The Legal History of Cannabis in the United States

The Legal History of Cannabis in the United States

The history of marijuana in the United States is long and dates back to Colonial times when the Colonies produced hemp to develop rope and clothing. After the Civil War, imports replaced hemp, reducing its production. However, in the 19th century, marijuana was used as a medical ingredient and was sold in pharmacies. In the early 20th century, after the Mexican Revolution, immigrants brought cannabis and used the drug recreationally. Such actions began campaigns of fear and misinformation, which led to the eventual prohibition. By 1931, more than half of the states in the union had outlawed marijuana. In the 1950s, Congress passed laws requiring mandatory prison sentences for drug-related arrests, which lasted until the 1970s, when such laws were repealed. However, the 1980s war on drugs re-enacted the prison sentences once again and it wasn’t until California passed a proposition in 1996 legalizing the medical use of the drug that the laws began to shift.

The legality of cannabis or the regulation of its use, in reference to the use of the drug as an addictive substance, has been the subject of debate for decades. Practically every country has laws concerning the cultivation, possession, sale, and consumption of the substance. The non-psychoactive components such as the fibers and the seeds are legal in many countries and many have regulations that allow cultivation for such purposes. The part of the plant that has psychoactive properties, however, is a controlled substance in many places, including the United States. Some exceptions include the use of the drug for medicinal purposes in some states.

In the last few years, public perception has shifted and has placed pressure on the legalization of cannabis for both recreational and medicinal use in other areas of the country. Today states that include Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and others are among those that have cannabis friendly laws for recreational use. Other states have laws that legalize marijuana for medical purposes and these include New York, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, and others. In the rest of the United States, all use of the drug is illegal. The shift, however, has created a massive industry for pharmaceuticals, health, retail, and agriculture.

The last few years have witnessed an authentic international revolution regarding the legalization of marijuana. This movement has been in place for a long time. However, the start of the most recent phase is because of Uruguay, who in 2012 opened the debate regarding the sale of marijuana which led to its legalization two years later. Currently, the drug is sold in pharmacies and the government controls the market. In the United States, the legalization process began in 2012 when Colorado and Washington approved the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. In February of 2014, the legal sale of marijuana without a medical license began in Colorado, and the state became the first in the United States to host a public market for the product.

Today, Washington state allows its residents over the age of 21 to consume marijuana in private settings, cultivate up to six plants, and possessing up to 56 grams of cannabis. Other states have also begun the process of rethinking their current marijuana laws. However, it is important to note that marijuana is illegal at the federal level and the federal government still has the substance classified as a Schedule I drug. The United States Department of Justice reserves the right to challenge states and has done so while the substance has been legal at the state level. Therefore, businesses owners operating in places where transactions are legal, such as Colorado, should still seek legal counsel from a Denver criminal attorney. Until congress removes marijuana from the Schedule I Drug list and legalizes it at the federal level, it is wise for users, businesses, and medical practitioners to legally protect themselves.

 

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