viability of federal legislation largely relies on the precedent California might set.