Of all the non-prescription drugs that exist on the market, marijuana has held a legacy as having the highest support for legalization.
Ever since its classification as a Schedule I drug (containing no useful medical benefits) in the 1970s, marijuana has been illegal in all 50 states as a result of the Controlled Substances Act. Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana prompting the Department of Justice to file a memo stating that they would acquiesce to the state’s regulatory system with respect to law enforcement.
The most common question to date since Colorado’s history-making moment was about the federal-state interplay. In summary, marijuana remains federally-illegal, but legal at the state level. For the average citizen, this simply means that possession, transport, and purchase of marijuana was legalized (subject to state regulation). For retail businesses, it gets more complicated, and Dr. Julie Hill explains why in this law review article.
Another frequent question that’s been asked: Now that marijuana is legal in my state, does that mean my employer can’t use a positive-for-weed-result against me in hiring? I’m guessing marijuana consumers can’t be discriminated against anymore.
Wrong on both counts. Private companies are entitled to screen prospective employees for whatever they’d like so long as their screening doesn’t specifically target any groups that are protected by law, and as long as their screening doesn’t look for information prohibited by law. In fact, when you are applying for a position with most companies, you are informed that employment is contingent on the successful passing of a drug screen, and you are asked to consent to it.
What if all fifty states legalize marijuana?
Apply the results in Colorado to the rest of them, but add in some factors:
- Financial institutions would still be unable to service them and as such, businesses would have to accept a form of payment other than credit cards.
- Since Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce, you’d be breaking the law if you transported marijuana over state lines.
- No shipping carrier will accept a marijuana shipment from one consumer to another.
- Any business licensing that would involve federal regulators would be impossible.
What is the difference between rescheduling marijuana and legalization?
Rescheduling marijuana changes its classification in the Controlled Substances Act and removes the federal prohibition. Legalizing it removes the criminal penalty and removes it from the Controlled Substances Act.
Isn’t drug policy typically more of a left-leaning item?
If you approach it from the standpoint of society, it’s been seen that way for decades because drug use has been long stigmatized and discouraged considering President Nixon’s “War on Drugs” after the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Simply doing a search on articles or reports germane to marijuana’s medicinal use will yield a myriad of results. Readers should exercise independent judgement and critical thinking to decide for themselves where they stand on the issue.
What is clear, especially with more than twenty-five states passing legislation legalizing medical marijuana, considering that the Department of Justice was asked to stop prosecuting marijuana offenses at the federal level, and that absent one decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals, the policy is leaning more in the direction of legalization.
Where drug policy steers into the right-side of the spectrum is the federalism aspect. Nowhere in the Congressional Powers was Congress authorized to create an agency like the DEA. It would be the most likely scenario that all fifty states, including DC, would pass legislation to the effect of what’s already in the federal bill, but it would allow them to modify it to suit their needs. Beyond that, crimes that result in someone being under the influence of a drug would still be prosecuted under the appropriate authority
Since marijuana legalization is divided into two parts, medical and recreational, green will reflect states that have legalized for recreational uses (which includes medicinal), and white will reflect states that have only legalized for medicinal. Light-blue states have done neither. Much like other maps on this site, as new legislation is introduced for either medical or recreational usage, it will be listed in a table below.
Due to the federal-state interplay, it is highly recommended to read and become familiar with all applicable laws. Any legal advice should be obtained from practicing attorney.The table below lists active legislation for recreational and/or medical marijuana. For the purposes of this table, medical legalization is "allowing for marijuana to be prescribed as medicine," and for recreational it removes the criminal penalties for personal use and possession.
Be sure to check your individual state's laws for specific guidelines on what is or isn't legal and consult an attorney for specific legal advice.
|State||Recreation or Medical||Link||Age for usage|
|Michigan||Medical||Link to Article about Ballot Initiative|
|Idaho||Medical||Link to Ballot Initiative|
|New Hampshire||Recreational||View Bill||21|
|North Carolina||Medical||View Bill|
|Oklahoma||Medical||View Ballot Initiative|
|Utah||Medical||View Ballot Initiative|