The Timeline of Cannabis Laws in the U.S.


When we take a look at the legal status of marijuana in the US today, things look greatly promising, with only 12 states left to make a move towards legal cannabis, while the remaining of the 50 states have already turned their laws towards more flexible measures, including full legalization, legalization for medical use or decriminalization.
However, and as we all know, things weren’t always as promising as they look today, and we sure know that getting up to this point took years and years of work and efforts to actually make the people in charge of making such decisions change their perspective on cannabis.

The timeline of cannabis laws in the United States started with its criminalization at a state level in the early 20th century. It began in 1937 when the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted, making effective the prohibition of marijuana at a federal level. Medical marijuana was however still allowed but with the establishment of fees and new regulatory requirements. Things got heavier by 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act sanctioned, classifying cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, considering it a highly potential for abuse drug and banning its use, either for recreational or medical purposes. It was at this same time that other countries around the world, following the measures adopted by the US began with the prohibition of marijuana use as well.

However, not too far later, in 1973, slow decriminalization started to take place in the country, in the state of Texas, where they declared that the possession of four ounces of cannabis, or less, should be considered a misdemeanour. In that same year, the state of Oregon becomes the first in US history to effectively decriminalize marijuana, making way for other states to follow the initiative by 1975, including Alaska, Maine, Colorado, California, and Ohio, and Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Nebraska by 1978.

Until 2001, that was it as for decriminalization, but the slow medical legalization started taking place by the end of the 20th century, and by 1996 California successfully became the first US state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes with the approval of Proposition 215. This then led to more than 15 other states to move in the same direction, including Oregon, Alaska, Washington, Maine, Hawaii, which was the first state to legalize it through the state legislature, Nevada, Colorado, Vermont, Montana, Rhode Island, New Mexico, New Jersey, Arizona, Delaware and lastly Connecticut by 2012.

So, now that a big majority of the states had gotten in line with their measures on medical cannabis, one last step was left, recreational legalization. The pioneers of legal recreational marijuana were the states of Washington and Colorado in 2012. Along with their initiative, so started the rest of the states to make way for more liberal laws concerning recreational cannabis use in their territory, making way for this new industry to grow and new businesses to emerge. And it was this way that the cannabis evolution began taking place. The world that once prohibited any sort of cannabis-derived products had now become one where crazy new genetics such as Strawberry Banana seeds or the famous Bruce Banner are created.

Now only the states of Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are the only states in the US left to turn the country into a fully pro-cannabis territory. It’s only a matter of time until this starts taking place. For starters, more than half of the listed states already consider cannabis as a misdemeanour.