British and American cannabis laws are very different, and cannabis use is just one of the many things that highlight this claim. The two countries today have a different approach to the consumption of cannabis and its products, so here are some facts for everyone who wants to know the main differences.
Even though the United Kingdom and the United States of America can be said to have similar regulations, they act in a different way when it comes to cannabis. Every state in the US makes its own regulations regarding cannabis use.
Before 1973, Texas was one of the US states with harshest laws where possession of any amount of marijuana was classified as a felony. In 1973, Texas started a liberating trend in which a slight change in its law made owning less than four ounces a misdemeanour. After that, several states made similar changes where laws were relaxed, and offences were treated as minor criminal deeds.
Since the turn of the 21st century, scientists have made severe scientific breakthroughs in medical marijuana use. That’s when most states decided to change their regulations and make cannabis legal, at least to some point.
Today, according to the marijuana legalisation statistics, medical cannabis is legal in 33 states, while recreational cannabis is legal in 11 states. However, the degree of legalisation is not the same everywhere, and that’s the main difference between UK and US laws.
Many US states have been steadily decriminalizing cannabis and various types of drug use or possession over the last 2 decades. The Government’s goal has been to ease prison overcrowding and reduce the cost and the social burdens caused by prosecuting minor drug offenses. In California for instance, drug law changes enacted in 2014 caused felony drug crime arrests to plummet 79%.
In the US, every state can create its law and enforce penalties. There are five basic levels of legality. For example, cannabis is fully legal in California. In the state of Ohio, it’s legal for medical use, and it’s also decriminalized. In Arizona, it’s not decriminalized, but it’s legal for medical use. Cannabis is legal in Texas for medical use but has a THC level regulation. In Idaho, it’s fully illegal.
The UK has one law for all countries. In 2018, medical marijuana was allowed in Wales, England, and Scotland. However, recreational marijuana is still not allowed.
According to British law, cannabis is considered a Class B drug. In 2004, it was declared a Class C, but it was changed back to Class B in 2009. The difference between these classes is the severity of legal punishment. Also, getting caught with illegal drugs from Class B will get you in more serious trouble because the penalty will be worse.
Thanks to the law passed in 2018, doctors are allowed to prescribe cannabis products. Patients can also buy them over the counter, but the authorities heavily monitor the production and use. That proves that the British government acknowledges the health benefits of marijuana, but it’s still not ready to make it legal for recreational use.
Recreational marijuana is still illegal in the UK, so getting caught by the police means that you can get fined or prosecuted. If you get caught smoking marijuana for the first time, the police can either confiscate it or let you go with a warning. However, if you get caught again, the fine is £90. Getting caught for the third time means going to jail for 28 days if found guilty.
In the US, laws and legal punishments are different from state to state. Since there are 50 states, that means 50 different regulations. Despite some states declaring cannabis use as fully legal, there are still limitations of some kind. In Colorado, for example, also known as the US capital of marijuana, adults over 21 are allowed to possess up to one ounce of cannabis. People there are also allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants for personal use.
In Idaho, on the other hand, marijuana is illegal for all purposes. People getting caught with less than three ounces will face jail time of up to one year. Getting caught with more may result in five years in prison. All the other states have laws and regulations that are somewhere in between these two states.
Cannabis laws in the UK are not as strict as in some US states. Still, the battle for marijuana legalization is yet to be fought in the country. Medical marijuana was allowed just two years ago, and even though recreational marijuana use is prohibited, it’s still not as strict as in some other parts of the world.