A Brief Overview of Marijuana Laws in The United States

Today, the legal status of marijuana generates considerable debate. Over the course of time, legal frameworks change. This truism certainly applies in the case of the enforcement of marijuana (i.e. “cannabis”) legislation!

During the past decade, voters in a number of jurisdictions sought to legalize cannabis at the grassroots level (no pun intended). Canada recently changed its laws; legislators legalized cannabis nationwide.(1) People seeking accurate current information about the status of cannabis in the United States discover a rapidly changing legislative landscape, too. Depending upon your state of residence, regulations which applied last year may not pertain tomorrow.

Cannabis Laws in The United States

Cannabis laws in the USA today involve a variable, disjointed framework. Considerable disparities exist between federal and state statutes covering this subject. The lack of uniform enforcement of these laws at the federal level has created a lot of confusion.

Voters in a number of states during recent years authorized state medical (and even recreational) cannabis programs. Currently in several parts of the country, cannabis sales generate vital tax revenues for cash-strapped local and state governments. A trend towards the legalization of marijuana nationally has garnered some public support.

Federal Law

The federal government recently legalized CBD, a non-psychoactive (but still active) ingredient in many strains of cannabis. Botanists sometimes referred to CBD as one of the chief components in “hemp”).(2) As of August 30, 2019, the use of psychoactive cannabis for any non-approved religious purpose (including medical uses) remains a criminal violation under federal law in every state and territory in the United States.(3)

The federal Controlled Substances Act still includes psychoactive (THC-based) cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance. Fines and asset forfeiture provisions also potentially still apply to people who manufacture, store, or distribute this type of cannabis (as opposed to CBD cannabis/hemp containing minimal levels of THC). Non-psychoactive hemp containing primarily CBD has become a legal crop since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill).(4) However, aggressive enforcement of the federal laws prohibiting THC-based cannabis does not occur in every state apparently.

State Laws

Across the USA, states differ widely in their approaches to cannabis legalization. The recent legalization of some forms of hemp has further complicated this situation. States like Nebraska continue to rigorously enforce state prohibitions against psychoactive cannabis use for any non-approved religious purpose. On the other hand, some states have established regulated programs for the medical use of THC-based cannabis products to treat some health conditions.

A few states have effectively sought to legalize the use of cannabis completely under state law, by authorizing the “adult” use of recreational cannabis containing THC.(5) Under these circumstances, people interested in ascertaining the status of cannabis within a specific locale require accurate information. Local laws addressing this subject change frequently. (Therefore, if you contemplate making any career or health decisions based upon this legal issue, consider checking with a knowledgeable information source in your state to ascertain the status of cannabis at the time of your inquiry.)

States Allowing Recreational Cannabis

The use of cannabis for both recreational and medical purposes reportedly obtained approval in 14 U.S. states and territories as of June 25, 2019.(5) Some of the jurisdictions which have endeavored to de-criminalized psychoactive cannabis under state laws include:

  • Alaska
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Michigan
  • Maine
  • Vermont
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Illinois
  • The District of Columbia.

Quite a few other jurisdictions, such as Rhode Island, have sought to significantly reduce criminal penalties provided for cannabis-related offenses.(6)

States Allowing Cannabis For Medical Uses

A reported 33 states (including most of the previously mentioned U.S. states, the District of Columbia, The U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico now all permit the regulated medical use of cannabis to some extent.(5) A wide variety of different state statutes address this topic.(6) For example, some states (including Tennessee) provided for specified periods of time to “study” medical marijuana issues during recent years. As research in this field expands, the findings of experts may eventually produce further changes in state laws.

Florida Cannabis Laws

Florida has not de-criminalized the use of psychoactive cannabis, and the state continues to maintain robust sanctions for controlled substances violations. However, since the passage of a referendum in 2016, the Sunshine State has provided a detailed statutory framework for the medical use of cannabis sold by state registered dispensaries to patients with specified documented health conditions.(7)

Criminal Penalties

Possession of any amount of psychoactive cannabis in Florida constitutes a misdemeanor. Possessing more than a legally specified minimal amount constitutes a felony. Reportedly, since 2015, some municipalities have sought to encourage broader “discretion” on the part of law enforcement agencies in the state in enforcing misdemeanor cannabis provisions.(7)

Medical Use Program

In Florida, the issue of medical cannabis has received extensive legislative attention. A legal decision recently overturned a restriction on the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.(6) Reportedly, a new state law signed in March permits physicians to prescribe patients up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis during a 35 day time period; further restriction apply in the case of patients under 18 years of age.(7, 8, 9)

The state’s regulatory framework permits authorized patients to purchase cannabis from a network of registered dispensaries. Physicians may prescribe medical cannabis in Florida to alleviate a variety of health problems, ranging from cancer to HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s Disease, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and other conditions. Patients may purchase non-psychoactive CBD-based products from hemp over the counter without a prescription, of course.

About Express Marijuana Card

The Express Marijuana Card website at seeks to serve patients across the Sunshine State. Our company furnishes medical consultations with Florida licensed physicians capable of performing a Florida Medical Marijuana Card evaluation in appropriate cases. Please visit the website to review information about our services (which include a Physical Exam).

Currently, a broad array of health conditions cause patients in Florida to seek relief through the use of psychoactive cannabis. We furnish a helpful 24/7 Physician Hotline to enable our clients to speak with a physician around the clock. Consider visiting our branch offices in any of these locations:

  • Miami;
  • Tampa;
  • Naples;
  • Orlando;
  • Ft. Lauderdale;
  • Key West;
  • Jacksonville;
  • Doral;

The process of obtaining an evaluation begins in the low starting price range of $95.00. We charge a patient transfer fee of just $40.

Our company caters to veterans. We offer a 10% veteran discount! Call us to obtain fast, considerate service. Contact us soon to determine whether or not you might qualify for an Express Marijuana Card allowing you to purchase medical cannabis from a state-registered dispensary.

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