Assessing the Status of Minors in Possession: Marijuana Versus Alcohol
Ohio State University Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, August 2022
57 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2022 Last revised: 13 Jan 2023
Date Written: August 29, 2022
The legalization and decriminalization of marijuana at state level has an impact on adult use, as well as on use by minors. In many jurisdictions, minor use and possession of marijuana is regulated much like that of alcohol. This paper examines the statutory language of laws regulating possession of marijuana by minors across states in which marijuana is legalized, decriminalized, and illegal. From there, data was collected to look at the arrest rates for minors in three case study jurisdictions. The purpose of this comparison was to reveal how laws criminalizing minors in possession of marijuana are carried out as reflected in the arrest rates of reporting jurisdictions. Overall marijuana arrests for minors in possession decreased from 2018 to 2020 across every state case example provided. Additionally, based on the case examples provided in those states that decriminalized marijuana, arrests for juveniles were lower overall than those with legalized or illegal status. While further analysis is needed, the study found positive results, noting that states across the board appear to be decreasing arrest rates for marijuana possession, and more and more states are looking to alcohol violation statutes to craft their marijuana violation statutes for minors. Accordingly, the public shift in thinking about marijuana appears to be impacting the practicalities of drafting statutes and mandating arrests for the better: to create a less hostile approach with less punitive impact on minors.
Keywords: Marijuana reform, juvenile justice, minors in possession of alcohol, minors in possession of marijuana, juvenile arrest rates, alcohol violation statutes
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