Legalization continues to be a growing issue and will continue to be for some time, at least until an agreement is reached at the federal level, although many states are already moving towards this.
There are states across the country that have taken initiatives to promote legalization, some with success and others not so much. Such is the case of South Dakota, where residents approved a pre-referendum on marijuana in 2020, but Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, challenged the result in court.
Residents of New Jersey, Arizona, and Montana voted to legalize marijuana in 2020. In total, 21 states and the District of Columbia allow the recreational use of marijuana, and 37 states regulate cannabis for medical use.
Polls show that a majority of Americans favor legalization. Democrats are the most likely to support legalization.
Efforts to pass federal legislation have stalled in the Senate, largely due to Republican opposition.
In 2022 several states legalized recreational marijuana use for adults, and hopefully, it will only be a matter of time before such use is legal nationwide.
These three states were three states Maryland, Missouri, and Rhode Island. While on the other hand, Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota rejected in 2022 the legalization of recreational marijuana use for adults.
In the coming year, we will see several states discussing legalization. For example, Oklahoma is preparing to put the question of legal marijuana to the voters in March 2023.
Ohio is also preparing to put the question to a vote in 2023, and Minnesota could pass a law legalizing marijuana without a state constitutional amendment.
Going a bit further afield, Hawaii may also be preparing to vote in favor of marijuana legalization. Meanwhile, citizen initiatives could bring the issue to the ballot box in Wyoming, Idaho, Florida, and Nebraska.
At the federal level, cannabis continues to be classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. In other words, at the federal level cannabis in all its forms is an illegal substance.
However, each state can establish whether or not, and in which cases, the use of cannabis is permitted.
It is important to clarify that each jurisdiction has its own guidelines for establishing who, how, and where cannabis can be sold, the requirements for issuing medical licenses, as well as the quantities and types of products.
It is up to each state to determine these issues as well as licensing for cannabis commerce, and they can vary significantly from state to state.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational adult use of marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Recreational cannabis also is legal in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and D.C.
Ten other states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have decriminalized its use. The commercial distribution of cannabis has been legalized in all jurisdictions where possession has been legalized, except in D.C. Personal cultivation for recreational use is permitted in all of these jurisdictions except Washington State and New Jersey.
As of December 2022, these states have legalized – to a lesser or greater extent – the medical use of cannabis: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
Medical use of cannabis is legal with a physician’s recommendation in 37 states, four of the five permanently inhabited U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
Additionally, eleven other states have laws limiting the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in order to allow access to CBD-rich cannabidiol products.
Many states that have legalized marijuana initially decriminalized possession of a small amount.
In general terms, cannabis “legalization” means passing laws that permit the purchase, sale, and possession of marijuana, i.e., making the substance, its acquisition, and consumption legal under specific requirements.
Decriminalization, on the other hand, means that violation of certain marijuana laws may result in fines or other penalties, but not criminal charges or jail time.
As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, the number of lawmakers who want to square federal laws so that they do not conflict with state regulations is increasing. Several bills introduced in both the House and Senate would address various aspects of marijuana legalization, from criminal to financial.
A proposed Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) was introduced in the Senate in 2022, which would end federal cannabis prohibition and give state-compliant cannabis businesses access to financial services such as bank accounts, business loans, and credit card transactions.
Studies have now been conducted on the state of cannabis legality, according to which medical legalization is expected to occur in all U.S. states by 2024, with some more states allowing the sale of recreational cannabis.
Here are some of the states that have yet to legalize recreational or medical cannabis, and are expected to have legalized cannabis by 2023-2024.
Maryland (Legal beginning July 1, 2023)
As more research is done on cannabis, it is clear to many that this drug should not be in the same category as other more dangerous drugs. That is why so many people support legalization, as they have come to know the mental, physical and recreational benefits of cannabis.
It is likely that in 2023 we will see more states join the legalization wave, and even, being very optimistic, we may see modifications at the federal level that will allow the industry to continue to grow without so many regulatory constraints.
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