Summer is the season of travel, but driving over invisible lines brings different rules everywhere you go. And if there's one set of rules any joint-smoking wanderer needs to know when crossing into other states, it's the marijuana laws there.
Colorado may be a big safety bubble for recreational marijuana users, but outside of Arizona's recent decision to legalize pot, none of the surrounding states have the same fondness for the plant. Driving over the border and into another state in a car with Colorado plates still gains the attention of law enforcement, as readers have complained about to us for years.
To keep you updated on the risks you face when leaving Colorado with pot in your car, here are the marijuana laws of eight neighboring (or close enough) states.
While Colorado doesn't technically border Texas, both states share visitors and a mutual disdain, so think of us as living on the same street while letting our dogs pee on each other's lawns. And when Colorado legalized marijuana, we left one horse-sized piss on Texas's bluebonnets, because Colorado dispensaries are making boatloads of cash from customers driving in from Texas — and you'd better believe Texas police are aware of this. Possession of two ounces or less of pot in Texas can net you up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, while possession of marijuana concentrate can land you two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. And be careful with your hash pens and edibles, because one man was facing five years to life after being caught with hash-oil brownies. He later received probation after the case attracted national attention.
Just over five years ago, then-Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was leading a lawsuit against Colorado for legalizing recreational marijuana sales in 2014. Fast-forward to 2020, and the lawsuit's long since been thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court, Pruitt is still catching heat for his spending during a short stint leading the Environmental Protection Agency, and Oklahoma is just over a year into one of the most expansive medical marijuana programs in the country; medical marijuana patients from other states can even register for temporary medical marijuana cards in the state. Although recreational legalization seems like a matter of if, not when in Oklahoma, you still need to be careful in the state, where possession of any amount of weed, marijuana concentrate or paraphernalia carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
You can't buy or possess recreational marijuana in New Mexico — a legislative effort promoted by the state's governor to legalize failed in early 2020 — but medical marijuana patients have just been granted more freedom when visiting New Mexico via reciprocity. Starting July 1, all MMJ patients with valid credentials from their home state can purchase and possess marijuana in New Mexico. Any non-patient caught with a half-ounce or less of marijuana in New Mexico receives just a $50 citation, but getting caught with more than that can bring up to fifteen days in jail and a $100 fine, while possession of marijuana concentrate is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. New Mexico could open soon, however, as marijuana proponents are feeling bullish about the state's chances for recreational legalization in 2021.
There are towns on the Utah border with dispensaries, but be careful when crossing over. Medical marijuana was recently legalized in Utah, but only for Utah residents, and recreational marijuana is still illegal, with possession of less than an ounce and possession of paraphernalia each carrying a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. And remember: National parks follow federal rules, so be sure to hide your stash when visiting Arches or that trippy-ass metal monolith recently discovered in Utah.
Despite passing a measure to legalize recreational marijuana in November, Arizona won't see adult-use dispensaries open until March, and pot possession technically remains illegal until November 30.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana is considered a felony (but often scaled down to a misdemeanor) and can lead to up to four months in jail and $150,000 in fines. Drug paraphernalia charges are more common, however, and are usually handed out for small amounts of weed, empty weed containers and smoking utensils. However, the measure legalizing recreational marijuana in Arizona also sets up expungement processes for marijuana crimes that will no longer be illegal — so even if you do get busted for small possession before then, chances are the charges will be expunged, at the very least.
Medical marijuana is legal in Arizona (for registered patients only), but Arizona does not practice reciprocity for patients registered in other states.
Oklahoma wasn't the only state trying to sue Colorado for legalizing recreational pot. Nebraska was another neighbor whining about Colorado weed to the feds — but unlike Oklahoma, this state has barely evolved on the subject. Both medical and recreational marijuana are still illegal in Nebraska, though possession of one ounce or less and smoking paraphernalia has been decriminalized to a fine without any jail time — for your first offense only. However, possession of marijuana concentrate in Nebraska is still a felony that can result in up to five years in prison.
Be careful when driving with marijuana in Kansas, particularly if you plan to take it to one of the state's many cheap campgrounds along I-70, because this is one of several states where people complain about being profiled for their Colorado license plates. Any amount of marijuana (including a dusty baggy with a few crumpled leaves or seeds) can lead to a misdemeanor charge carrying penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, while a paraphernalia charge is even worse, topping out at one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Kansas was very slow to accept industrial hemp because of the plant's relation to weed, so don't expect medical or recreational marijuana to be allowed there any time soon.
Medical and recreational marijuana aren't just illegal in Wyoming; they're both openly scoffed at by law enforcement, which likes to remind Coloradans that they will bust your ass if you drive through their state with weed. Possession of three ounces of marijuana or less in Wyoming is a misdemeanor carrying up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, while possessing paraphernalia or being under the influence of marijuana can each get you up to six months and a $750 fine.