Currently, 55 percent of Americans live in states that have already reformed their marijuana laws by legalizing medical marijuana, and imposing a fine as opposed to jail time for marijuana possession, or by making it so marijuana was regulated and legally available for adult use.
Polls show that 86 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, and with so much support, lawmakers across the country are increasingly considering marijuana policy reform.
In South Carolina, the legislature has convened the 2015-2016 legislative session. Before the session began, proposals for marijuana reform were pre-filed by Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
In addition to legalizing medical marijuana for seriously ill patients, South Carolina lawmakers are seeking to replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with a civil fine under H. 3117. In the meantime, South Carolinians will have to wait and see what happens.
What are the current penalties?
Until sweeping reform changes South Carolina's marijuana laws, the penalties for marijuana possession are as follows:
- Possession of 1 ounce or less (first offense): Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, and a maximum $200 fine.
- Possession of 1 ounce or less (second offense): Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, and a maximum $1,000 fine.
- Sales or trafficking (less than 10 lbs): Felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and up to a $5,000 fine.
Cultivation of less than 100 plants is a felony offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Possession of paraphernalia is a civil citation, punishable by a maximum fine of $500.
Conditional Release & Diversion Sentencing
Defendants who are facing charges for their first drug offense may be eligible for conditional release or diversion sentencing.
With conditional release, the defendant may opt for probation rather than a trial. Once probation is successfully completed, the individual's criminal record will not reflect the criminal charge.
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