Drug Decriminalisation Across the World

The criminalisation of people who use drugs compounds drug-related challenges and worsens health and welfare outcomes. Across the world, there is a growing number of jurisdictions where the possession of scheduled drugs for personal use has been decriminalised. In some countries and federal states, this has been extended to the cultivation of cannabis for personal use or the sharing of substances where there is no financial gain (also known as ‘social sharing’).

In the context of drug policy, ‘decriminalisation’ refers to the removal of criminal penalties for activities related to drug use. In some legal systems criminal penalties are replaced by civil sanctions, while in other systems no penalties are applied – please see our glossary for more detailed definitions.

Some form of decriminalisation has been adopted in 30 countries – with significant differences and levels of effectiveness. This interactive map provides an overview of these models, offering insights into decriminalisation laws, their implementation and impact.

The inclusion of a jurisdiction in the map is not an endorsement. For example, countries like Mexico and Russia are highlighted below, despite the fact both countries have ineffectual frameworks as detailed in their country profiles. The gold standard of decriminalisation is the removal of all punishment for drug use, and the availability and accessibility of evidence- and human rights-based harm reduction, health and social services on a voluntary basis.

This map has been developed in partnership with Release, the International Drug Policy Consortium, and Accountability International, thanks to the financial support of the Robert Carr Fund and Open Society Foundations. This map will be updated regularly – if you do have any comments or feedback please contact us.

What’s included in the map?

The following elements are included in the map:

  • Threshold quantities used to determine whether the activity is decriminalised (if there are no thresholds other considerations used are outlined);
  • The agency responsible for determining the activity is decriminalised;
  • The activities that are decriminalised, and for which substances;
  • The applicable administrative / civil sanctions or whether no sanctions are applied.

The world map highlights both the USA and Australia, whilst neither country has decriminalised cannabis possession, and it is still an offence at a federal level, there are states within these jurisdictions that have. Please click on the ‘view data’ tabs to see the states that have decriminalised cannabis and to obtain more information on the way decimalisation works in those states.

Federal states in the USA that have regulated cannabis for use, possession, supply, and production have been included if those states impose no criminal sanction for possession and/or cultivation and/or social sharing.

What’s not included in the map?

The map does not include jurisdictions where possession of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) are decriminalised nor does it include city-level models of decriminalisation. In some countries, drug consumption is not an offence, but possession is, as a mechanism to criminalise the use of scheduled substances – these countries are therefore not included in the map.

Why decriminalisation?

Around the world, one in five people in prison are incarcerated for drug offences, and of those, 21% are in prison for possession for personal use. This repressive approach has had no impact on the overall scale of the illicit drug market, but has had severe consequences on drug use-related health and social harms.

Evidence shows that jurisdictions that have adopted an effective model of decriminalisation, one that ensures that people who use drugs and are engaged in other low level offences are not criminalised, prevalence of use does not increase. When coupled with public health approaches, this model can also lead positive health outcomes for individuals; for example, both Portugal and the Czech Republic have very low rates of drug-related deaths recording 4 and 5 per million deaths, respectively, in 2017 – this is much lower than the EU average of 22 deaths per million of the population. Evidence has also demonstrated that a decriminalisation approach has the potential to reduce significant social costs when compared to a criminal justice approach, reduce the burden on police resources and reduce the risk of individual re-offending.

 

World

Antigua and Barbuda

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis or for cultivating cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts.

If you are caught in possession with less than 15 grams of cannabis for personal use and/or 4 home grown plants  threshold/reasonable usage]/growing cannabis/supplying drugs socially, you risk confiscation of the drugs but there is no other penalty.

Exceeding the home-growing thresholds can entail a cultivation offence, which attracts hefty fines and a criminal conviction.

Smoking cannabis in ‘public spaces’ is a civil offence. Sanctions: First instance – Warning; Second instance – $500 violation ticket (failure to pay can lead to proceedings before a magistrate’s court, which can impose community service); Third instance – Up to $1,500 fine.

While bars, restaurants and clubs are deemed ‘public spaces’, where cannabis use is prohibited, open areas defined by tourist establishments as ‘smoking areas’ are exempted; which introduces a degree of arbitrariness.

Decriminalisation date

2018

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Antigua & Barbuda, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
15g
Cannabis (herbal)
4 home grown plants

Sanctions

Confiscation of cannabis

No other penalty

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Argentina

Legal model: De jure - Court decision   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: No thresholds   Decision maker: Judiciary, Prosecution   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine, Voluntary referral

Implementation

In 2009, Argentina’s Supreme Court issued the Arriola decision, declared unconstitutional the criminalisation of drug possession for personal use, as provided for by Law Nº23.737 on Narcotic on the basis that it was a violation of an individual’s right to privacy and personal autonomy under Article 19 of the Argentinian Constitution.

Despite the Arriola decision by the Argentine Supreme Court, and multiple attempts to amend the legislation accordingly, the Argentine legal order continues to see people who use drugs arrested and criminalised. Cases of police arrests possession for personal use continue to rise despite the decision. Most of these cases are eventually closed by the judges who tend to apply the Arriola decision, but in 2015, 16 people were condemned for possession for personal use.

Finally, there is a lack of clarity with the Arriola decision in terms of what the decriminalisation model might look like (entity responsible, response, etc.), as well as whether this would extend to cannabis cultivation for personal use. Although some court decisions have applied the Arriola decision to allow cannabis cultivation for personal use, this is not a generalised position across the criminal justice system in Argentina.

Decriminalisation date

2009

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Argentina, prosecutors or the judiciary decides on whether possession is for personal use.

Sanctions

Confiscation of drugs

Fine

Referral to education course

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Armenia

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug, Social supply of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: No thresholds   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Voluntary referral

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of ‘small quantities’ of drugs, you risk confiscation of the drugs and face a fine of up to $400 USD (equivalent) or voluntary referral to drug dependence treatment.  The law also applies to the delivery (supply) of ‘small quantities’ where there is no financial gain. 

Decriminalised activities are now subject to administrative fines (100 to 200 times the minimum wage). The high fines (around USD 400) can result in incarceration of those unable to pay. Furthermore, what is considered as ‘small quantities’ in practice is quite small, leading people to be convicted of trafficking offences despite being in possession of drugs for personal use or social supply.

The fine can be waived if the person seeks voluntary drug dependence treatment. The reform seems to have led to more people dependent on drugs accessing treatment. Methadone maintenance therapy was introduced at the end of 2009.

Decriminalisation date

2008

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Social supply of any drug

Thresholds

In Armenia, police decide on whether possession is for personal use or for social supply using the following considerations:

  • Small quantity
  • No financial gain

Sanctions

Confiscation of drug

Fine or voluntary referral to treatment

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Belize

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts.

Use in public spaces is illegal but not criminalised. If caught using cannabis in public, police will issue a warning on the first occasion, if caught on subsequent occasions a civil fine of $100 USD applied.

Section 28B of the law allows for the expungement of records for offences related to the possession of cannabis or cannabis resin, where the sentence imposed on conviction was a fine not exceeding $1,000.

Reports suggest that the decriminalisation of cannabis use has not reduced the disproportionate impact of drug policing on Afro-Belizeans and the Garifuna.

Decriminalisation date

2017

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Belize, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds: 

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
10g

Sanctions

For adults no sanction, bar from public use of cannabis as highlighted above.

Minors found in possession of cannabis will be required to participate in a drug treatment or counselling programme, which will have to be paid by the minor or their parents/guardians as determined by the Minister.

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Bolivia

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of coca only, Cultivation of coca only, Social supply of any drug   Substances: Other   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of coca for personal use, there are also no sanctions for cultivation of coca where the cultivation occurs in ‘authorised zones’ or for social supply.

The coca leaf has been at the heart of Andean cultural and spiritual practices for millennia. Despite the prohibition of the coca leaf by international drug control treaties, in tension with international instruments on the rights of indigenous peoples, Bolivian legislation has consistently provided some level of protection for the traditional practices associated with the leaf.

The New Political Constitution of the State (2009) commits to the 'protection of the indigenous and ancestral coca, as a cultural patrimony, natural renewable resource of Bolivia’s biodiversity, and a factor of social cohesion…' (Art. 384). The Bolivian General Law on the Coca Leaf (2017) underscores this protection and commits to the 'implementation of policies to (…) promote the use of the coca leaf and its derivatives' (Art. 12). Moreover, the latter creates a legally regulated market for the leaf, under the basis of a 'social control' model.

The 'production' and 'possession' of coca leaf ‘at the margins of the law [i.e. Ley General de la Hoja de Coca’] are considered by Art. 28 of the General Law. The law states that these conducts are subjected to the sanctions established by the regulations implementing the law. Such regulations were enacted in September 2017 by the Supreme Decree #3318. The sanctions provided for by the law do not target people who use coca. Moreover, the Regulation on the Circulation and Commercialisation of the Coca Leaf in its Natural State (enacted by Ministerial Resolution #112 in 2006) remains intact when it comes to the thresholds set out for the use/possession of coca for personal use: 1-15 pounds (Art. 11).

Decriminalisation date

2009

Decriminalised activities

Possession of coca only, Cultivation of coca only, Social supply of any drug

Thresholds

In Bolivia, police decide on whether the specified activities listed above are lawful via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Coca
1-15 pounds (coca leaf)

Sanctions

No sanctions.

 

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Chile

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: No thresholds   Decision maker: Judiciary   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of all drugs and/or for cultivation of cannabis for personal use in private.  

A judge determines whether drugs were intended for private use when the evidence does not provide for a rational inference that it was for such purposes. The legal burden falls on the arrestee to prove that possession was for personal use and not for intent to supply or share.

Although the majority of possession cases terminate in a suspended sentence or administrative sanctions, a high number of arrests are still carried out for low-level offences with some resulting in imprisonment. In 2014, for example, 63.6% of the 51,357 arrests carried out for drug-related offences were for drug possession or consumption, with the remainder being for trafficking.

Public consumption can attract one of the three:

  • A fine equivalent to 10 tributary units
  • Compulsory prevention, treatment or rehabilitation programmes
  • Mandatory civil service

And suspension of the drivers’ licence for 6 months (1st instance), a year (2nd instance) or 2 years (3rd instance).

Decriminalisation date

2005

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Chile, the judiciary decides on whether possession or cultivation of cannabis is for personal use in private where the evidence does not provide a rational inference that it was being used for such purposes. The legal burden shifts to the defendant to prove that the intended to use the cannabis for their own personal use in private.

Sanctions

No sanctions for private and personal use. 

Public consumption attracts penalties, please see above.

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Colombia

Legal model: De jure - Court decision   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Indicative   Decision maker: Judiciary, Prosecution   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for in possession of scheduled drugs and/or for cultivation of cannabis for personal use in private. 

The new police code, Law 1801 of 2016, establishes fines and the confiscation of the substance if the person carries or uses it on public space. If a fine is imposed (number 7 of article 140 of the Police code), the person can participate in an educational course as a way to fulfil the administrative sanction.

In June 2019, the Constitutional Court, through its Decision C-235, struck down as unconstitutional two articles of the Police Code that provided for an absolute prohibition of drug consumption in public spaces.

However, bill 232 of 2019, approved by the Senate in August 2019, prohibits the possession and use of drugs (even within the legal threshold) in the immediacies of parks, schools and education centres, sports centres and other areas determined by local authorities.

If a fine is imposed for consumption on public space (number 7 of article 140 of the Police code), the person can participate in an educational course as a way to fulfil the administrative sanction.

Despite the existence of thresholds in the law, people who use drugs can still be criminalised for simple possession and continue to receive penalties due to serious problems with judicial safeguards in the investigative and trial phases. People who use drugs have reported corrupt officers detaining them for longer periods than necessary in order to extort them, and even if not detained, individuals can have their substances confiscated by police who are trying to meet institutional quotas.

Decriminalisation date

1994

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Colombia, the police, prosecutors and/or the judiciary can decide on whether possession is for personal use via the indicative thresholds presented in the table below.

The supply dose (dosis de aprovisionamiento) is a probative law concept applicable in the framework of a criminal process. The prosecutor must prove that the dose, regardless of the amount, is carried with an intention of trafficking, otherwise the person cannot be held criminally liable. The supply, distribution or sale of drugs, or the sole possession or transport with the purpose of distribution, marketing or sale without permission of the competent authority constitutes a criminal conduct, even if the dose carried is less than the legal threshold for personal use (Supreme Court of Justice, 2014, No. 33409).

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
20g or up to 20 plants for cultivation
Cannabis (resin)
5g
Cocaine
1g
Methaqualone
2g

Sanctions

No sanctions for private and personal use. 

Public consumption attracts penalties, please see above.

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Costa Rica

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: No thresholds   Decision maker: Judiciary, Prosecution   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Voluntary referral

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of any scheduled drug for personal use or cultivation of cannabis for personal use.

The Office of the Public Prosecutor has issued guidelines that urge court prosecutors to dismiss cases of possession of drugs for personal use (Instructivo General No 02-2010) and to immediately release detainees when cases are not related to criminal activities (Instrucción General 01/2011).

When it comes to cannabis cultivation for personal use, the Court of Appeal of the 3rd Judicial Circuit of Alajuela, San Ramón, declared that an individual, lawyer Mario Cerdas, whose residence was raided in 2015, and was found to be in possession of about 80 cannabis plants, did not contravene Law 8204 because it was impossible to demonstrate that the plants were not for personal use. The Supreme Court of Costa Rica rejected an appeal by the Public Prosecutor’s Office but did not discuss the substance of the case.

Decriminalisation date

1988

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Costa Rica, prosecutors and/or the judiciary decides on whether possession is for personal use on the basis there is no evidence of intention to supply. In one case, a German man was found in possession of 487g of cocaine and declared not guilty after no intent to supply was demonstrated.

Sanctions

Confiscation of drugs.

Voluntary referral to treatment [mandatory referral for those aged 18 and under].

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Croatia

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Indicative   Decision maker: Prosecution   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of a ‘small quantity’ of a scheduled drug you risk confiscation of the drugs and face a fine of between EUR 650-2,600 or compulsory treatment in lieu of fine.

The decriminalisation of drug consumption and possession for personal use means that the person no longer has a criminal record, so the stigma associated with people who use and/or are dependent on drugs is reduced. The law also gives more flexible treatment options.

According to article 173 of the Criminal Code, people caught in possession of drugs for personal use are no longer criminalised by can be punished by a fine, amounting to around EUR 650-2,600 – which is very high considering that the monthly minimum wage is of EUR 505.90. Compulsory treatment may be imposed in medical or social care institutions for a period of 3 to 12 months. If completed successfully, the fine does not need to be paid. Penalties do not vary by drug, quantity, dependence or recidivism.

Drug use in public spaces is sanctioned by a fine of EUR 100.

Decriminalisation date

2013

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug

Thresholds

In Croatia, prosecutors decide on whether possession is for personal use. There are no defined threshold quantities, what is considered as a ‘small quantity’ is decided by the state prosecutor. The state prosecutor also uses the defendant's testimony, the way drugs are packaged, finding of substances and articles used to mix drugs and prepare single doses, and the circumstances under which the offender was caught with drug (time and place).

Sanctions

Confiscation of drug

Fine - EUR 650-2,600

Mandatory treatment in lieu of fine.

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Czech Republic

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Indicative   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of a ‘small amount’ of any scheduled drug and/ or cultivation of a ‘small amount’ of cannabis for personal use, you risk confiscation of the drugs and face a fine of up to 15,000 CZK.

Threshold amounts are not clearly and firmly defined by law, which leads to misunderstandings about the interpretation of the term ‘amount greater than small’ among public (but among some experts and law enforcement as well).

More people are currently in treatment than in prisons. Police mostly focus on severe drug crimes, rather than on people who use drugs. This helps to lower the stigma on people who use drugs and they can trust more on the service providers.

Decriminalisation date

1990

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In the Czech Republic, the police will consider both the quantity of drugs seized and the intention of the person caught in possession, before deciding whether to issue an administrative fine. It is only the possession of ‘small amounts’ of drugs for personal use that is decriminalised.

There are indicative thresholds that are used to assist police in determining if the amount seized is  ‘greater than small amounts’, these thresholds were defined by the Supreme Court's Opinion adopted on 13 March 2013 - the list of substances and their amounts is available here. Beyond the quantity of drugs seized, consideration is also given the purity of the drugs or the amount of ‘effective substance’).

The indicative thresholds used by police are:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
10g (if it contains at least 1g of effective substance, i.e. delta-9-THC)
Heroin
1.5g (if it contains at least 0.2 or 0.22g (hydrochloride) of effective substance)
Cocaine
1g (if it contains at least 0.54/0.6g of effective substance)
Methamphetamine
1.5g (if it contains at least 0.5/0.6g of effective substance)
Ecstasy/MDMA
4 tablets/capsules or 1.2g of powder/crystal (if it contains at least 0.34/0.4g of effective substance)

Sanctions

Confiscation of drug

Fine of up to 15,000 CZK.

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Estonia

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Indicative   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession with a ‘small quantity’ of any scheduled drug you risk confiscation of the drugs and face a fine of up to up to EUR 1,200 (usually determined by the police) or a sentence of administrative, non-prison detention for up to 30 days.

As drug use is a misdemeanour, the fine or detention can be replaced by participation in a ‘social programme’, which is reportedly being used more in practice compared to administrative detention.

Police do still arrest individuals found with illicit drugs, and under the law, courts or ‘extrajudicial bodies’ may issue an administrative sentence.

Decriminalisation date

2002

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug

Thresholds

In Estonia, police decide on whether possession is for personal use. What amounts to a ‘small quantity’ is decided by expert opinion, generally considered to be 10 times a single dose generally consumed by a person who uses drugs.

Sanctions

Confiscation of drugs

Fine of up to EUR 1,200

Administrative detention of up to 30 days

Social programmes including voluntary referral to social services.

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Germany

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Indicative   Decision maker: Police, Prosecution   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of any scheduled drug for personal use.  

While the law only grants prosecutors the authority to not prosecute an individual possessing a small amount of illicit drugs, in practice police in some länder (local municipalities) often refrain from proactively arresting such individuals or reactively responding to complaints about such minor drug possession, particularly in cases involving cannabis or ecstasy. However as it is a discretion not to prosecute, in some cases people are still criminalised below the threshold amount. 

Decriminalisation date

1992

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug

Thresholds

In Germany, police and/or prosecutors decide on whether possession is for personal use via indicative thresholds. Threshold quantities vary from länder to länder and for different substances. Some are defined according to judicial precedent:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
6-15g
Cocaine
1-3g
Ecstasy/MDMA
5g

Sanctions

No sanction.

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Italy

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: No thresholds   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine, Other administrative penalty, Voluntary referral

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of a small quantity of any scheduled drug you risk confiscation of the drugs and face a fine of up to (specify amount) and/or other administrative penalties including suspension of driving licence or other privileges and/or voluntary referral to treatment and/or a warning.

Possession for personal use remains an offence, and the person caught with small quantities of drugs must prove that the drug was meant for personal use to avoid criminal sanctions. Since the implementation of Law 79 of 16 May 2014, a distinction is made between less dangerous drugs in Schedules II and IV and more dangerous drugs in Schedules I and III. Sanctions for personal possession offences of less dangerous drugs may be 1 to 3 months’ loss of privilege, for example suspension of driving licence, whereas for more dangerous drugs it is 2-12 months’ loss of privilege. A socio-rehabilitation and therapeutic programme may be offered in addition to sanctions.

In December 2019 Italy’s Supreme Court, the Cassation Court, decided “at home, small-scale cultivation activities [of cannabis] are to be considered excluded from the application of the penal code.”

Decriminalisation date

1990

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Italy, police decide on whether possession is for personal use through the following considerations: the circumstances of the specific case, such as the act, possession of tools for packaging, different types of drugs possessed, the number of doses in excess of an average daily use, the means of organisation, etc.

Sanctions

Confiscation of drugs

Warning

Fine

Suspension of driver license or other privileges

Voluntary referral to treatment.

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Jamaica

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Fine, Voluntary referral

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of two ounces of cannabis or less for personal use and/or cultivation of up to 5 cannabis plants you risk confiscation of the drug and face a fine of J$500 (USD 3.56), to be paid within 30 days, and/or referrals by the Police to the National Council for Drug Abuse (NCDA) of persons deemed to have a problem with cannabis use.

The possession of cannabis for religious purposes as a sacrament in adherence to the Rastafarian faith, as well as legitimate possession for therapeutic/scientific purposes is exempt from penalties.

The threshold determined by the 2015 amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act is comparatively much higher to similar provisions in the Caribbean region. The 2015 amendments also allow for the expungement of cannabis-related offences (i.e. a person who possessed a small quantity) with fines not exceeding J$1,000 (or an amount prescribed by the Minister of Justice by Order). 

Decriminalisation date

2015

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Jamaica, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
2 ounces (56.7g)
Cannabis (herbal)
Up to five plants per household

Sanctions

No sanction (only applicable to those from the Rastafarian faith and where use is for medical purposes)

Fine of J$500

Referral to education course.

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Kyrgyzstan

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Judiciary   Outcome: Fine, Other administrative penalty

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of ‘small amounts of drugs without the intent to sell’ by the judiciary, you risk facing a fine, compulsory treatment and a referral to an educational course. You can also be subject to restrictions to their freedom of movement for between 3-6 months under the surveillance of ‘probation’ authorities. Additional sanctions can be imposed by the court, including restrictions to meet certain individuals, mandatory treatment, mandates to compensate ‘injured parties’, and compulsory attendance to ‘re-socialisation programmes’.

While the Kyrgyz legislation provides some latitude for people who use drugs who are in contact with the criminal legal system not to be criminalised, in practice, the model remains highly punitive, counterproductive, and elitist.

Unworkably low quantitative thresholds and exorbitant fines risk push people who use drugs, particularly in situations of vulnerability, further into economic precariousness and criminalisation.

The fines associated with the misconduct of ‘possession of small amounts of drugs without intent to sell’ rise to a range between 30,000 – 50,000 soms (roughly USD 360-725). The non-payment of the fine attracts criminal penalties of up to 2.5 years of imprisonment and the imposition of supplementary fines.

Considering that the minimum monthly wage in Kyrgyzstan in 2021 was around 1850 soms (USD 22 USD), administrative proceedings often lead to criminalisation and indebtedness. 

Decriminalisation date

2019

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug

Thresholds

In Kyrgyzstan, the judiciary decides on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Heroin
1g
Cannabis (resin)
3g
Cannabis oil
2g
Coca
15g
Cocaine (powder)
0.03g
MDMA, MDA or analogues
1.5g

Sanctions

  • Fine
  • Compulsory treatment
  • Referral to an educational course
  • Restrictions to freedom of movement for between 3-6 months under the surveillance of ‘probation’ authorities
  • Restrictions to meet certain individuals
  • Mandate to compensate ‘injured parties’
  • Compulsory attendance to ‘re-socialisation programmes’.

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Mexico

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Judiciary, Police, Prosecution   Outcome: Other administrative penalty, Voluntary referral

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of a scheduled drug for personal use, you risk voluntary referral to treatment. If caught on a third occasion the referral to treatment is mandatory.

The thresholds established by the General Health Law are extremely low, especially for cocaine and LSD. Arrests and criminal proceedings have continued to increase in most jurisdictions despite the 2009 amendments. State and federal statistics indicate that the absolute majority of cases at both the state and federal level concern drug use and possession offences.

Regarding cultivation of cannabis for personal use, in five different cases, the First Chamber of the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the absolute prohibition of the personal use of cannabis (sowing, cultivating, reaping, possessing, consuming, transporting) was unconstitutional. Jurisprudence is achieved after five cases decided by the Supreme Court with the same outcome (unconstitutionality of absolute prohibition) and mean that Congress should have amended the legislation before the end of October 2019, to make it compatible with the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, including the “free development of personality”. In the years since, different members of Congress have presented multiple initiatives to legally regulate cannabis. In November 2020, the Senate voted on a comprehensive cannabis regulation bill that includes cultivation for personal use (up to 6 plans or 8 if there are two adults in the household), cannabis associations (of up to 20 members) and a regulated market with some affirmative actions for groups which have been criminalised by prohibition. The Congress approved a slightly modified bill in March 2021, however the Senate failed to find a consensus on that bill. The Congress bypassed the deadline of 30 April 2021 and have not requested an extension. It is unclear whether the Supreme Court will take up the issue via a general declaration of unconstitutionality or whether the Congress will vote on the legislation in September 2021.

Decriminalisation date

2009

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

Prosecutors and the judiciary can decide a person is in possession for personal use, based on the thresholds, if the case comes before them. 

In Mexico, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Heroin
50mg
Cannabis
5g
Cocaine
0.5g
Ecstasy/MDMA
40mg (powder) or 200mg (pill or tablet)
Opium
2g

Sanctions

Voluntary referral to treatment (on the 3rd occasion, referral is mandatory).

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Netherlands

Legal model: De facto   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of any scheduled drug for personal use or cultivation of cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts.

Despite de facto decriminalisation, the number of offences related to cannabis possession remains significant.

Government reports confirmed that the tolerated cannabis market has been effective in separating the markets between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drugs, with no increase in the prevalence of drug use (although the prevalence of cannabis use remains slightly above the EU average), a smaller proportion of people using ‘hard drugs’ and low numbers of heroin-related deaths, one of the lowest rates of injecting drug use in Europe. Importantly, the policy prevented the growth of ‘no-go’ zones dominated by drug markets and combatted the over-policing of minority communities.

Decriminalisation date

1976

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In the Netherlands, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis
5g or 5 plants
All other drugs
0.5g

Sanctions

No sanction.

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Paraguay

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug   Substances: Other   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Judiciary   Outcome: No sanction, Other administrative penalty

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of opiates, cocaine and cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts.

In order to qualify for this exemption, the law requires the expertise of a forensic or specialised doctor to determine whether the amount was meant ‘exclusively [for] personal use’. Furthermore, if a court determines that an individual is drug dependent, then a judge is authorised, following an assessment by medical authorities, to mandate custodial drug treatment for a period of his or her determination.

Pre-trial detention for drug possession offences is relatively high in Paraguay. In 2013 of those imprisoned while awaiting trial, nearly 18% of women and 6.4% of men were accused of drug possession offences.

Decriminalisation date

1988

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug

Thresholds

In Paraguay, the judiciary decides on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis
10g
Cocaine
2g
Heroin
2g

Sanctions

No sanction.

Compulsory treatment can be applied by the courts if a person has been 'proven' to be dependent on drugs ('farmacodependiente').

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Peru

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of scheduled drugs for personal use, subject to threshold amounts

Despite the statutory decriminalisation of people who use drugs in Peru, the available research suggests a disconnect between policy and implementation. The Peruvian National Police regularly arrests and detains people who use drugs as a result of a poor understanding of the complex legal framework in force, as a means to exact bribes, or to proceed with further investigations to establish culpability under supply offences.

As a result, in 2018, the National Police are reported to have arrested 15,726 people for drug offences, 7,441 (47.3%) of them for simple possession.

Decriminalisation date

1991

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug

Thresholds

In Peru, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis
8g
Cannabis derivatives
2g
Cocaine (base paste)
5g
Cocaine (powder)
2g
Opium ‘latex’
1g
Opium derivatives
0.2g
MDMA, MDA or analogues
0.25g

Sanctions

No sanctions

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Poland

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: No thresholds   Decision maker: Judiciary, Prosecution   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine, Other administrative penalty, Voluntary referral

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of a ‘small quantity’ of a scheduled drug for personal use, you risk confiscation of the drugs and/or face a fine, referral to an education course or voluntary referral to treatment. The possession of new psychoactive substances remains criminalised.

The decision not to prosecute a person caught in possession of small quantities of drugs is at the discretion of the prosecutor or the judiciary. The failure to set out threshold amounts to determine whether possession is for personal use has affected the success of the law reform as the prosecution for the possession of drugs remains very high. This has also resulted in an inconsistent application of the law. However, in some major cities, 50% or more of criminal justice proceedings for drug offences (the majority of which are for possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use) are now suspended due to 2011 decriminalisation laws.

Decriminalisation date

2011

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug

Thresholds

In Poland, prosecutors decide on whether possession is for personal use using the following considerations:

  • Possession of a small quantity of the substance – there are no set threshold quantities, this is determined each time by the prosecutor or the judge
  • Punishing the person would be pointless due to the circumstance of the case (i.e. the substance was meant for personal use, not for sale)
  • No major social harm was done (e.g. if possession was not in proximity of a school).

Sanctions

Fine

Referral to education course

Voluntary referral to treatment

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Portugal

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine, No sanction, Other administrative penalty, Voluntary referral

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of scheduled drugs for personal use, subject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drugs and a range of administrative penalties, although in the majority of cases the matter will be suspended by the Dissuasion Commissions (the panels responsible for implementing the decriminalisation model in Portugal).

The Dissuasion Commissions rarely impose fines or other administrative sanctions, preferring to suspend proceedings, offer key information and voluntary referrals to treatment, harm reduction and other health and social services.

The decriminalisation law was accompanied by significant investment in harm reduction, treatment and prevention resulting in significant reductions in the transmission of HIV and tuberculosis as well as reduced numbers of overdose deaths, and increased access to voluntary drug dependence treatment. There has also been a reduction in prison overcrowding, with law enforcement being able to focus on high level trafficking and organised crime.

Decriminalisation date

2001

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug

Thresholds

In Portugal, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via binding thresholds, equating to 10 days’ worth of drugs for personal use (average use) - in practice this translates into the thresholds presented in the table below.

If below 10 days’ worth of drugs for personal use the police will refer the person to the local Dissuasion Commission. 

Above this amount, criminal proceedings are initiated against the offender. However, if a person is caught in possession of quantities higher than the set threshold, the courts can take into account other considerations to establish that possession was for personal use, and not with intent to supply to others.

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
25g
Cannabis (resin)
5g
Cannabis oil
2.5g
THC
5g
Ecstasy/MDMA
1g
Heroin
1g
Cocaine
2g

Sanctions

Confiscation of drugs

Suspension of proceedings

Fine (usually around EUR 25)

Seizure of documents e.g. driving license, passport

Referral to education course

Voluntary referral to treatment, harm reduction services and/or social services

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Russian Federation

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine, Other administrative penalty, Voluntary referral

Implementation

While the Russian Criminal Code provides a framework for the decriminalisation of possession of drugs, the approach is limited by widespread corruption, the policy of “zero tolerance”, the lack of effective drug dependence treatment, and the lack of respect for due process by police and courts. The thresholds used to determine if someone should be dealt with through administrative sanctions are also very low, however approximately 16,000 cases annually are dealt with in this manner.

Russia has one of the most punitive environments in the world for people who use drugs. Human rights abuses by State authorities against people who use drugs and their allies are rife and well documented. These include censorship, police brutality, due process violations, torture in detention, the prohibition of opioid substitution therapy, among many others.

It is estimated that only in 2018 some 100,000 people were sentenced under Art. 228 of the Criminal Code; the majority for simple possession charges.

Decriminalisation date

2004

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug

Thresholds

In Russia, police decide on whether possession is an administrative offence based on binding threshold quantities, which are defined as less than a ‘significant amount’ and deatiled in the table below. 

Those who are caught in possession of drugs above the ‘significant amount’ threshold face up to three years in prison, and those caught in possession of an ‘exceptionally large amount’ can be imprisoned for anywhere between three and 10 years. For heroin an ‘large amount’ is 2.5 grams.

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
6g
Cannabis (resin)
2g
Heroin
0.5g
Ecstasy/MDMA
0.3g

Sanctions

Voluntary referral to treatment

Suspension of proceedings  

Fine up to 5000 roubles

Administrative detention up to 15 days (this is equivalent to imprisonment)

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Slovenia

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: No thresholds   Decision maker: Judiciary   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine, Voluntary referral

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of all drugs for personal use.

If you are caught in possession of a ‘smaller quantity of illicit drugs’, you risk confiscation of the drugs and a fine of between EUR 42 and EUR 209. The fine will be lower if the person agrees to voluntarily undergo treatment or social security programmes approved by the Health Council of the Ministry of Health, or by the Council for Drugs within the Labour Ministry.

Decriminalisation date

1999

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug

Thresholds

In Slovenia, the judiciary decides on whether possession is for personal use using the following considerations: whether the person is in possession of a ‘smaller quantity of illicit drugs for one-off personal use’.

Sanctions

  • Confiscation of the drug
  • Fine
  • Voluntary referral to treatment, harm reduction and social services

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South Africa

Legal model: De jure - Court decision   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: No thresholds   Decision maker: Police, Prosecution   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use or for cultivation of cannabis, again for personal use.

In 2018, the South African Constitutional Court held that the possession and cultivation of cannabis by an individual in private for their private use was lawful and that the decision to criminalise people for these activities was contrary to the Constitutional right to privacy (section 14 of the Constitution) and, as such, the criminal law was held to be invalid.

The Court provided the South African Government 24 months to implement the decision of the Court: the original decision was handed down on 18 September 2018. In the interim, the Court provided amendments to the criminal code which will operate whilst the order was suspended to allow the Government to implement the decision, these amendments effectively provide exemptions in the criminal law for the use or possession or cultivation in ‘in private for his or her personal consumption in private’.

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill was introduced to the National Assembly in September of 2020 and is under consideration as of 1 June 2021. The draft bill states that an adult person may for personal use:

  • Possess the prescribed quantity of cannabis plant cultivation material
  • Cultivate the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a private place
  • Possess in private, the prescribed quantity of cannabis in a public place
  • Possess the prescribed quantity of cannabis in a private place
  • Possess in private, the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a public place.

The draft legislation also states that an adult person may, without the exchange of remuneration provide to, or obtain from, another adult person, for personal use the prescribed quantity of:

  • Cannabis plant cultivation material
  • Cannabis plants
  • Cannabis.

Decriminalisation date

2018

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In South Africa, police or prosecutors decide on whether possession is for personal use or for intent to supply. The National Prosecuting Authority has issued guidelines on prosecutions for cannabis reflecting the decision of the Court. The Constitutional Court stated that establishing thresholds was a decision for the Government.

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill sets out ‘prescribed quantities’ for both personal use and cultivation purposes. For private use, the limits include:

  • Unlimited seeds and seedlings
  • Four flowering plants for those living alone, or eight for homes with two adults or more
  • 600 grams of dried cannabis if you live alone, or 1.2 kilograms in homes with two or more adults
  • 1.2 kilograms dried cannabis or cannabis equivalent per dwelling which is occupied by two or more adult persons.

The bill also allows for the possession of cannabis ‘in private’ in a public place, but this is limited to 100 grams.

Sanctions

No sanction

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Spain

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Indicative   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Fine, No sanction, Other administrative penalty

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of scheduled drugs, or for cultivation of cannabis, where the intention is for personal use or social supply (i.e. no financial gain) and the activity takes in a private setting. 

The legal contours of decriminalisation in Spain have been drawn by a complex and evolving body of case-law based on decisions made by the Supreme Court since the 1970s. In defining these limits, the Court has taken into consideration the number and life circumstances of the accused, the context of the instance of possession (i.e. public vs. private) and, crucially, the absence of an intent to make financial gain from drug supply.

This interpretation of the law has created the conditions for the emergence of ‘cannabis social clubs’: closed-membership, self-sustained, not-for-profit and relatively small cooperatives for the growing and sharing of cannabis for personal use.

The use of indicative thresholds has also meant that most interactions between people who use drugs and the police are not escalated to the courts, but rather dealt by the police through administrative fines for public possession. The high fines for drug possession and use in the public sphere create significant problems for 'offenders' who are unable to afford them.

Decriminalisation date

1983

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of any drug

Thresholds

In Spain, police decide on whether possession is for personal use. There are no statutorily prescribed thresholds for the possession of drugs for personal use. However, indicative thresholds have been outlined by the Supreme Court, based on estimates of the equivalent of a 5-day personal supply for any given substance:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
100g
Ecstasy/MDMA
2.4g
Heroin
3g
Cocaine
7.5g

Sanctions

No sanctions for private use.

Public use and/or possession are subject to an administrative fine. Public possession is sanctioned by fines ranging from EUR 601 to 30,000 and seizure of documents. For minors, the fine can be suspended if the offender attends treatment, rehabilitation, or counselling activities.

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Switzerland

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of any drug   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine, No sanction, Other administrative penalty, Voluntary referral

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use where the amount is 10 grams or less.  

If you are caught in possession of a small amount of other scheduled drugs you risk confiscation of the drugs and/or facing a fine of CHF100 and/or other administrative penalties including confiscation of driving license, referral to voluntary treatment, referral to education course if a minor. This also applies to supply of drugs where there is no financial gain.

A 2017 decision from the Federal Tribunal invalidated the practice of imposing a CHF 100 fine for possession of up to 10g of cannabis adopted in 2013. Since then, only public consumption of cannabis can be fined with CHF 100, and the product is confiscated. 

A second decision from the Federal Tribunal in 2019 concluded that people aged under 18 years old should not be treated differently from adults, and as a result should not be fined for possession of up to 10g of cannabis for personal use. 

The response to drug use varies from canton to canton (local municipalities).

Decriminalisation date

2013

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of any drug

Thresholds

In Switzerland, police decide on whether possession is for personal use. There are only binding thresholds established for cannabis (see table below). For other substances there are no thresholds but the decision if made by police based on the circumstances of the case.

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
10g

Sanctions

No sanctions for 10 grams of cannabis or less.

For other substances or more than 10 grams of cannabis for personal use of social supply the sanctions are:

  • Confiscation of substance
  • Fine of CHF100
  • Confiscation of driver license – only applicable in some cantons
  • Referral to education course - only applicable in some cantons in respect of minors
  • Voluntary referral to harm reduction services.

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Trinidad and Tobago

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Judiciary, Police, Prosecution   Outcome: Fine

Implementation

In 2019, Trinidad and Tobago amended its drug laws in order to decriminalise the possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis, as well as up to 5 grams of cannabis resin, for personal use. A fixed fine of 50,000 Trinidad and Tobago dollars (roughly USD 7,350) can be imposed on those in possession of between 30 and 60 grammes of cannabis, or between 5 and 10 grammes of cannabis resin.

Smoking cannabis in public remains a criminal offence subject to very harsh punishments – a fine of up to 250,000 Trinidad and Tobago dollars (roughly USD 36,825), and imprisonment for up to five years. However, the government can approve a list of public places where cannabis can be legally smoked.

Additionally, the cultivation of up to four plants of cannabis for personal use is decriminalised.

The 2019 amendment to the country’s drug laws also contains a provision that allows for the expungement of the criminal records of people who have been convicted for possessing no more than 60 grammes of cannabis, or 10 grammes of cannabis resin.

Concerningly, the new legislation also increases the penalty for certain offences related to the possession and trafficking of dangerous drugs, and introduces new criminal penalties for substances such as MDMA, LSD, and ketamine.

Decriminalisation date

2019

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Trinidad and Tobago, the police and the judiciary decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis
30g
Cannabis (resin)
5g

Sanctions

Fine

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Uruguay

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: All substances   Thresholds: No thresholds   Decision maker: Judiciary   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of any scheduled drug for personal use or for the cultivation of cannabis, again where it is for personal use.

Under the law, anyone found in possession of a ‘reasonable quantity exclusively destined for personal consumption,’ as determined by a judge, is exempt from punishment, both criminal and administrative. If a judge, considering a number of factors, including quantity, makes a determination that the drugs in possession were intended for sale, production or distribution, he or she must explain the reasoning for such a determination in any sentence issued.

Although drug use and possession have statutorily never been criminalised in Uruguay, researchers point out that police-enforcement practices and judicial processes have resulted in the incarceration of many people who use drugs. A number of individuals are placed in pre-trial detention, with the de facto presumption of a cultivation or trafficking offence but no formal charges. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of people incarcerated for drug crimes rose 39 per cent, outstripping the overall rise in prison population by 24 per cent. Worse still, the number of pre-trial detainees stood at 69.4% of the prison population in October 2015, underscoring weaknesses in the country’s criminal justice system which may work counterproductively with the legislative goal of decriminalisation.

Decriminalisation date

1976

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Uruguay, the judiciary decides on whether possession is for personal use using the following considerations:

  • Quantity of drugs involved
  • Evidence that the drugs in possession were intended for sale, production or distribution

Sanctions

No sanctions

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Virgin Islands (US territory)

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drug and face a fine of US$100.

Public use is a criminal offence and attracts a fine of up to $200.

Decriminalisation date

2013

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Virgin Islands, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
2oz

Sanctions

Confiscation of drug 

Fine – US$100

Minors caught in possession of 2oz or less are required to attend an approved drug awareness program within the year. Failure to complete the programme may entail a referral to the Family Division of the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands for delinquency proceedings.

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Australia

Australian Capital Territory

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, or caught cultivating cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drug and/or face a fine of AU$100 or voluntary referral to treatment in lieu of fine. 

Decriminalisation date

1992

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In the ACT, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds: 

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
50g
Cannabis (herbal)
2 (non-hydroponic) plants

Sanctions

Confiscation of drug 

 

Fine AU$100 a person can choose a voluntary referral to treatment in lieu of fine. 

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Northern Territory

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, , or caught cultivating cannabis for personal usesubject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drug and/or face a fine of AU$200.

Decriminalisation date

1996

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In the Northern Territory, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
50g
Cannabis oil
1g
Cannabis (resin)
10g
Cannabis
2 non-hydroponic plants

Sanctions

Confiscation of drug 

Fine - A person served with an infringement or “on the spot” notice is subject to a fine of AU$200 (about US$150) and has twenty-eight days to pay the fine in order to avoid a criminal charge.  

Persons under the age of seventeen may not receive infringement notices and will instead be prosecuted in court.

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South Australia

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, or caught cultivating cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drug and/or face a fine depending on the amount and/or activity.

Decriminalisation date

1987

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In the South Australia, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
100g
Cannabis (resin)
20g
Cannabis (herbal)
1 (non-hydroponic) plant

Sanctions

Confiscation of drug 

Fine: 

  • Cultivation of one cannabis plant AU$300
  • Possession of less than 25grams of cannabis AU$150
  • Possession of more than 25 grams and less than 100 grams AU$300
  • Possession  of less than 5 grams cannabis resin AU$150 
  • Possession of more than 5 grams but less than 20 grams of cannabis resin AU$300
  • Public consumption of cannabis AU$150

 

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USA

Alaska

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use or for cultivation of cannabis, again for personal use, or for the social supply of cannabis, subject to threshold amounts.

Consumption in public is a civil offence punishable by way of a fine.

Decriminalisation date

2015

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Alaska, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis
1 oz and/or 6 plants for personal use (no more than 3 mature)
Cannabis
Transfer of 1oz with no remuneration
Cannabis
Possession of 1 oz to 4 oz of cannabis is a misdemeanour punishable unless the activity occurs in a person’s home where there is no penalty as protected by constitutional right to privacy
Cannabis
Can also grow up to 25 cannabis plants in own home for personal use under constitutional protections

Sanctions

No sanctions

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California

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use or for cultivation of cannabis, again for personal use, subject to threshold amounts.

Consumption in public is a civil offence punishable by way of a fine of US$100.

If caught in possession and aged under 18, there is a requirement to complete four hours of a drug education programme or undertake counselling and up to 10 hours of community service.

Decriminalisation date

2016

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In California, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
1oz
Cannabis (herbal)
6 plants

Sanctions

No sanctions

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Colorado

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use or for cultivation of cannabis, again for personal use, or for the social supply of cannabis, subject to threshold amounts.

Consumption in public is a petty offence punishable by way of a fine and or up to 24 hours of community service.

Arrest rates for marijuana possession dropped considerably. Following legalization in 2012, they dropped nearly 50 percent in Colorado.

Decriminalisation date

2012

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Colorado, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis
1oz
Cannabis
6 plants for personal cultivation (no more than 3 mature)
Cannabis
Transfer of 1oz with no remuneration

Sanctions

No sanctions

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Connecticut

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drug and/or face a fine of US$150 on the first occasion and fines of US$500 for further infractions.

Decriminalisation date

2016

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Connecticut, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
0.5 oz

Sanctions

Confiscation of the drug 

Fine of US$150 on the first occasion, fine of US$500 for further infractions of the law.

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Delaware

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drug and face a fine of US$100. 2019 legislation extended decriminalisation of possession of cannabis to minors.

Public consumption is a criminal offence (misdemeanour).

Decriminalisation date

2015

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Delaware, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
1oz

Sanctions

Confiscation of drug 

Fine of US$100

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Hawaii

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drug and face a fine of US$130.

Decriminalisation date

2020

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Hawaii, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
3g

Sanctions

Confiscation of drug

Fine of US$130

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Illinois

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Fine, No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts. 

Cultivation outside of the medical cannabis programme is a civil offence if below 5 plants and a criminal offence if over that threshold.

Decriminalisation date

2020

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Illinoispolice decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

  • Possession up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate and up to 500 milligrams of THC in a cannabis infused product for residents of the state

  • Nonresidents may possess up to 15 grams of cannabis flower, 2.5 grams of cannabis concentrate and up to 250 grams of THC in a cannabis infused product
  • Cultivation of 5 or less cannabis plants is a civil violation

Sanctions

No sanction for possession 

Fine of US$200 for cultivation of cannabis – 5 plants or less, it is a criminal offence to cultivate more than 5 plants

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Maine

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use or for cultivation of cannabis, again for personal use, or for the social supply of cannabis, subject to threshold amounts. 

Consumption in public is a civil offence punishable by way of a US$100 fine.

Decriminalisation date

2016

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Maine, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds: 

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis
2.5 oz
Cannabis
Up to 3 flowering cannabis plants, 12 immature plants and unlimited seedlings in a private property – each plant must be tagged
Cannabis
Transfer of 2.5 oz and up to 6 immature plants or seedlings for no remuneration

Sanctions

No sanctions.

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Maryland

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drug and/or face a fine of US$100 on the first occasion, US$250 on the second occasion and US$500 on the third occasion. If aged 21 years over and caught on a third occasion the individual will be referred to a drug education program, for those aged 21 and under referral to a program will take place from the first occasion onwards.

Decriminalisation date

2014

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Maryland, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
10g

Sanctions

Civil fine – 1st occasion $100, 2nd occasion $250, 3rd occasion $500 and on the 3rd occasion a referral to a drug education course if over 21. For those aged 21 or under they will referred to a drug education program, in addition to the fine, from the 1st occasion.

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Massachusetts

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use or for cultivation of cannabis, again for personal use, or for the social supply of cannabis, subject to threshold amounts.

Consumption in public is a civil offence punishable by way of a US$100 fine.

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Massachusetts, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis
1oz (of which not more than 5 grams can be in the form of cannabis concentrate)
Cannabis
10 oz (in a person's residence)
Cannabis
12 plants of which 6 may be flowering (in a person's residence)
Cannabis
Transfer 1 oz (of which more than 5 grams can be in the form of cannabis concentrate) for no remuneration

Sanctions

No sanctions 

Minors caught in possession of cannabis will be fined US$100 and referred to a drug education program

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Nevada

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use or for cultivation of cannabis, again for personal use, or for the social supply of cannabis, subject to threshold amounts.  

Consumption in public is a criminal offence punishable by way of a fine.

Decriminalisation date

2017

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Nevada, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis
1 oz of cannabis or 1/8 oz cannabis concentrate
Cannabis
Up to 6 cannabis plants for personal use and no more than 12 plants at any one residence, individuals can only cultivate on private premises if they live at least 25 miles away from a marijuana retailer
Cannabis
Transfer of 1oz or 1/8 oz cannabis concentrate with no remuneration

Sanctions

No sanctions

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New Hampshire

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drug and face a fine of US$100 on the 1st or 2nd occasion, and a fine of US$300 on a third occasion if it occurs within a three year period of the initial offences. On the fourth occasion, within a three year period, the matter will be dealt with as a misdemeanour offence.

Decriminalisation date

2017

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only

Thresholds

In New Hampshire, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
¾ oz
Cannabis (resin)
5g

Sanctions

Confiscation of drugs 

Fine

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New Jersey

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use. Smoking cannabis in public is not allowed and carries a fine from USD$200-1,000; except in ‘consumption areas for smoking’ that may be created by cannabis dispensaries for this purpose.

Decriminalisation date

2021

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

In New Jersey, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
6 oz
Cannabis (resin)
17 grams

Sanctions

Smoking cannabis in public is not allowed and carries a fine from USD$200-1,000.

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New Mexico

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of coca only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

From 29 June 2021, there are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, cultivating cannabis for personal use and for the non-commercial social supply of cannabis.

Bill SB 2 automatically expungers the records of people charged or convicted for offences that have been repealed or decriminalised by the Cannabis Regulation Act.

Decriminalisation date

2019

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of coca only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

In New Mexico, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
2 oz
Cannabis derivatives
16 grams (concentrates)
Cannabis derivatives
800 milligrams (edibles)

Sanctions

Fine of up to US$50 for smoking in places where it is not permitted.

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New York

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

The provisions in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act that concern the decriminalisation of activities related to the possession of cannabis for personal use, as well as non-commercial social sharing, have immediate effect. These include, for instance, the permission of smoking cannabis in public spaces where smoking is permitted. That said, using cannabis in places where it is not permitted can attract a fine of USD$25.

Similarly, the Act provides for the automatic expungement (and prison release) for offences that have been repealed or decriminalised. The Office of Court Administration has a period of two years to conclude this process.

The possession of between 3-5 oz of cannabis for personal use is a violation punishable with an administrative fine of not more than USD$150.

The provisions in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act that concern the decriminalisation of activities related to the cultivation of cannabis for personal use (for instance, the cultivation of up to 6 mature plants and 6 immature plants per household) are set to come into effect 18 months following the beginning of the state’s cannabis retail market.

Decriminalisation date

2019

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

In New York, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
3oz
Cannabis derivatives
24 grams (concentrates)

Sanctions

Fine of US$25 for smoking in places where it is not permitted.

Fine of US$150 for quantities between 3-5oz

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Oregon

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: All substances, Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine, No sanction, Voluntary referral

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of any drug/s within certain thresholds, you risk confiscation of the drugs and either a US$100 fine or a telephonic health screening, as well as voluntary referrals to treatment, harm reduction, housing and other welfare services. The administrative fine can be waived if the person calls a telephonic screening line, where voluntary referrals to services can be made.

The cultivation for personal use and social supply of cannabis for non-commercial purposes is decriminalised within predetermined thresholds.

While statistics regarding implementation are yet to be produced, there is an expectation that the decriminalisation regime in Oregon will significantly reduce racial disparities in drug policing.

Some advocates have contended that the thresholds may have been set too low and that  limiting the legal reform’s potential.

Decriminalisation date

2021

Decriminalised activities

Possession of any drug, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

When it comes to cannabis, police in Oregon decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

  • Possession of 1 oz or less of cannabis in public
  • Possession of 8 ounces or less of cannabis at home
  • 16 ounces or less solid infused cannabis at home  
  • 72 ounces or less liquid infused cannabis at home 
  • 1 ounce or less of cannabis extract at home 
  • Cultivation of cannabis, up to 4 home-grown plants
  • Delivery (gift) 1 oz  or less of home-grown cannabis without compensation

When it comes to controlled substances other than cannabis, police in Oregon decide on whether possession is taking place under the decriminalised regime via the binding thresholds below (other possession offences, distinct from supply offences, can lead to arrest):

  • Methamphetamine: 2 grams
  • Cocaine: 2 grams
  • Heroin: 1 gram
  • MDMA: 1 gram / 5 pills
  • LSD: 40 units
  • Psilocybin: 12 grams
  • Methadone: 40 units

Sanctions

Cannabis: No sanctions

Controlled substances: Confiscation of drug, fine (or, in lieu of the fine, the completion of a telephonic health screening), voluntary referral to treatment, harm reduction, social and housing services).

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Rhode Island

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: Confiscation of drug, Fine

Implementation

If you are caught in possession of cannabis for personal use, subject to threshold amounts, you risk confiscation of the drug and face a fine of US$150.

Decriminalisation date

2013

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Rhode Island, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
1oz

Sanctions

Fine – US$150

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Vermont

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use or for cultivation of cannabis, again for personal use, subject to threshold amounts.

Decriminalisation date

2018

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Vermont, police decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
1oz
Cannabis (herbal)
6 plants (2 mature)

Sanctions

No sanctions

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Virginia

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Judiciary   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

On 1 July 2020, House Bill 972 / Senate Bill 2 came to effect in the state of Virginia, decriminalising the personal possession of up to one ounce (28.35 grams) of cannabis.

House Bill 2312 / Senate Bill 1406, passed on 21 May 2021, creates a legal cannabis market and expands the remit of the 2020 decriminalisation bill by removing criminal penalties for non-commercial adult sharing (‘social sharing’) and the cultivation of up to four cannabis plants. The bill will also seal the records of past convictions from public access.

While recent statistics from the criminal legal system reflecting the implementation of the new regime are not yet available, the measure is expected to benefit thousands of people targeted by arrests and prosecutions for the possession of cannabis for personal use. Prior to reforms, in 2018, the state saw 46,000 people prosecuted for cannabis possession offences. Despite representing 21% of the state’s population, Black Americans made up over 40% of these cases, which underscores racist biases in drug policing.

Decriminalisation date

2020

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only, Cultivation of cannabis only, Social supply of cannabis only

Thresholds

SubstanceAmount
Cannabis (herbal)
1 oz (or the equivalent amount in other cannabis products).

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Washington

Legal model: De jure - Statute   Activity: Possession of cannabis only   Substances: Cannabis only   Thresholds: Binding   Decision maker: Police, Prosecution   Outcome: No sanction

Implementation

There are no legal or administrative sanctions for being caught in possession of cannabis for personal use subject to threshold amounts.

Consumption in public is a civil offence. 

Decriminalisation date

2012

Decriminalised activities

Possession of cannabis only

Thresholds

In Washingtonpolice or prosecutors decide on whether possession is for personal use via the following binding thresholds:

  • up to 1 ounce of useable marijuana
  • 16 ounce of marijuana-infused edibles in solid form
  • 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form
  • 7 grams of marijuana concentrates

Sanctions

No sanctions

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