Guide to Laws About Marijuana in the United States

Is marijuana legal in the U.S.?

Although marijuana (THC) is technically illegal for any use under federal law,1Controlled Substances Act of 1970 many states have essentially ignored this and created their own laws. Can states do that? Generally states cannot override federal law, but it’s a weird situation right now where states are doing this and the federal government is essentially letting at least some of it happen. See more about how the federal laws work with state laws and other issues at our Legal Basics.

As of June 2019, 11 states + DC have legalized cannabis for recreational (non-medical) purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Vermont. An additional 12 states have “decriminalized” cannabis for recreational use, which means small amounts of pot for personal consumption are a civil or local infraction, not a state crime (or are a lowest misdemeanor with no possibility of jail time). These states are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island.

And 33 states + DC + Guam + Puerto Rico have legalized marijuana for medical or medicinal purposes. See the full list and details at the website for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Could the federal government decide to enforce the marijuana ban in states where pot is “legal”?

The federal government has the power to enforce the federal laws against recreational marijuana use and possession, even if it is legal under state law. However, for medical uses, the federal government may NOT currently enforce federal law due to a law passed in 2014 that prohibits federal spending on this enforcement.2Rohrabacher-Farr amendment

While the Obama administration had decided NOT to enforce recreational marijuana laws against those who are following state law, the Trump administration, particularly Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has decided they WILL enforce federal recreational marijuana law. Yet as of April 2018, Trump says he will support “states’ rights” on this issue. So.. I guess we’ll see.

Can I take pot on a plane?

If you will be using a federally regulated airport (most of them), then no.

Can I take pot to another state?

No you can’t take pot across state laws, under federal law.

What about CBD?

See our Guide to CBD Laws.

What about other drugs?

See our Guide to Drug Laws.

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