Guide to Laws About Marijuana in the United States

Is marijuana legal in the U.S.?

Marijuana (THC) is technically illegal for recreational use under federal law.1Controlled Substances Act of 1970 The Biden administration has decided to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I (the most restricted drugs) to Schedule III, which will allow it to be used for medical purposes.

Regardless of changes in the federal regulations, many states have essentially legalized marijuana for all purposes. 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 May 2024, 24 states have legalized or decriminalized cannabis for recreational (non-medical) purposes: And 38 states legalized marijuana for medical or medicinal purposes. See the full list and details at the website for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Decriminalized” 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).

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

In addition, the Biden administration has decided not to enforce federal laws against marijuana for recreational purposes as well. This could change with a new administration.

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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