Understanding the Background of Medical Marijuana Laws in the US

As the debate to legalizing recreational marijuana rages on, we look back on the history of the laws surrounding medical marijuana in the United States of America.


The 1960s were an age where drugs became synonymous to teenage rebellion and dissent. Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. This act set up categories into which drugs were placed based on their perceived usefulness and potential for abuse. Schedule 1 was the most restrictive category and included substances that the federal government deemed as providing no valid medical uses and a high potential for abuse (such as LSD and heroin). In 1971, former President Nixon declared a war on drugs. As a part of this effort, the Controlled Substances Act placed marijuana into Schedule 1 with barely any scientific backing. Funds were tunneled into federal drug control agencies and these organizations were given more power to crack down on drug users. Mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants were made acceptable after this declaration. Between 1973 and 1977, the tide died down and eleven states across the country decriminalized marijuana possession.


President Ronald Reagan took the stage in 1981, marking a tremendous nationwide increase in the rate of incarceration for nonviolent drug law offenses. Zero tolerance policies towards casual drug use were put into place. The hysteria around drug use rocketed during his time and the stringent laws stayed in place. During President Bill Clinton’s time, the war on drugs continued but the public pushed for new approaches to drug policy. A month before leaving office, the then President suggested a reexamination of the entire policy surrounding drug use and imprisonment of drug users.


For the first time in the USA, voters in California passed Proposition 215 that legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, making this state the forerunner for all other states that legalized the same in the years to come. The same year bore witness to four other states, Washington DC, Oregon, Alaska, and Maine following the suit. By the early 2000s, this number had reached eight.

Present Day

The number of states that have legalized medical marijuana stands at 33 of today. In general, this implies that people suffering from illnesses such as glaucoma, social anxiety may, with a doctor’s prescription, use marijuana to alleviate their symptoms.

Read More: A Quick Guide to Sensible Medical Marijuana Use for Cancer Patients

Variations in the policy include the type of marijuana, legislation specifying access to cannabis and acceptable forms of consumption. For example, some states have legalized the use of low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD) products.

THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive component in cannabis and causes effects like hunger, intoxication as well as relieves symptoms like pain and nausea.

CBD (cannabidiol) is the non-intoxicating compound known to reduce symptoms of anxiety, pain, inflammation, and many other medical ailments.

Such products are to be used by patients with seizures. Some laws limit the use of these products for victims of AIDS and cancer. Others legalize the use of these products but do not cover avenues for obtaining it legally.

The National Conference of State Legislatures uses the following points to distinguish whether the legislation in a state is “comprehensive” or not,

  • Does the state offer protection from criminal penalties for using marijuana for medical purposes?
  • How is access to marijuana implemented?
  • Different kinds of cannabis strains are allowed, including those that have a high THC.
  • Smoking or vaporization of cannabis products are permitted
  • Is the legislation a limited trial program and not open to the general public?

Medical Marijuana Laws in the US


The NCSL provides a table that lists the state of medical marijuana laws across the nation. Activist groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) have sprung up across the country with an aim to push for an improvement in the laws surrounding cannabis.

Following the legalization of medical marijuana and the growing awareness of the general public of its uses in helping ailments, it became easier for such grass-roots organizations to push for legalization of recreational marijuana and decriminalization of the use and distribution of the same.

Recreational marijuana consists of primarily two strains – Indica and Sativa.  The former is known for its calming properties while the latter for its invigorating effects. Visit website to know about different kind of strains.

Medical organizations are also pushing for removing cannabis from its restrictive position in Schedule 1 as it prevents safe and controlled development and research of strains in the states where use has been legalized.

In 2018, Canada announced its legalization of recreational marijuana across the country, a move met with appreciation among its citizens. This act allows the easy usage of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes, with online websites allowing you to buy weed online Quebec and other prominent cities in Canada.

The reforms in the legislation of marijuana in the United States is far from complete as there are disputes between federal and state laws, variations in the provision of the kinds of marijuana products allowed and limited attention given to the proper distribution of these products. It is likely that the coming future brings with it many more amendments to the current laws in place, one way or another.

Featured image Source

The following two tabs change content below.

Martin B.

Ex-smoker, passionate vaper who loves to tell the world about the life-changing potential of vaping. Co-creator of Ecigclopedia with a background in Business & Finance. Prefers a dessert flavored vape and loves to innovate.

Latest posts by Martin B. (see all)

Martin B.

Ex-smoker, passionate vaper who loves to tell the world about the life-changing potential of vaping. Co-creator of Ecigclopedia with a background in Business & Finance. Prefers a dessert flavored vape and loves to innovate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *