Throughout much of human history and until the early twentieth century, marijuana usage was lawful. Between 1916 and 1931, 29 states in the United States outlawed marijuana usage. The 1937 Marihuana Tax Act effectively rendered cannabis illegal throughout the United States.
While cannabis is still illegal on the federal level, most states have authorized the use and sale of medicinal marijuana, and a growing number are considering legalizing the plant for recreational use. Here’s all you need to know about marijuana legalization in the United States.
Marijuana Is Still A Controlled Substance At The Federal Level
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I restricted drug by federal law. These are defined as those “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” As such, the penalties for the possession and use of such substances (including marijuana) may carry some of the harshest penalties.
While such restrictions remain in place at the federal level, each state has the authority to change its own laws regulating marijuana use, possession, and sale. To that aim, numerous states have made marijuana usage legal for recreational purposes (while it remains illegal at a federal level).
Marijuana legalization in the U.S.
California was the first state to establish marijuana legalization as a state’s right when it approved medicinal marijuana in 1996. The following is a comprehensive list of states, districts, and territories in the United States that have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana:
|State||Medical Use||Recreational Use|
|District of Columbia||✓||✓|
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Using Cannabis In Your State
Most states allow usage of cannabis in one way or another. If you want to keep yourself up to date with the legality of cannabis in your state, make sure to take a look at our map of marijuana legality by state.
Where can I use marijuana legally?
In terms of where you may use the substance, some state laws requires that anyone using cannabis must do so in private, such as in their own residence. Other states allow consumers to use cannabis only in so-called consumption lounges. Most states deem illegal to use cannabis in a public place, such as on the street or at the park.
It’s also vital to note that some areas of all states are governed by federal law rather than state law. Airports, for example, are classified as federal property and must adhere to federal regulations. As a result, possessing or using cannabis in an airport or any other federal property, such as government buildings or prisons, is prohibited. Furthermore, carrying cannabis in places where children gather, such as schools and school buses, is prohibited.
How much can I possess at one time?
Possession of cannabis is another matter. The amount that you may carry varies depending on where you are. Most states allow consumers to possess higher amounts of cannabis in their residences, you have to check your state’s regulation to see what the limit is where you live, but it usually goes for up to 10 ounces of cannabis in your residence, while in public, usually you may not be allowed to carry more than 2 to 3 ounces of cannabis.
Selling Or Distributing Cannabis
Every single state that allows the sale and distribution of cannabis require the interested party to obtain some type of certification from its respective state organization. Nine out of ten times, these licenses are hard to get, yet highly profitable.
In some states, regulators allow adults to transfer up to small quantities of cannabis to another adult as long as there is no money or anything else exchanged for the substance and the transfer is not promoted to the public. In other words, the transfer must be a bona fide gift.
As with the sale and distribution of cannabis, states require growers to obtain a license in order to operate a commercial cultivation facility. However, most states also allow consumers to grow a small amount of marijuana plants at their own residence for personal use. Nevertheless, adults are not allowed to grow marijuana plants that are visible from a public place.
Traveling With Marijuana
Due to the differences between federal and state laws regarding marijuana, many people remain confused about how to travel with the substance legally. If you want to get a better look at the details about travelling with marijuana, check our post about it. Either way, below, we provide answers to some of the most common questions regarding this topic.
What happens if I forgot I brought marijuana to the airport?
As mentioned earlier, it is illegal to bring marijuana to an airport. But, what happens if you forgot you had marijuana in your bag upon arrival?
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) states on their website that their agents do not go out of their way to search for illegal drugs. The agency’s top priority is to protect passenger safety and detect potential threats to aviation. However, remember that TSA is a federal agency and, as such, must enforce federal laws. So, if TSA agents find marijuana in your bag, they must report it to the police. What happens after that is up to the police.
Can I travel with marijuana if I have a medical marijuana card?
It depends. In short, if TSA finds marijuana in your bag, they are not authorized to check the validity of your card and, as such, still must report the discovery to the police. Then, the police and the prosecutor will determine whether the issuance of any criminal charges is warranted under the circumstances.
Can I travel with CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the active ingredients in cannabis. CBD can be found in all varieties of the cannabis plant. Frequently, CBD is derived from industrial hemp, which is a variety of the cannabis plant that contains no more than 0.3% THC that is legal under federal law. Many people use the substance for its anti-anxiety and calming properties.
Therefore, as long as your CBD product contains no more than 0.3% THC, you can bring it on a flight.
Penalties For Marijuana Violations
Keeping your state’s laws in mind will help you use, possess, and transfer cannabis legally. However, violating these laws can cause harsh penalties. The usual penalties consist of fines, misdemeanor charges and civil infractions. The usual penalty comes for possession of cannabis in a place deemed as not suitable for consumption, or growing marijuana plants that are visible from a public space, or in a higher quantity than what the state regulation allows. However, some actions, like selling cannabis without a license can be considered felonies in some states.
How To Start A Cannabis Business
Since the some form of marijuana use, whether medicinal or recreational, was legalized in most states, enterprising individuals across the country have become interested in joining this lucrative industry. In order to start your own business you must undergo significant legal legwork in order to establish your company legally.
Most states require two basic things: you should be a resident of the state where you want to operate (for a certain amount of time that will be determined by your state’s regulations) and you must be at least 21 years or older.
Other than that, the regulations vary quite a lot from state to state. With all the red tape and compliance that companies need to go through, it usually is a hard task to obtain a license, so a key tip is to always contact a professional if you are planning to set foot in the industry.
If you are interested in starting a medical marijuana business, an adult-use recreational marijuana business, or a cultivation business, our cannabis law attorneys can help you acquire the appropriate licenses, fill out the right paperwork, and make sure the legality of your business is firmly, properly established – as we have done before with multiple companies in the industry.