The Current State of Marijuana Legislation
Cannabis is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. As of April 2017, the federal government doesn’t recognize any difference between using marijuana recreationally and using it for medicinal purposes. In contrast, many states have laws allowing the use of marijuana in certain medical situations, and eight states plus the District of Columbia allow recreational use.
Where Is Marijuana Legal?
Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, and the state voted in 2016 to legalize recreational use and allow the carrying of up to an ounce of cannabis without a prescription.
Alaska and Oregon have been pot-friendly since 2015; Colorado and Washington State were the first to legalize recreational use in 2012. D.C. voted to make the switch in 2014; the other states all made the changes as late as 2016 and are still in transition to legalized recreational use.
As of 2016, many other states allow medical use: Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, New Mexico, Illinois, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island all allow it. Some other states have laws on the books that OK use of medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription, but since federal law makes it impossible for a doctor to write a formal prescription for cannabis, those laws are still considered ineffective.
What States Are Voting Soon on Legalized Marijuana?
Numerous states are expected to change positions on legalized marijuana in 2017 or shortly thereafter. Delaware and Rhode Island are expected to follow neighboring state Massachusetts and legalize pot soon. Delaware has already decriminalized it, which means those caught with small amounts of cannabis usually only face a civil fine.
New Jersey, Texas, Kentucky, New Mexico and Vermont have decriminalization or legalization on the legislative agenda for 2017. Missouri, which has a very limited legal medical cannabis law, is looking at widening the scope of that law in 2017.
What Benefits Are Associated With Legalized Marijuana?
Legalizing recreational marijuana can have several benefits. First, legalizing small amounts for recreational use reduces much of the illegal drug movement associated with cannabis. When pot is legal, the sale and use of it is less likely to attract other illegal activity, including theft and violent crime.
Legalized cannabis also boosts local and state economies. By late 2016, marijuana had created 18,005 jobs in Colorado alone and boosted the state’s economy by $2.4 billion in 2015.
Getting Involved in Legislation
Individuals can get involved in legalizing marijuana by educating themselves, sharing information online and off, donating to awareness groups, and joining organizations that support legal cannabis. NORML is fighting for legal cannabis in all states, as is the Marijuana Policy Project.