Possession of marijuana is a criminal or unlawful act in most countries and regions around the world. Although penalties for possession of marijuana are often less severe than criminal sentences for trafficking crimes or for more heavily regulated drugs such as heroin, some regions still have strict penalties for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Penalties for the possession of marijuana will vary by region, state, and nation, but may include fines, jail time, or court-ordered diversion or drug treatment programs.
Penalties for possession of marijuana are often determined by considering a variety of associated factors. Some of these issues may include the amount of marijuana seized, the criminal history of the defendant, and whether the marijuana was intended for personal use or for distribution. People with drug-related criminal histories, or those in possession of large amounts of the drug may be less likely to receive any leniency in court.
One of the most common penalties for possession is a fine. The amount may depend on sentencing guidelines and the amount of the drug in question. Fines may also go up if a person has prior drug convictions for possession. Fines in countries with strict drug penalties can run into the thousands of US dollars (USD). By contrast, possession in the US state of California results in a fine of $100-$500 USD, depending on the amount in question.
In regions that emphasize the treatment of drug problems over the punishment of offenders, those convicted of possession may be given the option to attend drug rehabilitation or counseling. In Portugal, for instance, those in possession of small amounts of marijuana may be evaluated by a panel of rehabilitation counselors and doctors for signs of addiction. In many cases, this panel can recommend treatment programs that are geared toward kicking an addiction. Drug treatment is also sometimes an option for first time non-violent offenders in the United States, though this option is usually at the judge's discretion.
In many nations and regions, jail time is possible for possession of marijuana. Many nations are split on the use of jail time to punish possession; while some see it as detrimental to the prison system to overcrowd it with non-violent offenders that may need rehabilitation treatment, others insist that an offender is an offender and should be subject to strict punishment in order to deter future crimes. Jail time may depend on the amount of the drug seized and the record of the offender, but can exceed 10 years in some nations.