They say that the law must at once reflect society and be a powerful ally for democracy, but also keep in check the authoritarian tendencies that might arise in a majority. Regarding cannabis and, in particular, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical agent chiefly responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana), the law has tended to emphasize the second tole, at least until a few years ago.

Arguably, the move toward legalizing cannabis is a grassroots (pun intended), democratic one, especially considering the legislators who have failed to acknowledge the therapeutic effects of marijuana. In this article, we will scan the 56 jurisdictions (states, District of Columbia, and other territories) with regards to the status of THC in the United States, from four angles: recreational use, medical use, transportation and/or commercialization, cultivation.

In addition to making dry statements, we will briefly brush upon the ideological climate existing at present in every jurisdiction, and how this could affect future changes in THC’s status.

With that said, we must add that one cannot understand a particular issue without a bit of history in the broader context, which is our first concern.

I. Brief History of Cannabis and THC in the United States

It is useful to know that the relationship between the law and the scientific treatment of various substances is always with the former lagging (sometimes far) behind the latter. The legal status of multiple substances is more a matter of social mores that scientific reality and everybody knows that social mores have the habit of lying in wait for a very long time and suddenly exploding, while scientific progress is more linear.

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, no legislators paid too much attention to cannabis (known then as either marijuana/marihuana or “Indian hemp”). There were many other priorities and much more dangerous substances being sold either by doctors, traveling salesmen, or even by mail. Several states, especially those on the east coast, had provisions regarding places where cannabis could be sold, but nothing more, and cannabis did not fit into the agenda of federal politicians or judges.

At the landmark moment of the inauguration of the Prohibition in 1920, many states had what were called “marihuana laws,” but none went so far as to criminalize it wholly, with only a few considering it at the level of prescription medication. The harsh attitude toward cannabis was not a product of the Prohibition, but instead of the New Deal, with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively outlawing the transportation and possession of cannabis at a federal level. Keep in mind that particular moment, several states already had passed statutes amounting to the same result.

The lines between cannabis, industrial hemp, and Indian hemp were murky at that moment, considering that tetrahydrocannabinol would not be discovered until 1940, and then a further twenty years would pass until the cannabinoid would be irrevocably declared by the scientific community as the psychoactive agent we know of it today.

In the fifties, federal anti-cannabis attitudes went further, with judges having been set mandatory sentencing guidelines for possession. This position would continue with the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which placed cannabis on the list of the most dangerous illegal substance, and would stay so for the whole of the 1980s.

The current trend towards legalization or otherwise relaxation of unduly harsh legislation started in the 1990s and had its first major institutional success with the landmark California Proposition 215 from 1996. Currently, a vast majority of jurisdictions allow the use of medical marijuana, and in 2012, a few states legalized the recreational use of cannabis.

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II. Legal Status of THC in the United States, by jurisdiction

01. Alabama

Recreation: Felony, a misdemeanor charge for a first offense.

Medical: Non-Psychoactive CBD oil is legal only for those suffering from specified disorders.

Transportation: Not Clearly Stated.

Cultivation: Illegal, though hemp (defined as cannabis which dried does not exceed the 0.3 percent threshold of THC) can be legally grown.

Alabama had outlawed any cultivation and/or possession of marijuana before the federal act of 1937, and it has generally been one of the most conservative states in all the union. The legal code has harsh punishments for any case where intent to sell is established, as one can be sentenced to between two and twenty years for a second instance of trafficking.

These attitudes are also evident from the fact that Alabama is one of the few states that does not have a medical marijuana program in place, with the last bill proposing one being soundly defeated in the state Senate in 2015.

Furthermore, CBD oil is only available for individuals who are under treatment for severe seizures, and any additional legalization of either CBD- of THC-products seems unlikely in the near future.

 

02. Alaska

Recreation: Legal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Legal | for an amount considered adequate for personal use – 1 ounce.

Cultivation: Legal | businesses can apply for commercial licenses, which can lead to no limitations for a stated surface. Otherwise, each household must not exceed 12 plants, providing there are at least two adults of 21 years of age in said premises.

As Alaska was the penultimate state to join the union officially, its history (and unique geography) and demographics mean that previous cannabis laws differ from the rest of the US. This history is quite peculiar, with Alaska having been the second state to decriminalize de facto marijuana possession in 1975.

Nevertheless, either through state supreme court decisions or legislative acts, there have been recriminalizations and subsequent decriminalization. Since 2014, the current status is in effect, this being the fourth overall decriminalization of cannabis in 39 years.

03. Arizona

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Only for medical use.

Cultivation: Only for medical use.

Cannabis in any form or use was illegal in Arizona until 1996. A peculiar thing happened in that year, as a proposition to introduce medical marijuana to the broader population passed at the ballot box, yet was rendered ineffective due to wording that went against federal provisions in effect at that time.

There is a strong movement to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Arizona. Nevertheless, it was narrowly defeated at the polls in 2016, with 48 percent of voters in favor. Medical cannabis is legal in the state since 2010, when a similarly tight result went in favor of decriminalization – just over 50% of the vote.

04. Arkansas

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Legal for medical purposes.

Cultivation: Legal for medical purposes, as of 2019.

Arkansas was one of the first states to explicitly outlaw marijuana in the interwar period, in 1923 to be precise. The conservative profile of the jurisdiction is well-known. The fact that the first referendum targeting medical marijuana did not take place until 2012 also illustrates this socio-political reality.

The current laws permitting the use and transportation of medical marijuana date from 2016 when voters passed a medical cannabis amendment with just over 53 percent of the ballot. A series of lawsuits brought against would-be cultivators meant that it was not until January 2019 that the first company planted medical marijuana in Arkansas.

The current zealous enforcement of recreational possession most likely means that decriminalization of cannabis for recreational purposes is not on the horizon.

05. California

Recreation: Legal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Not exceeding 1 oz.

Cultivation: 6-plant limit per household, or pursue a commercial license.

Everybody knows that California has been at the forefront of cannabis legalization since the 1970s. Decriminalization of marijuana for personal use (with the 1 oz. limit being in effect since then) was achieved by state parliamentary procedures, and not by the ballot box – a measure that speaks volumes for the social and political climate of The Golden State.

A landmark event in the history of the legal status of cannabis was the 1996 California Proposition 215 when 56% of voters chose to legalize medical marijuana. A majority of US states have followed suit in the intervening years.

The current status where adults over 21 years of age can possess up to one ounce of concentrated cannabis for recreational purposes dated from 2016 when voters sanctioned the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

06. Colorado

Recreation: Legal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Not exceeding 1 oz.

Cultivation: 6-plant limit per household, or pursue a commercial license.

Though not quite at the forefront of cannabis legalization like California, Colorado is a relatively liberal state, with virtually all restrictions on cannabis being lifted in 2012. Through the initiative is known as Colorado Amendment 64, voted in the mentioned year, marijuana has a similar status to alcohol.

It is quite odd that Colorado was among the first members of the union to restrict cannabis possession, cultivation, and consumption in 1917. Furthermore, in the period beginning in 1975, law enforcement and prosecutors in the state followed a rather draconian policy on individuals using marijuana recreationally.

Nevertheless, from the early 1990s onwards, Colorado has become known as a liberal state, and in 2000 was one of the first jurisdictions to permit wide-ranging production and commercialization of medical marijuana. Also, owing to its unique natural conditions, most industrial hemp (the raw material for CBD oil supplements) and medical marijuana is grown in The Centennial State.

07. Connecticut

Recreation: Decriminalized (fine for possession of small amounts).

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Felony (legal only for medical purposes).

Cultivation: Felony.

Before the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the state of Connecticut had an ambivalent relationship with cannabis. A hub since colonial times for the textile hemp industry, in the 1950’s marijuana fell victim to Republican witch hunts that culminated in R. Nixon’s legislation and R. Reagan’s declaration of “war on drugs.”

Since the dawn of the century, however, attitudes toward cannabis have changed markedly, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts for personal recreational use in 2011 (by state legislative action), the creation of a medical cannabis program (2012), and an initiative for the legalization of recreational cannabis in spring 2018. This bill is currently following the usual path in the Connecticut General Assembly.

08. Delaware

Recreation: Civil Infraction.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Medical Use Only.

Cultivation: Only allowed for medical purposes.

Delaware is one of the states where the compromise between recreational prohibition and medical access is paramount. Being one of the smallest members of the Federation (both in area and population), it is unwise to apply any sociological trends to such a unit.

As in many other “quasi-liberal” jurisdictions, possessing marijuana for individual recreation is not legal, yet only a modest fine ($100 for under 1 oz.) that does not stick to a person’s criminal record.

The state’s medical cannabis program was brought into being via governor initiative, though a person can be eligible only for a modest number of afflictions. In 2017, Delaware’s legislature pondered the possibility of legalizing recreational use, but votes went against the bill in 2018.

09. Florida

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Medical use only.

Cultivation: Only for medical purposes.

Florida has had a long history of a strong anti-drug lobby, evident from the state being one which has joined the medical marijuana decriminalizing club rather late. This has been realized via the Florida Amendment 2 bill voted in 2016 with a vast majority. The provisions are rather hindering for patients, as not many disorders are on the list permitting access to medical cannabis.

Recreational use is still a felony state-wide, though in 2015-2016 several municipalities decriminalized possession of no more than 20 grams: Orlando, Tampa, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade.

10. Georgia

Recreation: Illegal (decriminalized in some municipalities).

Medical: CBD oil with less the 5 percent THC.

Transportation: Only for medical use.

Cultivation: Illegal.

As is the case with most of the jurisdictions in the south-eastern United States, Georgia has conservative make-up, and this can be clearly inferred from the status of THC. Though it will probably not undergo state-wide decriminalization of recreational marijuana shortly, the state has a long, and sometimes ridiculous, history with medical marijuana.

In 1980, a bill was passed in both chambers of the legislature, allowing for the formation of a commission through which patients diagnosed with several illnesses could have gained legal access to medical marijuana. The problem was that the respective commission was never had any member appointed, and thus, it existed for more than thirty years without interviewing anyone.

Partial legalization of medical cannabis occurred in 2015, with legal provision for eight conditions to be treated with cannabis oil (with a concentration of no more than 5% THC). Currently, there are fifteen conditions on the list.

11. Hawaii

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: According to the rules of the medical marijuana program.

Cultivation: Only for medical purposes.

As is the case of the other state not part of the contiguous United States, the authorities’ stance on marijuana has never been as adamant. Policing and prosecuting recreational marijuana use was never big on the public agenda.

Nevertheless, it is still illegal. Hawaii established a medical cannabis program in 2000, which allows access via a physician’s certification. Patients and caregivers are permitted to purchase a maximum of 8 oz. (approximately 225 grams) per month and/or legally grow 10 cannabis plants.

12. Idaho

Recreation: Illegal, though possession of less than 3 oz. qualifies as a misdemeanor.

Medical: Illegal.

Transportation: Not stated.

Cultivation: Illegal

Idaho has one of the strictest marijuana laws, and has a long history in their stance, outlawing the plant as early as 1927. There have been several attempts by citizens to put the issue to the ballot box, however, all of them failed to obtain the necessary signatures. The state legislature has even adopted in 2013 a sort of Declaration of Principles, asserting the view that marijuana will never be legalized. Furthermore, a bill that passed regarding the right of epilepsy patients to have access to CBD oil treatment was vetoed by the Idaho governor in 2015.

13. Illinois

Recreation: Decriminalized (civil infraction).

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Legal for medical purposes.

Cultivation: Legal for medical use.

Illinois outlawed marijuana in 1931 when the prohibition movement was in full swing and kept tight enforcement and prosecutions all through the 1970s. In a similar move to the one described above in Georgia’s case, in 1978, regulations were passed for the development of a medical cannabis program, which never really took off. It was not until 2013 that the Illinois General Assembly made the provisions for such a plan, even though recreational cannabis use remained strictly forbidden. It was the 20th state to enforce such a program.

Cannabis laws were further relaxed in 2016, with the decriminalization of the possession of fewer than 10 grams.

In August 2018, probably as a response to the opioid crisis, medical cannabis became a replacement for opioid painkillers through a massive revamping of the original 2013 program.

The administration of the current governor, who took office earlier this year, has full legalization of cannabis as one of its priorities.

14. Indiana

Recreation: Misdemeanor.

Medical: CBD oil, with a THC concentration lower than 0.3 percent.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal (for more than 10 lbs or within 1000 ft of a school).

Indiana is a historically conservative jurisdiction and was one of the first states to limit access to marijuana without a physician’s prescription in 1913. After the federal 1937 Marijuana Act, Indiana enforcement some of the strictest cannabis laws in the country, and possession of small amounts was only downgraded to a misdemeanor in 2014.

The same trend is evident in medical cannabis. Currently, only cannabis oil with a shallow THC concentration is legal for purchase, and strictly for patients with cases of seizures unresponsive to other medication.

15. Iowa

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Cannabis oil with a maximum THC concentration of 0.3 percent.

Transportation: Not clearly stated, though with many cited illegal situations.

Cultivation: Felony.

The reality of THC status in Iowa is almost identical as in the previously discussed case: early criminalization in the state’s history, both official and public opinion in favor of keeping recreational use criminalized, and conservative administrations that severely limit medical cannabis programs.

Patients can apply for CBD oil licenses, but there are many conditions to become eligible. Nevertheless, in 2018 a medical marijuana pilot program began in five municipalities. The end of last year saw the inauguration of the first medical marijuana dispensary in Iowa. This development seems to be following public opinion, as the latest polls show citizens in favor of medical cannabis, yet firmly opposed to recreational use.

16. Kansas

Recreation: Misdemeanor.

Medical: Only CBD oil allowed, with 0 percent THC.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal.

As with most neighboring states, Kansas has had a long history of strict legislation and enforcement of marijuana laws, with the first criminalization occurring in 1927. It was not until 2013 that the first timid attempts toward regulation of medical cannabis were made. Even so, THC is still entirely prohibited; Kansas considering medical marijuana to be CBD oil devoid also of trace amounts of THC.

Possession of cannabis for personal recreational use is a misdemeanor only for a first and second offense. With regards to cultivation, there are legislative provisions for individuals working in concert with institutions of higher learning to pursue industrial hemp as a possible crop, thus limiting the possibilities of growth.

17. Kentucky

Recreation: Misdemeanor (in cases with less the 8 oz.).

Medical: CBD oil (THC concentration of less than 0.3 percent).

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Misdemeanor (for offenses of less than five plants).

Before the 1930s, Kentucky was the powerhouse of the United States where hemp crops were concerned. These were curbed during the Great Depression, and cannabis was totally outlawed by the end of the 1940s. Since then, these conservative attitudes have been a staple of authorities in Kentucky.

The first relaxation in legislation came in 2014 when hemp was once again legal to cultivate under state licensing. Also, the same bill made provisions for patients with certain illnesses to be able to access CBD oil via a doctor’s written order.

Cannabis legalization in Kentucky is not on the horizon, as two initiatives in 2015 to establish medical marijuana programs failed to survive the examination in Senate and House committees.

18. Louisiana

Recreation: Illegal (first offense decriminalized in 2015).

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Medical use only.

Cultivation: Illegal.

Louisiana outlawed cannabis in the late 1920s, however, strict enforcement and prosecution were not a reality until the fifties. Even with such a tradition, the subsequent change in attitudes toward cannabis meant that Louisiana aligned with the rest of the southern states in putting into practice the harsh statutes on drugs.

Reduction in the penalties for recreational use was not relaxed until 2015, though some may argue that they still reflect a conservative mindset.

A 2016 Senate bill made provisions for enacting a medical marijuana program, thus breaking with tradition mentioned above. Nevertheless, it has taken quite some time to realize those provisions; as of 2018, medical cannabis can be purchased in just a few locations.

19. Maine

Recreation: Legal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Legal to have up to 71 grams.

Cultivation: Commercial license or six plants per individual.

Maine outlawed the possession of marijuana without a prescription in 1913, just the second state to do so. Likewise, it was one of the first states to decriminalize cannabis for personal consumption, enacting such statutes in 1976.

In 1999, the ballot box confirmed the wishes of Maine’s citizens to have a state-sponsored medical marijuana plan, with a vast majority. Decriminalization in cases of recreational use followed ten years later, though in the meantime many municipalities had gone ahead.

Finally, in 2016, a referendum narrowly moved Maine in the legal cannabis camp, although there are still no places for citizens to buy legal marijuana because authorities have delayed making the necessary bureaucratic framework for interested businesses.

20. Maryland

Recreation: Decriminalized, for possessing less than 10 grams.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Medical use only.

Cultivation: Illegal.

The issue of decriminalization and medical marijuana provision in Maryland cannot be extricated from the high crime rate problem the state confronts. For example, less than 10 years ago, Maryland was fifth on the list of states with the highest number of drug-related arrests. The quasi-decriminalization of recreational possession occurred in 2014.

A year earlier, the state’s medical marijuana program came into being. In 2016, a reported 800 businesses were vying for the 94 legal dispensaries, with sales finally beginning toward the end of 2018.

Although within the social make-up of the state, legalization of recreational cannabis seems a foregone conclusion, efforts have not been successful. The last such proposed piece of legislation was defeated in 2017.

21. Massachusetts

Recreation: Legal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: No more than 1 oz.

Cultivation: Up to six plants.

Even though nowadays Massachusetts is in the camp of “liberal states” when it comes to the status of cannabis, it was actually the first one to criminalize “Indian hemp” back in 1911. It was finally decriminalized in 2008 when the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative passed the citizens’ vote. Today’s rules regarding small amounts of cannabis and cultivation in the household date from then.

Medical marijuana, however, is a story of contention. Although voters opted with a comfortable majority for the establishment of a medical cannabis plan, the actual conditions for citizens to become eligible are quite restrictive. Furthermore, a number of 180 municipalities had either a ban or a moratorium in place for instituting retail cannabis stores.

22. Michigan

Recreation: Legal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Legal for both medical and recreational.

Cultivation: Up to 12 plants per household.

Michigan is among the latest jurisdictions to join the camp of states that have “fully” legalized cannabis, due to a referendum held in November 2018. Until then, state laws criminalized possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana, although many local jurisdictions had their own, more lax regulation. The actual establishment of a legal cannabis retail network will have to probably wait until 2020.

Medical marijuana is permitted since 2008 when 63 percent of voters opted to allow people with severe or terminal illness access to cannabis, albeit within unambiguous terms. Eight years later, the Michigan Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act made provisions for the status of every cannabis industry player, from growers to retailers.

23. Minnesota

Recreation: Decriminalized.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Only for medical purposes.

Cultivation: Illegal.

Minnesota is an outlier, with cannabis for personal recreational use being decriminalized since 1976, for less than 42.5 grams.

Also, unlike most other states, the medical marijuana program in effect was established via regular legislation, and not through a referendum. The plan began the actual distribution of cannabis in 2015. Thirteen disorders qualify for a patient to be included. The state-sanctioned marijuana cannot come in smokable form, just as a liquid, vape, capsule, or topical cream. Critics have slammed the program because only two manufacturers are licensed to supply patients or caretakers.

The current state administration under Tim Walz has made the legalization of recreational cannabis a top priority.

24. Mississippi

Recreation: Decriminalized (for a first offense, and possession of fewer than 30 grams).

Medical: CBD oil (with less than 0.5% THC concentration).

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal.

While at first glance, it may seem that Mississippi is not an outright reactionary jurisdiction, prosecutions of repeat offenders are relatively harsh. Furthermore, many municipal authorities have not followed suit and keep their old laws (many districts even maintain bans on alcohol).

Even the official stance on medical cannabis expressed through a 2014 state legislature bill is in the same vein – only patients suffering from acute forms of epilepsy may access cannabis oil, containing at least 15% CBD and less than 0.5 percent THC.

25. Missouri

Recreation: Decriminalized (for a first offense, and possession of fewer than 10 grams).

Medical: CBD oil (with less than 0.3% THC concentration).

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Legal for medical use.

The state of affairs regarding cannabis is similar in Missouri as those discussed in the case of Mississippi. Many lower jurisdictions keep the old repressive laws about cannabis possession for recreational use, with state-wide decriminalization being voted by the legislature in 2014, taking effect in 2017.

Also, in 2014, medical marijuana laws were taken into consideration. The bill passed featured a most special medical cannabis status: cannabis oil with less than 0.3 percent overall cannabis concentration for epilepsy patients who have a neurologist’s recommendation.

26. Montana

Recreation: Illegal (though a typical first offense equates to a misdemeanor).

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Medical use only.

Cultivation: Only for medical use.

Montana outlawed cannabis in 1929, is in line with most other states, but it has been one of the first to establish a relatively comprehensive medical marijuana plan, via popular vote in 2004. This law was attacked in the courts several times (although it posited rigorous access to cannabis) but was upheld in the state supreme court.

A further initiative in 2016 and legislative acts in 2017 somewhat relaxed the conditions of eligibility for medical cannabis.

A historically conservative state, there are no current societal pressures for the changing of recreational cannabis status.

  1. Nebraska

Recreation: Decriminalized for first offenders.

Medical: Illegal.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal.

When it comes to the status of THC, especially for recreational use, Nebraska was among the first states to de facto decriminalize cannabis. It was made a civil infraction in 1979, akin to a driving ticket, and even a third-time transgressor might not see the inside of a jail cell.

Nevertheless, ever since that little time change in the state laws concerning cannabis has been made. Because the state legislature and executive office are often at a deadlock between Republicans and Democrats, these initiatives have stalled. For example, a 2015 bill passed in the state’s unicameral parliament providing for the legalization of medical marijuana faced the gubernatorial veto, and matters have not changed since then.

  1. Nevada

Recreation: Legal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Medical and recreational.

Cultivation: 6 plants per household.

Considering the liberal laws regarding vice in Nevada, it may seem quite unusual to find out that the state had outlawed marijuana in 1923, and until 2001 had one of the harshest laws for possession of cannabis (i.e., any amount would be considered a felony). This act was achieved through House Bill 453 of that year, which also legalized the use of medical marijuana.

Recreational cannabis, however, was a whole other matter. In both 2002 and 2006, the legalization lobby succeeded in putting forward to the electorate the question, but it was soundly defeated both times. It was not until another referendum, that took place in 2016, that the current status of cannabis was voted, with sales of recreational marijuana beginning in earnest in July 2017.

  1. New Hampshire

Recreation: Decriminalized, for less than ¾ oz.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Only for medical use.

Cultivation: Illegal.

New Hampshire is somewhat of an outlier in the region of New England, as it has been the last state to revise its old laws regarding cannabis.  While the decriminalization of recreational marijuana reflects this rather conservative attitude – a minimal amount and only voted in 2017 – the actual enforcement of the old statutes never created outrage on the part of the population, like in some other states.

The medical marijuana program, approved by the legislature in 2013, has among the most restrictive provisions in the country, though a current bill (House Bill 656) – still in the labyrinth of the committees – aims to reform both the status of medical and recreational cannabis.

  1. New Jersey

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Only for medical use.

Cultivation: Illegal.

New Jersey has had one of the most lively debates regarding cannabis in the nation, both at the level of the political establishment and the population as a whole, though the issue has never reached the ballot box.

In January 2010, the then-Democratic governor on his last day in office issued legislation for a medical marijuana program, which made New Jersey the 16th US state to join that particular club. Nevertheless, the incoming Republican governor amended said legislation to make the plan the strictest of all, which meant that few patients could access it de jure and, due to costs, fewer de facto. The status of the program has ebbed and flowed whenever the administration changed, and since 2016, the restrictions have been relaxed.

Recreational cannabis is another matter entirely. Police and prosecutors state-wide are known to vigorously pursue possession, even though since 2017 there is a simmering debate in the legislature that seems to be inclined toward decriminalization, if not outright legalization.

  1. New Mexico

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Only for medical use.

Cultivation: Medical use only.

New Mexico is a quite unusual case in its history of the legal status of THC. Because of immigration from Mexico in the early 20th century, it was the first state to completely outlaw the consumption, possession, and cultivation of marijuana, which happened in 1923.

On the other hand, in 1978, it was the first to enact laws for medical marijuana, albeit in a rigorous manner. A bona fide medical cannabis program was instituted in 2007, the fourth state in which the legislature assumed such a responsibility.

As of March 2019, the legalization of recreational cannabis is pending. Bills have passed both chambers of the New Mexico’s legislature. It is noteworthy to add that the municipalities of Albuquerque (decriminalized) and Santa Fe (legalized) had already taken the same road in 2018.

  1. New York

Recreation: Decriminalized (unless consumed in open view).

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Medical use only.

Cultivation: Misdemeanor.

The New York Penal Code treats marijuana consumption and possession in quite a nuanced manner. The private possession for personal use of fewer than 8 ounces without priors results in symbolic fines. The burning of fewer than 8 ounces in public is a lesser misdemeanor. Every activity that involves more than 8 ounces is a felony, meaning a mandatory prison sentence. These provisions are more or less the same since partial decriminalization of cannabis occurred in 1977.

The state’s medical marijuana program was voted by its Senate in 2014, and is one of the most comprehensive in the United States, with the notable exception that prohibits marijuana in smokable form.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that a recreational cannabis legalization bill will be put forth to the legislature in 2019.

  1. North Carolina

Recreation: Decriminalized for possession of less than 0.5 oz.

Medical: CBD oil only.

Transportation: Illegal.

Cultivation: Illegal.

The current North Carolina stance on recreational marijuana – a misdemeanor for quantities less than 0.5 oz. – dates back from the brief period at the end of the 1970s when cannabis decriminalization was considered across the United States. Besides this aspect, cannabis laws remain quite reactionary. A relevant example involves the status of cannabidiol – provisionally legal to be prescribed in epilepsy cases until 2021. Then, scientific arguments will be revisited by the state commission, which can reverse its legality.

  1. North Dakota

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Only for medical purposes.

Cultivation:  Not clearly stated.

Although marijuana has been illegal in North Dakota since 1933, penalties for possession of small amounts have never been excessive, with it currently being a lesser misdemeanor, usually punished with a fine, unless the operation of vehicles is also involved. The change in THC’s status in North Dakota is not likely to change any time soon, as in 2018 a referendum on the matter was held and 59% of citizens voted for preserving the status quo.

A relatively comprehensive medical marijuana program is in effect in the state since 2017, also enacted using public consultation.

  1. Ohio

Recreation: Decriminalized.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal (small amounts in some municipalities.

Ohio was one of the first states to decriminalize cannabis, doing so in 1975. Unlike other states, a reasonably large amount of marijuana fell under the incidence of this decriminalization, with citizens of Ohio carrying less than 100 grams only risking a minor misdemeanor. Nevertheless, full legalization is not on the horizon. A 2015 legalization initiative that had the support of a few influential public figures in Ohio was resoundingly defeated at the polls, gaining only 35 percent of the vote.

On the other hand, the very next year, The Ohio General Assembly passed a medical cannabis resolution, by which patients with 21 different conditions were eligible to receive cannabis relief in oil, edible, tincture, vapor, or topical form.

  1. Oklahoma

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: With state licensing, and just for medicinal purposes.

The status of cannabis is a controversial matter in the political and legal landscape of Oklahoma. Amendments in the laws made by politicians are immediately attacked in the courts. This was never more visible than with the recent referendum, which finally legalized medical marijuana, which gained 57 percent of the vote on June 26th of last year.

The ballot was supposed to be held in 2016, yet both the attorney general and governor opposed it and delayed the procedure. Furthermore, after the results, lawsuits were filed regarding on how the initiative will be implemented. Currently, the only explicit provisions are made for the use of CBD oil in experimental clinical treatments.

  1. Oregon

Recreation: Legal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: 1 oz.; more for licensed cultivators.

Cultivation: 4 plants per household and more for licensed cultivators.

Oregon has also been at the forefront of cannabis laws in the United States, some commentators remarking that, at least since the sixties, there has been a bona fide “weed culture” emanating from Oregon.

The state was among the first to ban marijuana in 1923 and the first to decriminalize it in 1973, just two years after the strict federal legislation enacted by the Nixon administration. Medical cannabis and recreational use were legalized via referendums in 1998 and 2012, respectively. The corpus of rules is broad but well-defined, and the economic side of the legal cannabis is overseen by the well organized Oregon Legal Control Commission. All in all, Oregon seems to have been for the last four decades a model for how cannabis sale and consumption can smoothly be integrated into economic and community life.

  1. Pennsylvania

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Illegal.

Cultivation: Illegal.

There is nothing unique or unusual about the status of THC in Pennsylvania. Recreational cannabis is frowned upon, and even though it is a misdemeanor, repeat offenders will get sentenced to some jail time. Nevertheless, there are eight cities, including Philadelphia, that have decriminalized the offense since 2014. In April 2016, medical marijuana became available through legislation pushed by the governor’s office.

  1. Rhode Island

Recreation: Decriminalized.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Only for medical use.

Cultivation: Medical use only.

The official philosophy regarding the status of THC in Rhode Island seems simple: zero tolerance for large quantities, no harassment for personal recreational use and medical marijuana.

Possession of more than 5 kg of cannabis without medical licensing carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Curiously, the state has never put the issue of recreational or medical marijuana to the ballot, every change in status being done through the General Assembly.

This is true for the 2006 implementation of the Rhode Island medical cannabis program, the eleventh state to have such a plan. Since then, it has grown to be one of the most comprehensive ones, second perhaps to only that of California.

Full legalization of recreational cannabis does not seem to be short, as every year of the past nine such legislation was put forth to the assembly, and it was defeated every time.

  1. South Carolina

Recreation: Misdemeanor.

Medical: Cannabis oil with less than 0.9% THC.

Transportation: CBD oil.

Cultivation: Illegal.

The modification of THC status in South Carolina is different from the cases we have discussed until now. There is no doubt that the state has a conservative attitude to the matter. Nevertheless, the former Republican governor, Nikki Haley, has been a champion of medical marijuana, and even somewhat of an advocate for full legalization. She has repeatedly encountered the opposition in both houses of the General Assembly.

The compromise these parties have reached is the 2014 measure, which has legalized CBD oil (containing no more than 0.9 percent THC) for several conditions, especially epilepsy.

In 2017, industrial hemp cultures were once again made legal, albeit only for licensed farmers.

  1. South Dakota

Recreation: Misdemeanor.

Medical: Illegal.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal.

Cannabis in any shape or form is illegal in the state of South Dakota, though possession of less than 2 oz. for recreational purposes in “only” a misdemeanor for a first-time offender. Despite two initiatives aimed at legalizing medical cannabis and one for recreational use, public opinion in the state remains adamantly against such measures.

  1. Tennessee

Recreation: Misdemeanor, in cases of possessing less than half an ounce for the first and second time.

Medical: Cannabis oil with less than 0.9% THC.

Transportation: CBD oil.

Cultivation: Misdemeanor for less than ten plants, a felony for more than 10.

Tennessee also has one of the strictest cannabis regimes in the country. Though CBD oil with less than “nine-tenths of one percent” has been legal since 2015, patients need to have a prescription and then procure the oil from outside the state, as the legalization bill made no provisions for sellers.

In the last few years, several municipalities have known citizens’ initiatives to change the status of cannabis locally. Some, like Nashville and Memphis, succeeded in effecting changes, yet these have been thwarted at the state level once more.

  1. Texas

Recreation: Illegal, misdemeanor status in several counties.

Medical: CBD oil.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal.

Texas has probably had the most volatile legal relationship with cannabis of all the states in the union, and that is not including individual municipalities (which we will not discuss here, as there are too many local initiatives). Texas prohibited the sale of cannabis in 1923 and the possession in 1931.

Between then and 1973, possession of marijuana was considered a grave offense, and in some cases, individuals were facing even life imprisonment. The state status of THC had not changed since 1973 when the possession of small amounts was changed from felony to misdemeanor status. In 2007, mandatory arrest for less than four ounces was repealed and replaced with “cite and release.”

In 2015, two bills were discussed in the state legislature, one concerning the legalization of recreational marijuana and the other CBD oil. Needless to add that the first was soundly defeated. The second one fared better, with CBD oil that has less than 0.3 percent THC is legal throughout Texas.

The future seems to also be a volatile one, with both major political parties at the state level agreeing that a change in the status of marijuana is a priority.

  1. Utah

Recreation: Misdemeanor.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal.

Utah was among the first states to ban cannabis in 1915, reflecting the influence of the LDS Church, which did the same for its members the very same year. Nevertheless, it was never a crime to be energetically pursued by law enforcement, as was the case in many eastern states.

Low THC concentration CBD oil was legalized in 2014, within a long-debated medical marijuana initiative. Nevertheless, it was not until last year that legislation was put forth to the ballot box, resulting in the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, which should provide for a statewide medical marijuana program by 2021.

  1. Vermont

Recreation: Legal, for up to 1 ounce, no stores allowed.

Medical: Legal, with medical sales allowed.

Transportation: Legal.

Cultivation: Two mature plants, four immature plants.

The history of THC status in Vermont has been a fairly linear one, without primary societal debates. The state outlawed cannabis in 1915, but never had particularly harsh provisions against it.

The first to be legalized was medical marijuana in 2004, with the program being amended after that to become more inclusive.

Recreational marijuana was decriminalized in 2013, and in the 2014-2018 period, efforts in the legislature were made as to how best to proceed to full legalization. Since July 2018, the current status, as mentioned above, is in effect in Vermont.

  1. Virginia

Recreation: Misdemeanor.

Medical: Cannabis oil, less than 5 percent THC.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal.

Recreational marijuana still possesses risks for citizens of Virginia, especially when under the influence while driving vehicles. Even a first offense may be deemed dangerous and subjected to a 30-day sentence.

Nevertheless, the state was among the first to allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana (though just for glaucoma and side effects of chemotherapy) in 1979.

Initiatives in 2015 pursued both the decriminalization of recreational use and the full legalization of medical cannabis. The first provision was defeated, yet a compromise was devised in the form of the status mentioned above of cannabis oil.

  1. Washington

Recreation: Legal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Legal.

Cultivation: Legal with restrictions and licensing.

Even though for many years, Washington authorities followed suit in the implementation of harsh marijuana laws after the first prohibition in the 1920s, beginning with the sixties it was one of the first ones to recognize that cannabis consumption as a social phenomenon could not be ignored anymore.

In 1971, the state reduced the possession of fewer than 40 grams to a misdemeanor, and also encouraged the scientific study of cannabis. In 1979 state courts recognized patient rights to obtain marijuana, however, no ways of getting it would be legal until legislation would be passed. This legislation would not be given until a referendum in 1998, which made Washington the first state with explicit legal protections for patients and caregivers.

While this was a leap forward for the cannabis lobby, it was not until the legalization of recreational marijuana (in 2012) that a milestone was achieved, with Washington becoming the first such state to make legalization, through the ballot box.

  1. West Virginia

Recreation: Misdemeanor.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal.

The cannabis debate in West Virginia is still centered around the issue of medical cannabis. This is true even though at the second time of asking (the first being in 2010) in 2017, the legislative assembly of the state legalized medical marijuana for several disorders. As for recreational cannabis, even small amounts make a user prosecutable for a serious misdemeanor.

  1. Wisconsin

Recreation: Misdemeanor for a first offense, felony after that.

Medical: CBD oil.

Transportation: Only for qualified patients, in the limit of three ounces.

Cultivation: Felony

Wisconsin was one of the last states to criminalize cannabis possession in 1939. The attitudes of the authorities since then have remained firmly in the conservative camp, with several legalization initiatives being repelled in the legislature. Even the status of CBD oil has long been debated upon. CBD oil was made available to patients in 2017, after much opposition.

  1. Wyoming

Recreation: Misdemeanor.

Medical: CBD oil.

Transportation: Not clearly stated.

Cultivation: Illegal.

The status of THC in Wyoming has not changed since criminalization took place in 1939. CBD oil also can be consumed by registered patients only for the treatment of severe seizures. Many independent observers have pointed out that many surveys point to the population being open to legalization of recreational cannabis, even though several initiatives have not yet reached the ballot box, for lack of signatures.

  1. District of Columbia

Recreation: Legal, no provisions for commercial sale.

Medical: Legal, with commercial sales allowed.

Transportation: Legal, up to two ounces.

Cultivation: Legal, up to six plants.

The District of Columbia has been a pioneer of cannabis decriminalization and legalization, although in 1906 was one of the first jurisdictions to outlaw marijuana possession. In 1998, the city of Washington legalized medical marijuana, and today is one of the most emulated programs in the country. Decriminalization of recreational use went into effect in 2014, with full legalization the following year.

  1. American Samoa

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Illegal.

Transportation: Illegal.

Cultivation: Illegal.

The territory of American Samoa has the strictest laws on cannabis, with a 5-year prison sentence that is mandatory for anyone caught with any amount of marijuana. Evidently, this provision is not respected de facto.

  1. Guam

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Medical use only.

Cultivation: Only for medical use.

The status of THC in Guam is a heated debate, with local initiatives pushing for full legalization at the ballot box, much in the same vein as was the case with a referendum in 2014 for the legalization of medical marijuana.

The island in practice has a thriving cannabis economy. In March of 2019, the legislature chose to acknowledge the state of facts and voted a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, though it has not yet been given the governor’s permission.

  1. Northern Mariana Islands

Recreation: Legal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Legal.

Cultivation: Legal.

A failed legalization attempt took place in 2010, but cannabis was fully legalized last year through the actions of the governor’s office in what is the country/territory with the second most amount of marijuana consumed per capita in the world.

  1. Puerto Rico

Recreation: Illegal.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Medical use only.

Cultivation: Only for medical use.

Although cannabis was banned in 1932, it has never been a heated issue in Puerto Rico. Recreational cannabis remains prohibited, but a medical marijuana program was instituted in 2015 through an executive order.

  1. US Virgin Islands

Recreation: Decriminalized.

Medical: Legal.

Transportation: Medical use only.

Cultivation: Only for medical use.

The case of the status of THC in the US Virgin Islands is much the same as in Guam. Even though it is a large part of the “grey economy,” there is somewhat of a reticence to either acknowledge or oppose the state of facts. Decriminalization took place in 2014 via legislative action, with the legalization of medical cannabis following swiftly the same year, via the ballot box.

The huge variation in the status of THC in the different jurisdictions of the United States reveals more than just the vast variety present in a great country. It shows the obstinance of social and political mores to continue, even in the face of possible life-altering scientific revelations. Although myths around cannabis are beginning to be dispelled, there is a long road before it will be accepted at every level of society.

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