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Overview of U.S. Medical Marijuana Law

Overview of U.S. Medical Marijuana Law

While cannabis continues to be classified as a Schedule 1 substance and is therefore illegal federally, states are allowed to adapt their own legislation. Marijuana laws vary state-by-state.

Medical Marijuana States

Currently, 25 states allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana. California was the first to allow medical use of marijuana with the passing of Proposition 215 in 1996. Since then, 22 additional states have adopted medical marijuana legislation, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The District of Colombia also allows medical marijuana use. The diseases and conditions for which marijuana can be prescribed vary by state.

Seventeen states have adopted limited access marijuana product laws, allowing only therapeutic cannabis that is low in THC and high in CBD. These states include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Restrictions and the diseases and conditions of which the high CBD oil can be used to treat vary by state.

Recreational Marijuana States

Four states, including Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington, as well as Washington DC have passed ballots legalizing recreational marijuana. The amount you can possess at one time, however, varies between the states.

Cannabis Cultivation Laws

Three states, including Alaska , Colorado, and Oregon, allow for home cultivation for recreational use of marijuana. Adults in Washington DC, can also possess plants for recreational use. How many plants an adult can cultivate varies state-by-state.

Seven states allow qualified medical marijuana patients or their primary caregivers to cultivate plants. These states include Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, and New Mexico. The number of plants one can cultivate varies by state.

A provision within the 2014 federal Farm Bill gave permission for universities and state departments of agricultures to cultivate industrial hemp for limited purposes. Since then, 22 states have enacted laws to establish commercial or research-purpose industrial hemp programs. Thirteen states so far have adopted statues allowing commercial industrial hemp, including California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. Seven states have established laws allowing industrial hemp farming for research purposes. These states include Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, and Utah. One state (Missouri) also allows individuals to cultivate hemp.

Legalization of CBD from Hemp Oil

The Food and Drug Administration of the United States considers hemp oil, which contains CBD, to be a dietary supplement and therefore it is legal to import, sell, purchase and consume hemp oil in all 50 states.


State Laws. (n.d.). NORML. Retrieved from http://norml.org/laws.

State Medical Marijuana Laws. (2015, October 16). National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx.

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