Law by Law, Drug Use

Most states view drug use as a felony, even though doctors state, with one voice, that addiction is a medical condition. We wouldn't put cancer patients in prison, and then saddle them with a felony for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately the federal government leads the charge with its schedule I laws and punishments. Still, a state can and should defy the federal government when its laws are irrational and immoral - as we are doing with marajuana.

California has taken a big step forward with proposition 47 in 2014. However, it doesn't go far enough. Drug use remains a felony if you have committed other serious crimes. This continues our theme of never giving an ex-offender a second chance. As many black people know well, "Once you're in the system, you never get out." Drug use is still a medical condition, regardless of criminal history. Well proposition 47 is, nonetheless, a giant step forward, thus California is in blue.

Iowa has taken a small step forward, wherein the first two possessions are misdemeanors. They are still punishable by jail and fines, instead of rehab, which is irrational and regressive; and we shouldn't be surprised when an addict gets caught for the third time. Thus Iowa is in pink. As a general rule, red is the worst, then pink, then blue, then green.

the United States is all over the place on this one. A first offense cocaine conviction could yield probation, or 10 years in jail, depending on where you live.

Even the green states are not ideal, since the misdemeanor sentence is still jail & fines, instead of state-sponsored rehab. The moral arc bens slowly.


map of states where drug use is not a felony

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Please send along any corrections or new information. I am not always up to date on all the laws in all 50 states. More information (and a few commercials) can be found here.

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