Marijuana laws in the United States have a contentious history, marked by changing attitudes and policies. Furthermore, there are conflicts between state and federal law that remain unresolved.
An understanding of history is essential for comprehending the current policies and reforms. Even learning about some important marijuana laws and legislation from 2022 may behove you. Accordingly, this article will provide a brief but informative account of marijuana laws. Whether you have legal concerns or are curious, you will find the vital details you need to know below.
Early Marijuana Laws in the United States
In the 1800s, cannabis was widely used in medicine and was available over the counter. But concerns about its potentially harmful effects began to surface. Many sensationalized stories linked cannabis use to crime, violence, and insanity.
Massachusetts acted on this trending sentiment in 1907. It became the first state to regulate marijuana use by requiring a prescription. Many states followed suit with similar restrictions or bans, but this marks the earliest known start to anti-marijuana legislation.
Prohibition movements rose in popularity during this period and culminated in the 18th Amendment. But many groups aimed to ban more than alcohol. As a result, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 criminalized the use and possession of marijuana.
The War on Drugs
The War on Drugs, first introduced by President Richard Nixon in 1971, was an effort to combat drug use and trafficking. Its popularity increased in the 1980s as policymakers sought to address the crack cocaine epidemic. These efforts took aggressive measures against drug offenses, including stricter sentencing laws.
Communities of color have felt a disproportionate impact by the criminalization of marijuana. Various racial and ethnic groups have similar rates of marijuana use. Nonetheless, Black Americans are four times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession.
This discriminatory enforcement of drug laws sparked allegations of racial prejudice and injustice. Moreover, the War on Drugs resulted in mass incarceration and limited access to educational and financial opportunities.
Anti-marijuana legislation has also had broader societal impacts. Its prohibition has fueled a violent black market for the drug. Also, the criminalization of marijuana had a chilling effect on free speech since advocates risk legal problems.
In the 1990s, there was a growing movement to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. But it’s not all simply legal smoking pot in California.
California became the first state to pass a medical marijuana law in 1996, and several other states followed suit. These laws allowed patients suffering from specific medical conditions to use marijuana with a prescription.
The introduction of medical marijuana programs represented a significant change in public perception. Many people started to view it as legitimate rather than harmful.
In 2012, the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults started in Colorado and Washington. The trend continued with California, Oregon, and Illinois. This decriminalization offers solutions to problems associated with keeping cannabis illegal, including black markets. They have also been a notable source of revenue through taxes and licensing fees.
Current Marijuana Laws
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level in the United States. The drug is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. As a result, the government considers it to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical uses. Consequently, this classification has made it difficult for researchers to complete studies on its effects.
As of 2021, 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Furthermore, 15 states and DC have legalized recreational marijuana. However, there is significant variation in state-level laws. Some states allow only low-THC cannabis products and have strict driving under the influence of marijuana laws. But others allow for a wide range of marijuana products and consumption methods.
The potential for changes to marijuana laws is uncertain, but change may be on the horizon. Public support has reached an all-time high, and most Americans favor legalization.
Talk to a Local Attorney About Your Marijuana Case
America has seen substantial changes to its marijuana laws. Nevertheless, significant challenges remain. Racial disparities and regulation concerns continue to vex state and federal legislators. As a result, you must stay vigilant if you use the drug or become involved in emerging business ventures.