Special Report

The Next 14 States to Legalize Marijuana

New York City, New York 2
Source: Thinkstock

12. New York
> Possession decriminalized: Yes
> Amount decriminalized: 25 g or less
> Max. fine for 25 g or less: $100
> Pct. adults using in past year: 14.3%

In 1977, New York became one of the first states to decriminalize marijuana possession. Nevertheless, marijuana arrests are more common in New York than in any other state. In 2013, 535 out of every 100,000 New Yorkers were arrested on marijuana charges, more than twice the national rate. The arrests were largely due to violations of the state’s controversial “public view” law, which escalates the penalty for marijuana possession from a ticket to a misdemeanor if the drug is seen in public — even if revealed while emptying pockets or complying with an officer. While government surveys show white people use marijuana more often than other racial groups, 86% of New Yorkers arrested for marijuana violations in 2014 were black or Latino.

The cost and racial disparities rooted within New York’s marijuana prohibition have led some lawmakers to push for legalization of the drug. Sen. Liz Krueger introduced in 2013 the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which aimed to legalize the production, use, and distribution of marijuana for adults in the state.

Castle Hill Lighthouse, Rhode Island
Source: Thinkstock

13. Rhode Island
> Possession decriminalized: Yes
> Amount decriminalized: Less than 1 oz
> Max. fine for less than 1 oz: $150
> Pct. adults using in past year: 19.1%

In its latest session, the Rhode Island legislature passed a number of reforms related to the regulation of marijuana in the state. A House bill that allows patients with post-traumatic stress disorder to qualify for medical marijuana was passed, as was a Senate bill that allows residents to grow hemp. Also, the latest budget made numerous regulatory changes to the state’s medical marijuana industry. However, the legislature did not vote on the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, which would have allowed adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow one marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. At the time the bill was filed, 57% of surveyed Rhode Islanders supported legalization of the drug.

Rhode Island decriminalized marijuana in the spring of 2013. Possession of up to 1 ounce is now punishable by a maximum fine of just $150.