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A Guide To Understanding Where Marijuana Is Legal And Pending Laws

A guide to understanding where marijuana is legal and pending laws

A brief history of cannabis legalization

A 100+ Year History

Most people know that California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996. Few are aware that they were also one of the first to ban it. Along with Maine, Wyoming, and Indiana, California criminalized cannabis use in 1913. From that time forward, cannabis criminalization continued throughout the U.S with most states banning marijuana by the 1940s. 60 years later, 8 states including California, legalized medical use cannabis. Recreational use was legalized 12 years later in Colorado and Washington. Today, a total of 34 states have approved the use of medical marijuana. Of those, 11 states and Washington, D.C. have also legalized cannabis for consumers 21 and older. Additionally, in late 2019 the Farm Bill legalized hemp and the hemp-derived extract CBD, at the federal level.

Changing Public Perception

Public perception of cannabis has shifted significantly in just the last 7 years. In 2013, Gallup polls showed that 58% of American’s supported legalization. It was the first time the majority of Americans agreed on legalization. By 2018, the same poll showed 66% approval. That included 75% of Democrats, 71% of Independents and 59% of people 55+ signaling that a diverse cross section of the US supports legalization. Today, prominent political figures like John Boehner, who once said he was “unalterably opposed” to cannabis, now sits on the board of Acreage Holdings. He says his thinking on legalization has evolved. In 2019, Steve Stivers led efforts within his party to pass a bill that would give cannabis businesses access to the federal banking system even though he is opposed to recreational legalization. As legalization and new research on the benefits of cannabis emerge the public perception is changing with it.

What could change in the future?

At a state level

The 13 states below may have legalization measures proposed, or on the Nov. 2020 ballot. Of them, 9 are looking to legalize recreational cannabis use. It would be a significant change to the industry though it’s unlikely all 9 would legalize recreational cannabis.


House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act). It is considered the most sweeping marijuana reform bill ever in Congress.

What does it do?

  • De-schedules marijuana at the federal level
  • Let states set their own policies without federal interference
  • Expunges prior marijuana convictions
  • Establishes a federal tax

In addition to the MORE Act., in early 2019 House Resolution 420 was introduced by Earl Blumenauer. If passed, it would move marijuana regulation from the Controlled Substances Act to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. By removing marijuana from the CSA, it would allow federal grants to fund cannabis research. It would also eliminate strict banking regulations and allowing for interstate cannabis commerce between states with legal cannabis.