Marijuana and the Law, what can I do without going to jail the United States? Up until very recently, marijuana was completely illegal except for a few scattered exceptions for medicinal uses. In fact, the federal government still has the right, upheld by the Supreme Court, to prosecute marijuana growers, distributors, and users even in states where state law allows for medical or recreational marijuana. However, under the Obama administration, the federal government has not pursued that right and has in practice allowed states to make and enforce their own rules regarding cannabis use. As a result, marijuana laws are a patchwork across the United States, with some states having complete legalization of marijuana, some states not allowing it at all, and many states allowing marijuana use only under very specific circumstances.
So how do you know whether you are or are not allowed to use marijuana in your state, or what cannabis related activities are legal? The following is a list of legalization issues and statuses, and where your state stands on them.
Legal recreational use
If you live in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, or Washington, D.C., rejoice! You can buy, own, and use marijuana just because it’s fun. You don’t need a doctor’s note or any sort of special permission. Chances are, you have a dispensary nearby where you can go and get your Mary Jane whenever you want to.
Legal medical use
The states that have legal medical marijuana are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In all of these states, you are legally allowed to use medical marijuana, but you have to have a prescription from a doctor (and sometimes recommendations from multiple doctors), and there are restrictions on your ability to access it.
For example, there is a limit on how much you can possess – usually between 1 and 8 ounces. In Maryland, Minnesota, and New York, you can have a 30 day supply, based on how much you have been prescribed. In Minnesota and New York, only non-smokable kinds of marijuana may be possessed.
In medical marijuana states, there may also be legal restrictions on which conditions can be treated with marijuana. You may not be able to simply go to your doctor and tell him or her that you suffer from anxiety (though most of us do in our stressed-out world) to recieve a prescription for medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana states that are voting to legalize recreational marijuana
Arizona, California, Maine, Maryland, and Nevada already have legalized medical marijuana. They also have measures on the upcoming 2016 November ballot to legalize recreational marijuana. If these measures pass, the number of states with legalized recreational marijuana will be up to nine, plus Washington, D.C.
States that will be voting on medical marijuana in 2016
Arkansas, Florida, and Missouri will be voting on whether to allow medical marijuana in November.
States with no legislation
24 of the 50 states have no legislation which allows marijuana in any form. While this does not necessarily mean that the states have specific legislation against marijuana, it means that the states enforce the federal prohibition. In these states, it is illegal to own any amount of marijuana or marijuana extracts, grow marijuana plants, sell marijuana, or use it at all.
CBD Oil: legal in all 50 states?
If you go into your local vape supply store, you will probably see CBD oil for sale with the claim that CBD oil is legal in all 50 states. This claim is exciting, but the truth is a bit more nuanced than that. Most states allow the use of hemp extracts with less than 3% THC, so CBD oil which has little to no THC can be used. However, it can’t be grown in the US; it has to be imported. In addition, the oil cannot come from the leaves or the buds of the hemp plant, but only from the stalks or seeds. CBD oil cannot be extracted from hemp seeds, and it can only be extracted in very small amounts from the stalks. Industrial hemp is not even a very good source of CBD compared to cannabis, which is not legal in almost half of the US.
So if you are getting CBD oil, you are either getting a product that is far lower quality than if the CBD were extracted from actual cannabis plants, or you are getting a lab created isolate which lacks the biological complexity of the plant and therefore may have more limited therapeutic value.
Nevertheless, something is better than nothing and if you can get any of the benefits of cannabis at all, it is worth giving it a try.
Legalization versus decriminalization
In legal discussions of marijuana, the terms “legalization” and “decriminalization” are both used in many different cases, but many people do not know the difference or why it matters. The difference is very simple, actually.
Legalization means that the government passes a law specifically allowing for the use of something (in this case, marijuana). Along with legalization, there are often regulations about how much you can have, how much it will be taxed, whether it can be sold within a certain distance of schools, etc. All of the states listed which have legal marijuana have gone through the process of legalization and have actually put laws on the books about it.
Decriminalization means that the government decides that it is not going to worry about it anymore at all. It does not regulate it, it does not prosecute people for possessing it, it does not impose taxes on it; it simply strikes it from the books.
Why does it matter? It is common to think that unless something is legalized, it is forbidden. Actually, that is not the way our legal system works. It is the opposite: unless something is forbidden, it is allowed. There is no law regulating the chewing of gum; therefore you can chew gum anywhere you like, buy gum in any convenience store, blow a bubble in a police officer’s face, create a gigantic gum sculpture of a rabbit on your front lawn, and smack your teeth as loudly as you want in public without ever even thinking about there being legal ramifications. This is because gum has never been criminalized. It has also never been legalized. There’s no rule against it, and therefore you can do whatever you want with it.
If the federal government were to decriminalize marijuana, it would be up to each state to decide how they wanted to regulate it and tax it. If a state decided not to regulate it, you could light up a joint right outside the police station without fear. Most states would decide to regulate it, though, and it would probably end up being like cigarettes: you have to be a certain age to buy it, you can’t smoke inside public places, and there’s a tax on it which goes to fund various things.
Until that day, though, be aware of what the laws are in your state and don’t get sent to jail!