With the majority of Americans now favoring the legalization of recreational marijuana and many of the scientific and medical arguments against marijuana being called into question, more and more states are getting on the path to legalization. Keep in mind, however, that “legalization” does not mean that anyone can buy or sell as much pot as they want. Marijuana is still a Schedule I substance under federal law, the state legalization laws are extremely limited in what they allow.
As a result, even in a state where marijuana is “legal,” you can still end up facing serious charges for crimes such as drug trafficking, illegal importation, and possession with intent to distribute. Of course, in the states without legalization laws, even possessing a small amount of pot can lead to steep fines and possibly even time behind bars.
What States Have Legalized Marijuana?
So far, four states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and 19 additional states currently allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Washington D.C. has also legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, but the sale of recreational marijuana in the Capitol is still being prosecuted under federal law.
The four states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana are:
The 19 other states that have legalized medical marijuana are: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
States Considering Recreational Marijuana Laws in 2015 and 2016
Several states are either currently considering or expected to consider recreational marijuana ballot initiatives in 2015 and 2016. Some of these states, such as California, have previously proposed measures that did not make it into law. The states likely to see legislative action on recreational pot in one form or another over the next 15 months include:
Next up, Ohio residents will be voting on recreational and medical marijuana legalization in November 2015. Similar to the laws in the states that currently allow recreational use, Ohio’s proposed law would allow individuals age 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of pot for their own personal use. Growers would need a license, and would be limited to four plants and eight ounces. Marijuana-infused products would become legal as well, subject to strict regulations.
Impact of the Federal Government’s Ban on Marijuana
As mentioned above, all forms of marijuana cultivation, distribution, and use remain illegal under federal law. While the U.S. Department of Justice has publicly stated that it will not actively enforce certain aspects of the federal ban on marijuana leaving it to the states to police their own jurisdictions marijuana’s status as a controlled substance is still creating problems in Colorado and other states. For example, many marijuana businesses are facing banking challenges because of federally-regulated financial institutions being hesitant to get involved in the marijuana trade.
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