The status of marijuana laws in the United States has been a complex and evolving issue. While the use of cannabis was legal and widely used for therapeutic purposes in the 1800s, the federal government began to impose restrictions in the 20th century. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, indicating a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, rendering it illegal at the federal level. Despite this, over half of the states, as well as the District of Columbia and other territories, have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Some have gone further, legalizing non-medical adult use and establishing regulated recreational cannabis industries.
Recent actions by state governments have widened the policy gap with federal law. As of March 1, 2023, 21 states, along with Washington D.C., Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, have passed laws permitting the recreational use of marijuana. These initiatives have led to the removal of state-imposed penalties for specified marijuana-related activities. However, states cannot fully legalize the substance due to the overriding federal law. In a landmark statement, President Biden announced a pardon for all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana, signaling a shift in the federal approach.
The public health perspective on marijuana use is also under scrutiny. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is actively working to understand the public health implications of cannabis consumption. In 2019, an estimated 48.2 million people used marijuana, making it the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States. To regulate and ensure safety, states like California have set strict regulations on the cannabis industry, ensuring businesses operate safely, and products are free from contaminants and appropriately labeled.
For a detailed understanding of the latest developments in marijuana law, visit the comprehensive reports provided by the Congressional Research Service and PubMed Central. To learn more about the health aspects of marijuana use, explore resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Drug Enforcement Administration. For state-specific regulations, such as those in California, refer to the Department of Cannabis Control.