The laws that govern marijuana use vary widely in the United States, as any pothead could tell you after a two-day road trip. What flies outdoors in one state may be a crime in your own bedroom the next state over.
But where is the problem at its worst? Which states should you really avoid if you want to feel safe traveling with marijuana in your car? Here is a brief list of the five states with the nastiest anti-pot laws on the books.
Marijuana penalties in Kansas may seem a bit misleading. If you’re caught in possession of anything less than 450 grams (roughly a pound), you’re subject to a penalty of no more than six months in jail and $1,000 in fines – but only on a first offense. If you’re convicted more than once, the maximum for any amount rises to 3.5 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
What’s more, Kansas has no allowance for medical marijuana and a history of removing children of parents found in possession of even small amounts of the drug. For a family with a parent who is sick, that’s a harsh penalty indeed.
Medical marijuana laws are relatively forgiving in Michigan. Laws surrounding recreational pot are not. Possession of any amount for non-medical use is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail and $2,000 in fines. The sentence increases to two years in prison if you’re caught within 1,000 feet of a school or park.
And Michigan treats marijuana gifts, even a joint or two, as sale, which carries a potential sentence of a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
The great problem with cannabis law in Tennessee is that penalties increase for each subsequent offense. On a first conviction, possession of a half ounce or less is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and $250 in fines. The fine increases to $500 on a second conviction. But third and subsequent offenses are treated as felonies and carry top penalties of six years in prison and $1,000 in fines.
What’s worse, possession of any amount over half an ounce is a felony with a top punishment of six years in prison. And since there’s no such thing as legal medical use in Tennessee, there are no exceptions to prohibition in this state.
Wisconsin has a reputation for progressive politics in many areas, but marijuana law is not one of them. Get caught with any amount on a first offense and you face a maximum sentence of six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. But get caught twice and the top penalty jumps to 3.5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
In other words, smoke up at your own peril in Wisconsin – and definitely don’t make a habit of getting caught.
Oklahoma may be the single worst place in America to get busted with pot in your pocket. Possession of any amount for any use is punishable by up to a year in jail on a first offense. And it gets worse from there: On a second conviction, the penalty is a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison and a maximum of 10.
Paraphernalia charges are also much more serious in Oklahoma: A first conviction carries a potential punishment of one year in jail and $1,000 in fines, which can increase to $10,000 on subsequent convictions. And there may be no place where it is riskier to make hash oil, as the top penalty is a life sentence and $50,000 in fines.