Pot Laws in States That Border Colorado: Life in Prison for Selling a Joint?

In a recent post, we noted that four young men accused of possessing less than five grams of Colorado marijuana could be sentenced to as many as seven years behind bars under the cannabis laws in Missouri, where they were busted.

But folks don't have to travel nearly that far to experience stark differences from the way Colorado treats pot.

The folks at NORML have pulled together a detailed breakdown of marijuana laws in each state and the District of Columbia, as well as the federal government as a whole.

For this post, we've drawn from NORML's graphics and resources to highlight the rules in the seven states that border Colorado. As you'll see, punishments vary widely, but maximum potential penalties for sales, in particular, are enormous in many places, even for small amounts of cannabis.

Here's the rundown.


One of the two states (with Nebraska) that's suing Colorado over its marijuana laws, Oklahoma sports some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country.

As you can see, possession of marijuana in any amount can lead to a year behind bars even for a first offender, with the penalty increasing to between two and ten years in stir for subsequent violations.

But such punishment seems small in comparison to the rules governing sale or distribution. An individual found guilty of selling less than 25 pounds of marijuana can be sentenced to between two years and life in prison. Yes, life — and while it's unlikely that anyone would get the harshest sentence for peddling a joint, it's at least technically possible according to the NORML material.


In comparison to Oklahoma's marijuana laws, the Nebraska rules seem almost liberal, at least when it comes to possession.

For example, those caught with less than an ounce of cannabis receive only fines for either a first or second offense.

But things toughen up considerably when it comes to sale or manufacture. Selling any amount of marijuana can lead to a sentence of up to twenty years behind bars.

And ratchet that up to fifty years in the Big House if that sale takes place within 1,000 feet of a school. Sell a gram to a student in a high school parking lot and risk going away for half a century.


The punishments in Kansas aren't exactly light, either.

Possessing less than 450 grams of cannabis in the state can result in a sentence of up to one year, with a subsequent violation calling for what appears to be a minimum of ten months in jail and a max of three-and-a-half years. Again, a single joint could presumably trigger these penalties.

When it comes to sale or distribution, Kansas exhibits some flexibility, determining the severity of punishment through the use of several weight categories: less than 25 grams, between 25 grams and 450 grams, from 450 grams to thirty kilograms, and thirty kilograms and above.

But selling marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school triggers a mandatory minimum of four years.


If your'e simply under the influence of marijuana in Wyoming, you could spend six months in jail.


Possessing less than three ounces of cannabis — again, a joint would qualify — might result in a one-year jolt.

And sell any amount of marijuana and a judge could put you away for a decade.


The marijuana laws in Utah share plenty with those in Wyoming.

Possessing less than an ounce of cannabis can lead to six months in a cell.

But selling any amount of marijuana tops out at five years unless it's done within 1,000 feet of a school or other verboten area.

In those cases, the penalties can be increased.


Possessing less than two pounds of marijuana can net a violator between four months and two years in jail.

Selling a similar amount is deemed more serious.

Do that and you're looking at between one year and nearly four.

And the punishment is the same for simply possessing or using hash or concentrates, with no amount restrictions listed.


While New Mexico is known as being more marijuana-friendly than most of our other neighbors (the state has an active medical marijuana program that includes PTSD as a treatable condition, unlike Colorado), its penalties are still mighty serious.

A second offense when it comes to possessing less than an ounce of marijuana can result in a penalty of up to one year in jail.

There's no minimum amount of cannabis under the distribution laws, which sets a one-and-a-half-year sentence for distributing 100 pounds of marijuana or less.

And that's for a first offender.

For more about the marijuana laws across the country, click here.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts