Many states have passed legislation that makes marijuana legal under certain conditions. As of early 2017, the District of Columbia and 8 states had legalized recreational marijuana. They are Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. And DC along with 28 states had legalized marijuana for medical use. These states are:
Marijuana does remain illegal on a federal level. It is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, which is the same classification given to cocaine and heroin. This classification indicates that the federal government considers marijuana to be highly addictive and of no medicinal value.
Under federal law, possession, distribution, and/or the sale of marijuana carry serious penalties including mandatory minimum fines and sentences based on prior offenses and the amount of marijuana in question. Learn what Americans for Safe Access has to say about federal marijuana law.
In August 2013, the Deputy Attorney General at the time sent out a letter to federal prosecutors indicating that the U.S. Justice Department did not consider prosecuting marijuana cases to be a priority, and saying that, as long as they followed certain guidelines, the federal government would not interfere. The guidelines included keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors, preventing organized crime from involving themselves in the legal retail industry, and preventing interstate trafficking.
The confirmation of Alabama senator Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General in February 2017 created some anxiety among marijuana reform advocates since he can choose to uphold or rescind the Justice Department’s 2013 stance, but it appears he will continue to allow marijuana to be dealt with at a state level. You can learn more about the current administration’s thoughts on state legalization reading this article.
In the 23 states and District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legalized, qualifying patients can buy marijuana from licensed medical dispensaries. But buying recreational marijuana is another story. Not all of the 8 states (and District of Columbia) where it has been legalized have completed setup of the regulatory system necessary to oversee the recreational industry. Here’s where things stand in each of them:
Alaska: stores are open but experiencing notable shortages in marijuana supplies.
California: the regulatory system is being completed and stores should open by mid-2018.
Colorado: stores are open for business.
Maine: the infrastructure for the industry is essentially set up but state government has delayed store licensing until 2018.
Massachusetts: licensing of shops is set to begin in mid-2018.
Nevada: the state is establishing regulations for the industry with a deadline for completion of early 2018.
Oregon: the first round of shops is open for business.
Washington: stores are open and increasing in number monthly.
Washington, D.C.: while use and possession was legalized, the laws that were passed did not allow for the creation of a marijuana retail industry.
In all states that have legalized recreational marijuana to date, adults 21 and over with proper ID can buy marijuana.
State laws vary for the purchase of medical marijuana. In most cases, the age threshold is 18, but patients younger than that can get access to medical marijuana in certain circumstances. Check your state laws to learn more.
Personal cultivation laws differ state to state. In 7 of the 8 states where recreational marijuana is legal and in Washington, DC, yes, you can grow your own. But in Washington state you cannot. In states where medical marijuana is legal, you or a designated caregiver can grow plants for personal use.
Decriminalization: in states that have chosen to decriminalize marijuana, it remains illegal to possess it, but if you’re caught with a small amount, it is considered a simple civil violation punishable only by a small fine, rather than a crime involving notable penalties (steep fines, jail time, notation on your record, etc.). In most cases, it also means that law enforcement does not consider possession of small amounts to be a priority issue.
Legalization: adults can possess and consume marijuana, and, in most cases, grow their own for personal use. It also means marijuana is typically available for sale at retail stores licensed by the state.
Medical marijuana: this is where things get a little tricky. Where medical marijuana is legal, individuals who meet the qualifications for marijuana patient status can purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries and/or can grow their own. However, this does not necessarily mean their possession of it is legal. Instead, their affirmative defense against any risk of prosecution would be the medical marijuana recommendation from their physician that qualified them as a patient.
Yes. More arrests are made in the U.S. each year for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined.
The primary reason the government takes an anti-marijuana stance is that cannabis is not subjected to the same rigorous testing by the Food and Drug Administration as prescription drugs. Also, since marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, the government deems it to have no medicinal value.
The government does conduct research on marijuana, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse has published extensive information about the type of research that is funded and carried out each year.
The people and institutions on both sides of the argument make claims about the impact of legalization, but studies conducted since the first states voted in favor of legalization show that making marijuana legal actually has little or no effect on crime rates. One of the most notable studies was done by the Cato Institute in late 2016. In analyzing the impact of legalization in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, it concluded that outcomes predicted by naysayers had not materialized at all (increased drug use among teens, increased crime rates, diminished traffic safety, etc.).
The distribution and use of tax dollars collected from the sale of marijuana varies by state, but most often they are used to cover the costs of maintaining and regulating the industry, and then remaining dollars are distributed to programs including education, drug abuse prevention and treatment, and law enforcement. You can read more about how tax dollars are used in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.
Marijuana comes in a wide variety of forms including buds (which can be smoked or vaporized), edibles, tinctures, topicals, and more. Learn more about the ways to enjoy marijuana.
The cost of marijuana varies state to state and depends on the strain you buy, how much of it you buy, and where you make your purchase. But according to national sources, prices dropped in 2016 as marijuana became more plentiful, then began to increase again in 2017. Currently, an ounce ranges from $100 to $140 in most states. Check with retail shops in your state to get current price information.
The amount of marijuana that can be purchased in a retail store is determined by each state, but generally consumers can buy up to an ounce per adult. See the state limits for retail weed.
That depends. The factors influencing how much you buy include what form of marijuana you want, whether you plan to share your purchase, your tolerance level, etc. It helps to remember that 1⁄2 gram of marijuana is the typical amount used in one joint. Learn more about the different ways to enjoy marijuana before deciding how much to buy.
Cannabis is measured in grams and ounces, regardless of whether it is in bud, edible, tincture, or topical form.
Not without a doctor’s referral and/or a medical marijuana patient registration card. Learn how to get approved for a medical marijuana card.
Possibly. But it’s important to be cautious. Even if you locate a delivery service, it is highly likely that it’s illegal for them to transport marijuana to your door, even in states where recreational cannabis has been legalized.
Indica and Sativa are the two different species of the cannabis plant. Basically, Indica strains have calming effects and make you relax, while Sativa strains are energizing and uplifting. The two can be mixed together to create hybrids as well whose effects fall somewhere in between relaxing and energizing. Learn more about the other differences between the two.
There are literally hundreds of marijuana strains – each given a unique name as you’ll see when you visit a retail store or dispensary – and each strain has its own aroma, flavor, and effects. Medical Jane has a helpful guide to learn more about how different strains of cannabis affect you.
The effects of marijuana depend on the strain, how much you consume, and what form it’s in when you consume it. But when used responsibly, marijuana can have many positive effects including:
- Increased creativity
- Alleviation of pain
- Increased appetite
Marijuana can be smoked in a variety of ways. Feel free to find a preferred method by experimenting with using a bong or pipe, rolling it into a joint, or vaporizing it.
In states where it is legal, you can consume marijuana in your own home or in another private residence. But be aware that landlords have the right to ban marijuana from their properties. Public consumption of marijuana is illegal everywhere, even in states that have legalized purchase and possession. This makes traveling difficult, but we’ve found some great 420-friendly lodging options in Colorado and Washington.
If it’s dry when you store it and you use an airtight container that’s placed away from heat and light, marijuana will keep indefinitely, but age can change its effects on you. If not stored properly, it can grow mold or rot over time.
Absolutely. In fact, it’s the preferred method of consumption for many marijuana users since eating it does not irritate lungs and produces a different sort of high. You can also drink marijuana.
Edibles are commonly available in retail stores and dispensaries. See our Edibles Product Guide to learn more about edible options.
“Dabbing” is another option for consuming marijuana and refers to a method in which the user ingests a dose of concentrated hash oil using a pipe or bong made specifically for smoking “dabs.” Learn more about the science behind dabs and whether dabbing poses any health risks, then learn how to do a dab.
K2/Spice is synthetic marijuana. It is made by mixing dried cannabis with chemical additives to produce a psychoactive effect. And, yes, it can be harmful since synthetic cannabinoids can cause strokes, brain damage, and death.
It’s best to use rubbing alcohol and Epsom salt to clean your glassware.
Health and Effects
“Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” – DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, 1988.
The length of time marijuana stays in your system depends on how much you ingest and how fast your body metabolizes it. However, for infrequent users, it would be very unusual for marijuana to be detected in your system more than 3-4 days after consuming it.
Not in the traditional sense of become physically dependent on it. This Psychology Today article goes in-depth about addiction.
Again, not in the traditional sense. But some heavy users might become irritable, have difficulty sleeping, feel anxious, or experience other physiological effects if they suddenly stop their marijuana consumption.
According to the National Cancer Institute you cannot overdose on marijuana.
Based on medical research, marijuana does not appear to cause cancer. According to the most recent and extensive studies, “Subjects who regularly inhale cannabis smoke possess no greater risk of contracting lung cancer than do those who consume it occasionally or not at all.”
No one in the history of the world has EVER died from a marijuana overdose. But irresponsible use of marijuana – for example, getting behind the wheel of a car after having consumed marijuana – can lead to death.
The evidence is inconclusive, but in all likelihood, very light marijuana use during pregnancy is “not a major factor” in lower birth weight or birth defects. In fact, it’s common in Jamaica for mothers-to-be to take a few puffs to curb morning sickness. Heavy consumption, however, should be avoided during pregnancy.
Yes, marijuana that is grown today is more potent than marijuana from prior decades. But when used responsibly, there is no greater risk associated with it now than then. If you have a intense experience, here are some tips to get you through it. And remember, no one had ever, in the history of the world, died from a marijuana overdose.
Marijuana has been shown to have notable health benefits and can be used to treat nausea, increase appetite during chemotherapy, control seizures, decrease anxiety, and even slow or stop the spread of some cancers. Here are the top 23 Health Benefits of Marijuana.
Glaucoma, epilepsy, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, loss of appetite, stress – and many, many more. Learn more about what conditions qualify patient for approved medical marijuana use in the states where MMJ is legal.
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.2 million Americans had used marijuana in the past month at the time of the survey. And nearly half of all Americans (47%) have tried marijuana.