We all know that America’s drug and marijuana laws are completely illogical and irrational. But even in a country that considers cannabis to be a more dangerous drug than cocaine, there are still some obscure laws that are even weirder.
Here are some of the most obscure marijuana laws in the United States:
1. Teenagers Can’t Buy Magazines in Louisiana That Talk About Drugs
In 1977, the state of Louisiana banned the sale of magazines that are “encouraging, advocating, or facilitating the illegal use of controlled dangerous substances.” This was primarily in response to the founding of High Times magazine four years earlier. Forty years later, and any teenager in Louisiana can pull up their smartphone and Google “marijuana” and get millions of results.
2. In New York City, You Can Be Arrested for Marijuana Possession Even Though Marijuana Possession is Decriminalized
Marijuana possession in New York City is decriminalized, meaning you’re allowed to have the drug on you without punishment. But there’s a catch: you’re not allowed to display marijuana in public. But New York’s stop-and-frisk laws allow police officers to ask people to empty their pockets without probable cause. And if you empty marijuana from your pocket, you can be arrested for it, even though the only reason you’re breaking the law is because a police officer is forcing you to do so.
3. You Can (Maybe) Bring Marijuana Onto Planes
In 1972, the Federal Aviation Administration implemented a rule saying that pilots could not operate planes with narcotics on them, but that rule “does not apply to any carriage of narcotic drugs, marihuana and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances authorities or under any federal or State statute or by any Federal or State Agency.” That law seems to imply that it’s ok for drugs to be on board airplanes as long as they were purchased legally under state law. And while that would make for an excellent court case, we wouldn’t recommend you do so.
4. California City Imposes Taxes on Marijuana Businesses to Shut Them Down
Voters in Vallejo, California approved a measure in 2011 that would tax marijuana dispensary sales in the city. The only problem was the measure didn’t legalize the actual dispensaries. So the government collected the money from the taxes and used it to raid those dispensaries and shut them down. Instead of, you know, using that money for more helpful purposes.
5. It’s Illegal to Buy or Sell Laboratory Equipment in Texas
Technically, this law isn’t explicitly about marijuana, but drugs in general. In 1989 the Texas legislature edited their controlled substances law to prohibit the buying or selling of chemicals or laboratory equipment without state permission. Items on the banned sale list include “a flask heater...an Erlenmeyer, two-neck, or single-neck flask...a round-bottom, Florence, thermometer, or filtering flask.” All of which are items you’d find in basic high school chemistry classes.
6. In Indiana, It’s Illegal to Even Be Near Drugs
In Indiana, there is a misdemeanor crime for “presence where knowledge of drug activity occurs.” That’s a particularly vague and unknowable law. Does it mean being in the area where drug dealers are known to operate? Is it being in a place where someone has used drugs? The only thing we do know is it will come with a $1,000 fine and one year in jail.
7. Growing Marijuana Could Make You a British Citizen…in the 1600’s
We’ll finish this list with an obscure historical law. During the early days of American colonization, the British government encouraged settlers to grow hemp in the New World. Back then, hemp was used for anything from fabrics to lighting oil to medicine. In fact, the British government was so intent on colonists growing hemp that they rewarded full citizenship to anyone who cultivated massive amounts, and fined people who refused to grow it. It’s weird when the British government of the 1600’s seems to be more rational than the American government today.