Criminal Law

Understanding Where Marijuana is Legalized

Understand Where Marijuana is Legalized — Grand Canyon Law Group — https://grandcanyon.law/

The Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning it is considered to have “high abuse potential with no accepted medical use”. Under federal law, marijuana is classified with strident drugs such as heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.

However, while it is still illegal under federal law, the possession of cannabis, better known as marijuana or weed, has been legalized for medicinal and recreational in multiple states across the U.S. But each state has its own unique laws, regulations, and restrictions when it comes to legalizing marijuana.

Marijuana Legalization

The debate over marijuana legalization has many ardent supporters on either side. Every year, approximately 600,000 individuals are arrested for marijuana possession in the United States. In 1971, U.S. President Richard Nixon enforced mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants through federal drug control agencies which began the “war on drugs”. Since then, marijuana prohibition has been one of the main contributing factors to mass incarceration in America.


Those who are opposed to the legalization of cannabis believe that this Schedule 1 drug will produce negative public health effects and pose more safety risks. Objectors also argue that drug-impaired driving will increase significantly if marijuana is legalized. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “70% of today’s illicit drug users started with marijuana, not prescription drugs.”

Cannabis is one of the most used illicit substances in the nation. Some argue that, with the legalization of marijuana, drug abuse and addiction could rise and lead to lost productivity, increased hospital visits, and additional environmental harm.


Millennials (individuals born between 1980 and 2000) are the main advocates pushing for a change in federal legislation. Over 50 percent of people who engage in some form of marijuana are within the millennial generation. Millennials, as well as other supporters of marijuana legalization, believe that this drug poses several therapeutic benefits—such as stress relief and the elimination of chronic pain.

These proponents also believe employment will dramatically increase, the economy will benefit from more taxes, and racial disparities in marijuana enforcement will come to a halt if cannabis is legalized. They are also confident in the fact that marijuana may be less harmful than other legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco.

So, Where is Marijuana Legal?

Marijuana is legal in 36 states and 4 territories (the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). These include:

●     Alaska

●     Arizona

●     Arkansas

●     California

●     Colorado

●     Connecticut

●     Delaware

●     Florida

●     Hawaii

●     Illinois

●     Louisiana

●     Maine

●     Maryland

●     Massachusetts

●     Michigan

●     Minnesota

●     Missouri

●     Mississippi

●     Montana

●     Nevada

●     New Hampshire

●     New Jersey

●     New Mexico

●     New York

●     North Dakota

●     Ohio

●     Oklahoma

●     Oregon

●     Pennsylvania

●     Rhode Island

●     South Dakota

●     Utah

●     Vermont

●     Virginia

●     Washington

●     West Virginia

Many of these states legalized the purchase of marijuana but still decriminalizes it—and vice versa. Multiple jurisdictions have enacted some form of patient registry, which prevents individuals from being arrested if they have a certain amount of prescribed cannabis.

Medical Conditions/Illnesses

More states legalized marijuana for medical purposes rather than recreational uses. Qualifying health conditions for medical marijuana prescriptions vary by state, but may include the following illnesses and/or conditions:

●     Alzheimer’s disease

●     Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome

●     Cancer

●     Chronic pain

●     Epilepsy

●     Crohn’s disease

●     Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

●     Severe and persistent muscle spasms

●     Glaucoma

●     HIV or AIDS

●     Multiple Sclerosis (and other disorders characterized by muscle spasticity)

●     Nausea

These conditions for medical cannabis are state-specific. Proof of residency is required in all states if applying to be a qualified patient for medicinal marijuana use. Some illnesses can be challenged and approved by the Department of Health or recommended by a physician if they deemed it appropriate.

Many states also include an effective medical marijuana program to control the regulation and distribution of cannabis. These programs vary by state and may include an adult and medical use regulated program, a comprehensive medical cannabis program, or a CBD/Low THC program.

The Changing Landscape of Marijuana Programs and Policies

The topic of the legalization of marijuana is controversial and the policies are ever-changing. With over half the country having legalized either the use, possession, purchase, or cultivation of marijuana, it seems likely that more states will follow.

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