Lawmakers stop short of decriminalizing marijuana, lower penalty for small amounts

By  | 

Being cited for having less than half-an-ounce of marijuana on you could soon be just a fine.

Lawmakers in conference committee agreed to lower the penalties on small amounts of marijuana possession to an infraction. An infraction is still a criminal penalty, but wouldn’t result in any jail time.

Here’s how the possession penalties would be laid out:

- Less than half-an-ounce is an infraction
- half-an-ounce to 1 oz. is a Class B misdemeanor- max penalty of 30 days imprisonment and $1,500 fine
- More than 1 oz. to 8 oz. is a Class A misdemeanor- max penalty of 360 days imprisonment and $3,000 fine
- More than 8 oz. is a Class C Felony- max penalty of 5 years imprisonment and $10,000 fine

“Our sentencing and our criminal justice system should be concentrated on other more serious and that the sentence for anyone for a small amount of possession or use is not going to face the heavy hand of the law,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, sponsored a decriminalization bill earlier in the session, which was defeated in the House. She says these amendments don’t remove the criminal penalties and it increases them for more than an ounce.

The bill still needs to be voted on in both chambers.