Timeline of cannabis laws in the United States

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Map of cannabis laws in the US

Legality of cannabis in the United States


  Legal
  Legal for medical use
  Legal for medical use, limited THC content
  Prohibited for any use

  D  Decriminalized


Notes:
· Includes laws which have not yet gone into effect.
· Cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under federal law.
· Some Indian reservations have legalization policies separate from the states they are located in.
· Cannabis is illegal in all federal enclaves.

US Cannabis Legalization [1] 100 Years of Cannabis Legalization

The legal history of cannabis in the United States began with state-level prohibition in the early 20th century, with the first major federal limitations occurring in 1937. Starting with Oregon in 1973, individual states began to liberalize cannabis laws through decriminalization. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, sparking a trend that spread to a majority of states by 2016. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

Federal[edit]

  • 1937: The Marihuana Tax Act is enacted, effectively prohibiting cannabis at the federal level. Although medical use is still permitted, new fees and regulatory requirements significantly curtail its use.[1]
  • 1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted, officially prohibiting cannabis for any use (medical included) at the federal level.
  • 1990: The Solomon–Lautenberg amendment is enacted.[2] As a result, many states pass laws imposing mandatory driver’s license suspensions for persons caught possessing cannabis, even if unrelated to driving.[3]
  • 2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr amendment passed the U.S. House and was signed into law. Requiring annual renewal, it prohibits the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.[4][5]

State[edit]

Prohibition begins – 1911

  • 1911: Massachusetts requires a prescription for sales of “Indian hemp”[6]
  • 1913: California, Maine, Wyoming, and Indiana ban marijuana[6]
  • 1915: Utah and Vermont ban marijuana[6]
  • 1917: Colorado legislators made the use and cultivation of cannabis a misdemeanor;
  • 1923: Iowa, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont ban marijuana[6]
  • 1927: New York,[6] Idaho, Kansas, Montana, and Nebraska ban marijuana[7]
  • 1931: Illinois bans marijuana.[8]
  • 1931: Texas declared cannabis a “narcotic“, allowing up to life sentences for possession.[9]
  • 1933: North Dakota and Oklahoma ban marijuana.[7] By this year, 29 states have criminalized cannabis.[10]

Decriminalization begins – 1973

  • 1973: Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis – reducing the penalty for up to one ounce to a $100 fine.[11]
  • 1973: Texas law was amended to declare possession of four ounces or less a misdemeanor.[12]
  • 1975: Alaska, Maine, Colorado, California, and Ohio decriminalized cannabis.[11]
  • 1975: Alaska‘s Supreme Court establishes that the right to privacy includes possession of small amounts of marijuana.[13]
  • 1976: Minnesota decriminalized cannabis.[11]
  • 1977: Mississippi, New York, and North Carolina decriminalized cannabis.[11] South Dakota also decriminalized cannabis, but the laws was repealed almost immediately afterwards.[14]
  • 1978: Nebraska decriminalized cannabis.[11] No other state would decriminalize until 2001.
  • 1978: New Mexico passes the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act, becoming the first state to enact legislation recognizing the medical value of marijuana.[15] Over 30 other states would pass limited medical cannabis measures during the next few years.[1]
  • 1979: Virginia passed legislation allowing doctors to recommend cannabis for glaucoma or the side effects of chemotherapy.[16][17]
  • 1982: Alaska passes legislation to further decrease penalties for cannabis.[18]
  • 1990: Alaska re-criminalizes cannabis by voter initiative, restoring criminal penalties for possession of any amount of cannabis.[19]

Medical cannabis begins – 1996

  • 1996: California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis with the approval of Proposition 215.[20] Arizona also passed a medical cannabis ballot measure, but it was rendered ineffective on a technicality.[21]
  • 1998: Oregon, Alaska, and Washington all legalized medical cannabis through ballot measure.[22] Nevada also passed a medical cannabis initiative, but it required second approval in 2000 to become law.[23]
  • 1999: Maine legalized medical cannabis through ballot measure.[22]
  • 2000: Hawaii became the first state to legalize medical cannabis through state legislature.[24]
  • 2000: Nevada and Colorado legalized medical cannabis through ballot measure.[22]
  • 2001: Nevada decriminalized cannabis through state legislature.[25]
  • 2003: Maryland passed legislation establishing reduced penalties for persons using cannabis due to a medical necessity (as established at trial).[26]
  • 2004: Vermont legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[27]
  • 2004: Montana legalized medical cannabis through ballot measure.
  • 2006: Rhode Island legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[28]
  • 2007: New Mexico legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[29]
  • 2008: Michigan approved a ballot to legalize medical cannabis. Massachusetts approved a ballot measure to decriminalize cannabis.[30]
  • 2010: New Jersey legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[31]
  • 2010: Arizona legalized medical cannabis through ballot measure.
  • 2010: California legislators reduce penalties for cannabis to a civil infraction.[32]
  • 2011: Delaware legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[33]
  • 2011: Connecticut decriminalized cannabis through state legislature.[34]
  • 2012: Connecticut legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[35]
  • 2012: Rhode Island decriminalized cannabis through state legislature.[36]

Recreational legalization begins – 2012

  • 2012: Colorado and Washington become the first two states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, following the passage of Amendment 64 and Initiative 502.[37] Massachusetts approved a ballot measure to legalize medical cannabis.
  • 2013: Vermont decriminalized cannabis through state legislature.[38]
  • 2013: New Hampshire legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[39]
  • 2013: Illinois legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[40]
  • 2014: Utah became the first state to pass a low-THC, high-CBD medical cannabis law. These laws allowed low-THC cannabis oil to be used for treatment of certain medical conditions with a doctor’s recommendation.[41]
  • 2014: Maryland legislators decriminalized cannabis and approved a comprehensive medical cannabis law, expanding the very limited measure that was passed in 2003.[42]
  • 2014: Missouri decriminalized cannabis through state legislature.[43]
  • 2014: Minnesota legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[44]
  • 2014: New York legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[45]
  • 2014: Alaska and Oregon legalized recreational cannabis through ballot measure.
  • 2014: By the end of the year ten more states passed low-THC, high-CBD medical cannabis laws: Alabama, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Tennessee, Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, and Missouri.[46]
  • 2015: Delaware decriminalized cannabis through state legislature.[47]
  • 2015: Louisiana legislators passed a limited medical cannabis law.[48][49]
  • 2015: During the year, five more states passed low-THC, high-CBD medical cannabis laws: Virginia, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming.[46]
  • 2016: Pennsylvania legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[50]
  • 2016: Ohio legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[51]
  • 2016: Illinois decriminalized cannabis through state legislature.[52]
  • 2016: California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts approved ballot measures to legalize recreational cannabis. Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota approved ballot measures to legalize medical cannabis.
  • 2017: West Virginia legalized medical cannabis through state legislature.[53]
  • 2017: Indiana passed a low-THC, high-CBD medical cannabis law.[54]
  • 2017: New Hampshire decriminalized cannabis through state legislature.[55]
  • 2018: Vermont became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis by way of state legislature.[56]
  • 2018: Indiana legalized CBD for any use.[57]
  • 2018: Kansas legalized CBD for any use.[58]
  • 2018: Oklahoma legalized medical cannabis through ballot measure.[59]
  • 2018: Michigan approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis.[60] Missouri and Utah approved ballot measures to legalize medical cannabis.

Municipal[edit]

  • 1906: Washington, D.C. requires a prescription for cannabis drugs.[61]
  • 1915: El Paso, Texas restricts cannabis.[62]
  • 1972: Ann Arbor City Council decriminalized cannabis, reducing the penalty to a $5 fine.[63] The law was overturned by a Republican-led council a year later,[64] but reinstated through voter referendum in 1974.[65]
  • 1977: Madison, Wisconsin decriminalized cannabis through ballot initiative.[66]
  • 1978: San Francisco residents approved Proposition W, a non-binding measure directing city law enforcement to “cease the arrest and prosecution of individuals involved in the cultivation, transfer, or possession of marijuana”.[67] Mayor George Moscone was assassinated shortly afterwards, however,[68] and the initiative was disregarded by new mayor Dianne Feinstein.[69]
  • 1991: San Francisco residents approved the non-binding Proposition P in support of the medical use of cannabis.[70] The city Board of Supervisors followed with Resolution 141-92 in 1992, which allowed for the distribution of medical cannabis throughout the city.[71]
  • 1998: Washington, D.C. residents approved Initiative 59 to legalize medical cannabis, but the Barr amendment blocked implementation until 2009, with the first legal sales finally occurring in 2013.[72]
  • 2003: Seattle residents voted to make enforcement of cannabis laws the lowest priority.[73]
  • 2004: Oakland, California residents approved Measure Z, making private adult cannabis offenses the lowest possible priority for law enforcement, establishing a system to regulate, tax, and sell cannabis pending state legalization, and urging legalization on the state and national levels.[74]
  • 2005: Denver residents voted to legalize cannabis.[75]
  • 2006: San Francisco made enforcement of cannabis laws the lowest priority. The change was approved through a Board of Supervisors vote.[76]
  • 2009: Breckenridge, Colorado residents voted to legalize cannabis.[77]
  • 2012: Chicago decriminalized cannabis through a City Council vote.[78]
  • 2012: Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Flint residents voted to decriminalize cannabis.[79]
  • 2013: Portland, Maine residents voted to legalize cannabis.[80]
  • 2014: Philadelphia decriminalized cannabis through a City Council vote.[81]
  • 2014: After a City Council vote decriminalized cannabis in March,[82] Washington D.C. residents voted in November to legalize recreational use of cannabis and personal cultivation.[83] A congressional rider passed afterwards prevented D.C. City Council from legalizing commercial sales.[84]
  • 2014: New York City decriminalized cannabis through a new policy announced by city officials.[85]
  • 2015: Wichita, Kansas decriminalized cannabis through voter referendum.[86]
  • 2015: Miami-Dade commissioners voted to decriminalize cannabis.[87]
  • 2015: Toledo, Ohio residents voted to decriminalize possession of cannabis less than 200 grams.[88]
  • 2015: Pittsburgh decriminalized cannabis through a City Council vote.[89]
  • 2016: Tampa decriminalized cannabis through a City Council vote.[90]
  • 2016: New Orleans decriminalized cannabis through a City Council vote.[91]
  • 2016: Orlando decriminalized cannabis through a City Council vote.[92]
  • 2016: Nashville decriminalized cannabis through a Metro Council vote.[93]
  • 2016: Memphis decriminalized cannabis through a City Council vote.[94]
  • 2016: Residents in the Ohio cities of Bellaire, Logan, Newark, and Roseville voted to decriminalize possession of cannabis less than 200 grams.[88]
  • 2017: Houston decriminalized cannabis through a new policy announced by the city’s district attorney.[95]
  • 2017: Kansas City, Missouri residents voted to decriminalize cannabis, eliminating jail time for possession of 35 grams or less and reducing the penalty to a $25 fine.[96]
  • 2017: Atlanta decriminalized possession of one ounce or less of cannabis via unanimous City Council vote.[97]
  • 2018: Albuquerque decriminalized cannabis through a City Council vote.[98]

Territory[edit]

Indian reservations[edit]

Opinion[edit]

Presidential[edit]

  • 1977: Jimmy Carter became the first sitting president to endorse cannabis decriminalization.[110][111]
  • 2015: President Barack Obama declared his support of cannabis decriminalization but opposition to legalization.[112][113]

Public[edit]

  • 1969: Gallup conducted its first poll on legalizing cannabis, finding 12% in favor.[114]
  • 1973: General Social Survey‘s first poll on legalizing cannabis showed 19% in favor.[115]
  • 1977: Gallup reported 28% support for the legalization of cannabis, a number that would not be surpassed until 2000.[114]
  • 2011: Gallup reported 50% support for legalizing cannabis.[116]
  • 2013: Pew Research reported 52% [117] and Gallup 58%[118] in support of legalizing cannabis. In both polls, a majority of respondents supported legalization for the first time.
  • 2017: Gallup’s annual poll showed 64% support for the legalization of cannabis, including a majority of Republicans for the first time.[119]
  • 2018: Reflecting the increased growth of support for marijuana legalization, Gallup’s annual poll showed that 66% of Americans supported legalization, including 75% of Democrats, 71% of Independents, 59% of people over 55, and at least 65% support in the East, South, Midwest, and West.[120]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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