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An Easy Guide To Understanding Marijuana Laws

Marijuana is a very popular drug, used both recreationally and medicinally. In the United States, it is legalized in 19 states and two U.S. territories, but is still illegal at a federal level. If you intend on using the plant, then you need to first research your state’s laws on marijuana. Some states have very confusing laws regarding the plant’s use. For example, in some U.S. states, marijuana is decriminalized but is illegal to purchase, sell, and use in public.

This post will explore the topic of marijuana laws in great detail so that you can understand them:

Where Is Marijuana Legalized?

As referenced in this post’s introduction, 19 states have legalized marijuana for recreational and medicinal use, as have two U.S. territories. According to the marijuana advocates from, out of all of these states, California was the first to legalize the plant for medicinal use. The state’s first act legalizing marijuana was introduced on November 5, 1996. As of 2016, recreational use was legalized. Adults over the age of 21 are able to possess 8g in public and are able to cultivate up to six plants in their own homes. These rules are more or less the same in all other states where marijuana is legalized, which are:

  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Michigan
  • Vermont
  • Guam
  • Illinois
  • Arizona
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • New Mexico
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island

Medicinal Use

Some states aren’t fully sold on the idea of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. There is a wealth of scientific research that proves marijuana is a very powerful drug in a healthcare setting, however. Because of this, lawmakers in some of the U.S.’s most strict states have legalized the plant for medicinal use, but still, arrest and prosecute people that are caught possessing and cultivating it in large amounts without a medical permit. Most of these states have decriminalized marijuana in small amounts, however. Decriminalization is a subject that will be addressed next. The states allowing marijuana for medicinal use are as follows:

  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Utah
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Oklahoma
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Hawaii

Out of all of these states, only North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Maryland, New Hampshire, Delaware, Mississippi, and Hawaii have decriminalized marijuana in addition to allowing its use medicinally. It is a criminal offense to possess any amount of marijuana in the other states listed without a medical permit.

Decriminalized Marijuana

As shown above, marijuana is decriminalized in quite a few states. However, decriminalization doesn’t mean that it’s legal to possess or even smoke marijuana in public. In most states, it just means that you are able to cultivate small amounts and smoke it at home. If you are found to be possessing or smoking marijuana in a public place, the police are able to confiscate your marijuana and destroy it. You cannot be arrested, though. In states where marijuana is decriminalized but not legal, you cannot purchase it and there are no dispensaries.

Illegal Marijuana Use

Despite the U.S.’s progressive nature and the steps that lawmakers have taken toward legalizing marijuana use in all states, some don’t want to follow this trend and continue to treat marijuana use as a criminal offense, medicinally or otherwise. In these states, if one is found to be in possession of marijuana, one can be arrested and prosecuted, as would have been the case pre-1996 when marijuana was first legalized medicinally in California. The states that still treat the possession, cultivation, and use of marijuana as a crime are:

  • Idaho
  • Wyoming
  • Kansas
  • South Carolina


CBD stands for Cannabidiol. CBD is a derivative of the Cannabis plant, but unlike THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), Cannabis’ other main component, CBD is not psychoactive and therefore produces absolutely no high. There has been a lot of scientific research that has gone into CBD, with scientists concluding that the derivative has a broad range of benefits and medical applications. It can be used for a number of things, from treating PTSD and anxiety to resolving inflammatory conditions, like IBD. Because of CBD’s wide range of benefits, it has been legalized in a number of states where marijuana itself is still banned. In the following states, it is still a crime to possess marijuana, but CBD is allowed:

  • Wisconsin
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Georgia
  • Texas

The main reason that CBD has been legalized is that it does not produce a high. Unfortunately, however, scientists are mostly in agreement that full-spectrum CBD products (i.e., those that contain both CBD and THC) are the most effective. Full-spectrum products have been compared in effectiveness to codeine, a powerful pharmaceutical drug that’s used to treat chronic pain, and other conditions. Because THC is psychoactive, however, CBD products that contain it are banned in these states, which limits the benefits people can derive from CBD products in them.

Marijuana Legalization

In states where marijuana is still criminalized, there are large pushes to have it legalized. These pushes are internal and external, with advocates in other states campaigning for widespread marijuana use. The primary reason that campaigners are pushing for states to enforce marijuana bans to legalize the plant is because of the myriad benefits offered by the plant to people’s health. By keeping marijuana criminalized, states are limiting the treatment that people can get for their health problems.


In states where marijuana is criminalized, it is an offense to possess or have anything to do with marijuana. As one might expect, the penalties vary wildly. In some places, marijuana possession is a slap on the wrist, and in others, it is a very serious offense that can result in jail time. In all states where marijuana is criminalized, being found in large amounts will inevitably result in jail time. It can even result in jail time if you are discovered with very large amounts in states where it has been decriminalized, because there are strict rules limiting the amount of marijuana one is able to possess, even in these states.

Marijuana was for a number of years stigmatized. Users were regarded as lazy drug addicts, and marijuana was considered no different from heroin. Thankfully, these archaic beliefs have faded away, and most people now consider marijuana no different from alcohol. It is a drug that’s widely accepted and even recommended by doctors. If you are going to use it, then research your state’s laws surrounding it, so that you don’t get into any trouble.

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