The disparity between state and federal marijuana policies has widened significantly over recent years. Despite marijuana’s illegal status under federal law, a substantial number of states, along with Washington D.C., Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, have passed measures authorizing recreational marijuana use. As of March 1, 2023, 21 states have adopted such laws. Conversely, only three states remain where cannabis is not permitted for medical purposes, as of May 2020.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, with approximately 18% of Americans, or 48.2 million people, using it in 2019. Among those, research suggests about 30% might develop a marijuana use disorder, with the risk being higher when use starts before the age of 18.
Federal regulation, through agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. This classification deems it to have no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. However, the landscape is complex, with some form of medicinal cannabis legalized in 47 states and three U.S. territories, as well as D.C.
Despite these advancements at the state level, the federal government maintains strict regulations against trafficking, marketing, and underage sales of marijuana. President Biden has made statements on marijuana reform, indicating potential changes in federal policy, but these have not yet been translated into law.
Public health entities like the CDC are focused on understanding the impact of marijuana use and addressing associated health concerns. Public perception, however, remains mixed, with some individuals unaware of their own state’s laws regarding medicinal cannabis both before and after these laws’ enactments.