In North Carolina, the possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana is only considered to be a misdemeanor crime and subjects the accused to a $200 fine or less. According to some, the state has essentially decriminalized the possession of a small amount of marijuana. While these are not steep penalties, there are some states that have actually legalized marijuana for personal use. Because of this, it is important to understand the difference between decriminalizing marijuana use and legalizing it.
If a state legalizes marijuana, a person who follows the state’s laws regarding marijuana possession will not be subject to an arrest or a criminal conviction. However, should the person fail to follow state laws, particularly with regard to licenses and taxes, he or she could still be criminally charged — i.e., black market sales of marijuana may still be against the law.
On the other hand, decriminalizing marijuana possession means that while the act of possession is still illegal, the laws of the state have been changed so that in some states, the mere possession of a small amount of the drug intended for individual use will not be prosecuted. This means that a person will not be sent to jail and will not incur a criminal record. At most, the person may be subject to a small fine, similar to a traffic infraction.
Despite this, it is important for North Carolinians to understand marijuana possession laws, as well as other drug offenses in their state. By understanding the laws regarding drug crimes, North Carolinians accused of crimes involving marijuana may be able to establish a strong defense.
Source: FindLaw, “Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Overview,” accessed May 18, 2015