Photo courtesy of PBS.
One of the common assertions about marijuana is that many of the people in jail or prison for drug related offenses were convicted, and are serving lengthy sentences, for “simple possession” of marijuana. This classification refers to offenses involving small amounts of marijuana (enough to classify as only being intended for the owner’s personal use), generally carried by non-violent, first-time offenders. While it is true that a conviction for simple possession can entail at least jail time, if not prison time, judges most often give first-time offenders more lenient punishments, which can include fines and community service. Many first-time marijuana offenders may not even be arrested, let alone punished.
Additionally, most people who are sent to prison for marijuana possession are also sent for at least one other, more serious or violent, crime. It is misleading to claim that people are serving years (or life) long sentences for simple possession, when most, if not all, of those people are serving those sentences for possession while also serving sentences for much more severe crimes. State and federal sentencing guidelines generally do not encourage incarceration for the possession of personal-use amounts of marijuana, let alone do they encourage (or even allow) sentences of more than a few months for it. Reports on the federal and state prison systems routinely show that of all the people imprisoned for simple possession, almost all of them are serving those short sentences while also serving harsher sentences for harsher crimes, such as drug trafficking, participation in drug trafficking organizations or other organized crime, or other violent crimes.
Listed below are links to several of these reports.
With the recent increase in legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana use, many people have become interested in starting or investing in marijuana businesses. Something to keep in mind, though, is that people who are interested generally need to reside in the states in which the businesses are owned and operated. In Colorado and Oregon, for example, this means that if you would like to start or invest in a marijuana business, you need to have lived there for at least two years before applying for the appropriate business licenses. You may not invest in (let alone start) the business while living in another state or country. In Washington, investors only need to have been residents for three months, but their companies all have to be formed in state as well.
Another major point: no one may buy marijuana in a state where it is legal and take it to another state, even another state where it is legal. This constitutes drug trafficking, a federal offense, which law enforcement officials are on greater alert for due to the increasing number of states that allow legal marijuana use.
These links provide information on individual states’ policies regarding founding or investing in marijuana businesses.