What Is the Current Status of Marijuana Legalization in the United States?

Marijuana is currently the most prevalently used federally illegal drug within the United States, with an estimated 48.2 million individuals, or approximately 18% of the American population, reported using it at least once in 2019. Research from this period has also indicated that around 30% of marijuana users may have a marijuana use disorder, with the risk intensifying for individuals who initiate use before the age of 18.

Starting with California in 1996, a wave of states have begun to amend their drug laws to permit the medicinal application of marijuana. As of March 1, 2023, 21 states, along with Washington D.C., have enacted laws legalizing recreational marijuana, removing all state-imposed penalties for specific activities involving the substance. Meanwhile, over 50% of U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

However, despite this widespread state-level legalization, marijuana continues to be illegal under federal law. The policy gap between federal and state laws has been expanding, with more states legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana use. This divergence presents a complex legal landscape, as state laws continue to evolve in favor of marijuana legalization, while federal law maintains its prohibitive stance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been actively involved in identifying and addressing the public health concerns associated with marijuana use, striving to enhance the collective understanding of its impact on public health. Data and Statistics – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, What We Know about Marijuana – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Marijuana and Public Health – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are some of the resources provided by the CDC for public awareness and education.

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Moreover, recent developments in marijuana law have been documented in various reports, such as the Recent Developments in Marijuana Law – CRS Reports and the The Federal Status of Marijuana and the Expanding Policy Gap with States. These reports highlight the ongoing changes and challenges in marijuana legislation. The The Evolution of Marijuana as a Controlled Substance and the Federal Medical Marijuana and Marijuana Legalization – PMC and Cannabis legalization in the US. Where do we go from here? also provide insightful perspectives on the history and future directions of marijuana legalization in the U.S.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also plays a crucial role in providing information about marijuana and its legal status. Their Drug Fact Sheet: Marijuana/Cannabis offers a detailed analysis of the substance, its effects, and its classification under federal law.

Marijuana Legalization

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