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Everything You Need to Understand on the Legal Side of Marijuana

When it comes to marijuana and the law things can get a bit confusing. The laws governing its use are broad and can change dramatically from state to state. While it’s good to understand the basic laws around the nation, you’ll definitely want to find out the specifics with the laws in your state. Here are the basics of what you need to know about the legal side of marijuana.

Where is it Legal?

Smoking marijuana is legal to varying extents in 30 states. Most of these states allow for using the substance for medical purposes only. If your interest is in recreational use you’ll need to go to D.C., Washington State, Oregon, California, Colorado, Maine, Alaska, Massachusetts, and Nevada. In some states it’s not legal, it’s just decriminalized. So what exactly does all this mean?

Legalization vs. Decriminalization

“If marijuana is legal in your state, that means that you cannot be ticketed or arrested for using marijuana,” said Native Roots Dispensary. That does not mean that the use of weed is legal for all people at all times. There are minimum age requirements and maximum amounts you can have at a given time. Legalization of marijuana does not mean you can grow your own and sell it to your friends either. If you are not an approved seller of marijuana in your state you can get in big trouble for trafficking illegal marijuana on the black market. States where marijuana is decriminalized does not mean that it’s legal for you to walk around with it in your pocket. Decriminalization means that the laws have been amended so that a person caught with recreational amounts of marijuana cannot be prosecuted to the extent of serving jail time or having a criminal record.

Is There A Difference Between State and Federal Laws?

The short answer is, yes. There is a difference between state and federal laws and when those laws conflict the federal laws take precedence. According to federal law, marijuana is illegal under the Controlled Substance Act. This means that in states where marijuana is legal no business regarding the production, selling, and use of the substance can be on federal land or means. If the feds discover that a person or business is violating this, they can be prosecuted by the government according to the federal laws and are no longer covered by their state law.

The Pros and Cons of Legalization


  • Revenue- Many state governments who have legalized the drug are finding a significant boost in revenue through taxation.
  • Reduce Organized Crime- By cutting the crime organizations out of the marijuana distribution it will cut off a major part of their revenue stream which will decrease their influence.
  • Decrease in Law Enforcement Efforts- Through legalization, there is less pressure on law enforcement. There is a consensus that this would also save lives as law enforcement would be put in fewer life-threatening situations.


  • Gateway Drug- There is a common perception that marijuana is a gateway drug. A gateway drug is considered to be a substance that leads to the use of stronger and more addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
  • Health Risks- There are some health risks to using marijuana, such as reduced brain function, lung cancer, and heart disease.
  • Driving Under the Influence- Driving while high is considered to be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

There are many impassioned arguments on both sides of the issue, and while we are quite a ways off from having a national standard regarding weed, we are seeing the country move closer and closer to legalization. The deciding factor will likely be left up to the Supreme Court to decide. As more and more states move toward legalization and discover the financial benefits of doing so it will be harder for the federal government to resist the momentum and the potential financial gains.

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