Can I Go To Jail for Smoking Weed?
Every year, more states are voting to legalize Marijuana for either medical or recreational use. Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001, and Trudeau has recently championed a bill to legalize recreational use. Seemingly everywhere in the Western world, it is becoming easier and easier to find places where one can purchase and consume cannabis legally.
That said, it is important to understand that existing laws are very strict, even in states where possession and use have been decriminalized. Laws vary from state to state (as well as in Canada), and there are some non-legal risks to consider as well. Do your homework before making a decision about whether to try marijuana. Here are a few things to consider.
Photo credit Vaping360.com (Vaping360)
It is important to know the law in any jurisdiction where you intend to smoke weed. In states where possession is still a criminal offense, a complaint by an individual that leads police to you can, and often will, result in criminal charges and possible jail time.
If it is your first offense or you are in possession of only a small amount of cannabis, a judge may only sentence you to time served. Some states, however, have mandatory minimum sentences for even nonviolent drug offenses that can put you away for months or even years. The best policy is to not light up at all anyplace where it is still considered a crime.
In many cases, evidence of smoking weed (being high or testing positive for THC) is not enough to land you in jail. If you happen to be high and run into a cop who detains you because he smells it, there is little that can be done to make charges stick if you aren’t carrying. That means, in most cases, you really don’t have to worry about just walking home from a friend’s house after a smoke session. If it’s out of sight and not on your person, jail is highly unlikely.
Being High In Public
If you are out and about creating a public nuisance as a result of being high, you can be arrested for public intoxication and spend at least a night in jail, just like you would if you were drunk in public. Since that’s not standard behavior for most stoners, it’s likely not something you would really need to worry about either.
While it’s true that the health risks of cannabis use have been tremendously overstated in the past, it’s not true that the risks are negligible. It’s still a psychoactive drug, and heavy consumption can seriously affect users’ neurochemistry – particularly if those users are teenagers whose brains are still developing. The National Institutes of Health reports that marijuana abuse is associated with some level of physical and psychological dependency, contrary to popular belief. This is why legal consumption age has usually been set at 21, as the risk of developing dependencies goes down significantly after brain structures crystalize. Long-term effects can also include memory dysfunction and a decline in visuomotor skills. And similar to other intoxicants, chronic use can contribute to risk of mental illness later in life.
On the other hand, there is some evidence to suggest that mild cannabis use can help fight Glaucoma, reduce the incident of epileptic seizures, and has well-established benefits as a pain reliever. For most patients, cannabinoid pain relievers have a lower incidence of dependency than the opioids that currently saturate the market. And while smoking weed can irritate the lungs and exacerbate conditions like bronchitis and asthma, those effects are mild compared to those of – say – cigarettes.
In short, smoking weed does come with a degree of risk, particularly if you are underage or in a location where it is considered a criminal offense. And just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you should stock up and light up. MARIJUANA ABUSE CAN BE EXTREMELY HARMFUL! If, however, you know the laws in the jurisdiction where you live (or smoke), and play by all applicable rules when it comes to possession and use, possible incarceration for smoking weed is not likely to be a huge concern for you. But, there is so much more you can be doing with your time…so why get stoned in the first place?