The legal landscape of marijuana in the United States has undergone significant changes, particularly in its relationship between state and federal laws. The Federal Status of Marijuana remains as a controlled substance, creating a widening policy gap with states that have adopted more liberal approaches. As of March 1, 2023, 21 states, along with Washington D.C., Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, have enacted laws permitting the recreational use of marijuana.
This shift in state-level marijuana policy reached a new level in November 2022, when voters in five states considered ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana, with two being adopted. These legislative changes also included provisions for expungement of previous cannabis possession convictions by July 1, 2024, and the commencement of legal adult recreational sales from December 1, 2022. Moreover, the laws introduced a 10% state cannabis excise tax, in addition to a 7% sales tax and a 3% local tax.
Despite these state initiatives, marijuana use remains illegal under federal law. However, as of June 1, 2021, 36 states, four territories, and the District of Columbia have enacted medical marijuana laws, with 17 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia also passing recreational marijuana laws.
The public health implications of these legislative changes are significant. For instance, a small increase in the prevalence of past-year cannabis use disorder among adolescents (12-17 years) was observed following the enactment of recreational cannabis laws. This represented a 25% higher increase compared to those in states without such laws. Moreover, marijuana remains the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States, with approximately 18% of Americans having used it in 2019. An estimated 3 in 10 people who use marijuana have marijuana use disorder, with risks heightened for those who begin using before age 18.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasize the importance of understanding the public health impact of marijuana use as more states legalize its medical and recreational use. The popularity of cannabis has fluctuated over the past century, with a notable rise in use during the 1960s. Since then, there has been an increased focus on understanding its effects, both from a legal and public health perspective.
In conclusion, the evolution of marijuana legislation in the U.S. reflects a complex interplay between state-level initiatives and federal regulations, underscored by significant public health considerations and changing social attitudes.