Get caught passing marijuana to a friend in Montana and you could end up facing life in prison, in theory, at least. In reality, says The Missoulian, “Nobody is ever going to ask for life in prison, ever,” said Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul, who prosecutes drug cases. Brant Light, who heads the Montana Department of Justice's Prosecution Services Bureau, said that while the while the state laws “do not differentiate between substances or amounts, the reality is judges by and large are not sentencing young, first-time offenders to prison for selling small amounts of marijuana.”
For first-time offenders, probation is typical, says the Public Defender’s Office. The fact that the penalty remains on the books rattles marijuana proponents. Montana's law is among the toughest in the nation, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. In Oregon, California, and Ohio, for instance, “gifts” of small amounts of pot are violations or misdemeanors. And many states take the amount involved into consideration when it comes to the sale and distribution of marijuana. Alabama has a potential life sentence for marijuana offenses, but only for selling to minors, or trafficking more than 1,000 pounds. Montana's U.S. attorney, Michael Cotter, says he would prosecute businesses unlawfully marketing marijuana.