Marijuana has come a long way in the United States over the past decade. A mere handful of years ago, there was nowhere in the U.S. you could purchase marijuana legally. Today, you can get medical and recreational marijuana in 11 states as well as Washington D.C. And more are sure to be on the way, with several other states putting measures to further legalize marijuana in many states. But can a state recriminalize medical marijuana?
If you’ve been wondering “Can my state make MMJ illegal again?”, here’s what you need to know about where things are likely headed regarding legal marijuana in the current climate.
A Brief History of Marijuana
Back when the United States first came into being, cannabis was widely grown for hemp. As other crops such as cotton became more popular, hemp fell out of fashion and cannabis plants were no longer encouraged to be farmed. But marijuana from the cannabis plant was increasing in popularity. In fact, by the end of the Civil War in the United States, marijuana was a popular addition to tinctures and medicines. By the 1930s, marijuana was quite popular in many communities.
So, when did it start to become criminalized? After the prohibition of alcohol had come and gone, a movement to outlaw marijuana gained traction in the 1930s. By 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act had been passed, essentially making marijuana illegal throughout the United States.
Since the prohibition in the 1930s, the pendulum has begun to swing the other way. More and more states are decriminalizing marijuana, while a few others have made medical marijuana legal. Several have even made marijuana legal for everyone, medical condition or not. But as far as the federal government is concerned, marijuana is still illegal. And that leads to some interesting questions about its legality overall, even if you live in a state that has totally legalized it.
Medical Marijuana vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?
Conflicts between the federal government and state laws may lead you to think that there’s a difference between medical marijuana and marijuana, but the truth is that they really only differ by legal definitions.
Medical marijuana is used by people with certain qualifying medical conditions and is purchased at MMJ dispensaries that are overseen by the state government. “Regular” marijuana, on the other hand, is simply marijuana for non-medical use. It’s also called “recreational marijuana” since users do not need to have proof of a medical condition to use it.
Legalization, Decriminalization, and Medical Marijuana
There’s really no set definition to any term regarding the use or legalization of marijuana in the United States. However, there’s a broad way to understand the difference between the terms:
- Decriminalization – Many states do not allow medical or recreational marijuana, but they have decriminalized it. That means that there is generally no prison or jail time for those who possess limited quantities of marijuana. That doesn’t mean there are no legal penalties in place; it simply means you may not go to jail for having possession of marijuana.
- Legalization – For the states that have totally legalized marijuana, there are no government-enforced penalties for possessing or using marijuana. This often includes growing it in your own home, but rules vary from state to state.
- Medical marijuana – States that have approved marijuana for medical use allows doctors to recommend the use of marijuana to treat certain conditions, which differ from state to state.
Can MMJ Be Made Illegal Again In My State?
It’s important to understand that, as previously mentioned, the federal government still considers marijuana illegal. In fact, according to the federal government, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has, in their eyes, no medical use with an increased potential for abuse. That puts it in the same category as other drugs such as heroin, and in a more restrictive category than drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine, which are Schedule 2.
At any time, Congress could legalize marijuana, but as it stands now it’s a question answered state by state. If you live in a state with medical marijuana, legal marijuana, or even decriminalized marijuana, the laws can change at any time with a bill approved by the state’s government.
Marijuana has an interesting history. So can a state recriminalize medical marijuana? Well, while there’s always a chance of history repeating itself and local and state laws sliding backward, the current climate points toward more states getting on the legalization train.