What Is the Federal Status of Marijuana in the United States?

Marijuana, often referred to as cannabis, weed, pot, or dope, is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. The plant’s dry shredded mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves is known for containing THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main ingredient that produces psychoactive effects and can lead to addiction. In the United States, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, indicating that it has a high potential for abuse and is not accepted for medical use under federal supervision. Despite this federal classification, some states have allowed the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but it is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that retains the authority to regulate its use federally.

Even as the federal and state regulations of marijuana continue to evolve, the focus remains on maintaining strict limitations on trafficking, marketing, and sales to minors to prevent adverse outcomes. Marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States, with about 18% of Americans, or 48.2 million people, having used it at least once in 2019. Research suggests that approximately 3 in 10 marijuana users have a marijuana use disorder, with individuals starting use before age 18 at a higher risk of developing this disorder.

Historically, cannabis use was legal in the United States during the 1800s and was commonly used for therapeutic purposes. However, with the development of synthetic painkillers and increasing media attention to cannabis-related violence, Congress outlawed recreational use in 1937 and made medical access more challenging. Today, 21 states, along with DC, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, have enacted laws permitting the recreational use of marijuana, thereby removing all state-imposed penalties for specified activities involving the substance.

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Marijuana can be consumed in various forms, including smoking in joints, blunts, or bongs, or it can be mixed into foods and drinks, commonly known as edibles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to study and address the public health concerns of marijuana use to better understand its impact on society.

Federal Status of Marijuana in the United States

For more detailed information, you can refer to the following resources:
Drug Fact Sheet: Marijuana/Cannabis – DEA.gov
Statement from President Biden on Marijuana Reform
Data and Statistics – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Federal Status of Marijuana and the Expanding Policy Gap with States
What We Know about Marijuana – CDC
Cannabis legalization in the US
Frequently Asked Questions – CDC
Marijuana and Public Health – CDC
Marijuana – DEA.gov

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