Skip to main content

Survey of Marijuana Law in the United States: Introduction

Marijuana Status by State

Marijuana has already been legalized for recreational use in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Most recently, the people of Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana though a ballot-passed initiative that creates a system to regulate, tax, and sell marijuana to adults in the state. 

As of December 2018, over 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Notably medical marijuana laws differ by state. For example, Louisiana permits doctors to "recommend" rather than prescribe medical marijuana and cannot be used in a form that can be smoked. Other states's medical marijuana laws allow for limited use of marijuana or specify types of medical conditions that may be treated with marijuana. Generally, states with medical marijuana laws have some sort of patient registry or ID card to protect those possessing marijuana for personal medical use. During the 2018 elections Missouri voted to legalize medical marijuana.  

There are still 5 states, however, that consider it illegal to distribute or possess marijuana either for medical or recreational purposes. These states are Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin

While dispensing or consuming medical marijuana is not criminally prohibited by some states' laws, it is still a violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Federally, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Additionally, federal law prohibits doctors from prescribing marijuana. This disunity has left the legal community, the cannabis industry, and consumers in a confusing gray area.

University of Georgia Law LibraryUniversity of Georgia  |  Non-Discrimination Policy  |  Privacy Policy  | Contact Site Administrator 
225 Herty Drive Athens, GA 30602-6012 | (706) 542-5077 | University of Georgia School of Law.  All rights reserved.