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Survey of Marijuana Law in the United States: Introduction

Marijuana Status by State

The year 2016 has been important for marijuana legalization, with California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada all passing measures that permit recreational marijuana use.  Marijuana has already been legalized for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, the District of Columbia, and Washington.

As of June 2016, medical marijuana was permitted in some way in over 25 states and the District of Columbia, proving that a change in the way Americans view and legislate about marijuana has arrived. Notably medical marijuana laws differ by state. For example, Louisiana permits doctors to "recommend" rather than prescribe medical marijuana, which is against federal law. Other states's medical marijuana laws allow for limited use of marijuana or specify types of medical conditions that may be treated with marijuana.  During the 2016 elections Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota voted to legalize medical marijuana.  

Federally marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug — along with heroin and LSD — meaning that it has a high potential for abuse. That's left  the legal community, the cannabis industry, and consumers in a confusing gray area, since in states like Washington, people over the age of 21 can walk into a commercial dispensary to buy an ounce of marijuana.

              
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