As conversation about marijuana shifts from medical to recreational, many states are reexamining their approach to the plant. However, antiquated cannabis legislation at the federal and state levels persists, meaning that despite all the hype, many parts of the US treat cannabis like they did decades ago This patchwork of legalization in certain states of marijuana means different things for different citizens, depending on where they live.
Lawmakers and Legalization
The first thing any cannabis consumer needs to keep in mind is that marijuana use is being legalized on the state level and not at the federal level. Recent political developments (i.e. Trump’s administration), in Washington DC has raised the prospect of federal enforcement, something that was discouraged under the previous administration. This, like other issues, brings Washington head-to-head with state and local officials s. The onus is now on the buyer to check local laws and make sure they are using weed both safely and legally
Only a few states are on board for the legal use of weed as a medicine and recreation. The two most famous locations are California, the first state to make medicinal use of the greenery and Colorado, the first state to legalize it for personal use. That doesn’t mean that you can stroll down the beach with a join in your hand the next time you’re on Venice Beach. As long as the weed is in your pocket, you’re fine. If you light up in public, you can be fined or arrested. The same logic applies to the open container law with alcohol, which was outlawed during the Prohibition Era that lasted from 1920 1933.
The Green States
Not every state has taken to the idea of legal weed, even for medicine. Here’s a short list of the states that are either currently legalizing it or have already put some laws in place.
Here you can pick up magical baked goods for free, but you’ll be expected to leave a donation as a thank you. The state has raised the legal age for weed consumption from 18 to 21, so don’t try snagging cannabis infused chocolate until you’re old enough to eat it in a bar.
Way out west, medical dispensaries are open and yet highly contested by local lawmakers. They were essentially legalized and decried in a matter of days. A smoker can have an ounce on them, smoke it in their home or car, but not in public. Also, you can’t grow your own pot and unlicensed sales are illegal.
In this northeastern haven, one can find a smattering of dispensaries and can legally own and smoke about an ounce. A new regulatory process ready to be finalized in July of next year as voters push for legal places to buy and smoke a daily toke.
The home of Sin City is working towards a good solution for pot use, but at the moment all you can do in public is have it in your pocket, and only an ounce. Any more and users will face a heavy fine. Legislators are hoping to change the restrictions on public smoking so that pot can join the other delights currently on the strip, but that will be in the distant future.
Ironically, Alaska has the highest demand and yet the strictest consequences for overstepping your pot-smoking bounds. While dispensaries in our wildest state are selling out only hours after opening their doors, the police are scrambling to curb the use of pot. Again, an ounce is acceptable but if you have it in your pocket and walk by a school, you can be fined up to $50,000 and spend up to five years in jail. Four ounces at home is fine, but any more will also be fines and possibly a year in jail.
- Washington D.C.
Our unrepresented state has seen the effects of jailing marijuana users on a huge scale, with young, African American men packing local prison cells. In 2015 the state voted to legalize pot for users 21 or older, but the new congress wants to block the regulatory structure. Now, private homes can have up to six plants and users can smoke at home. Anyone caught smoking outside can be fined and face a short jail sentence, though you can walk around with the usual ounce in your pocket.
California Leads the Charge
As the first state to open a dispensary for medical marijuana in 1996, California has long been considered the home of legal weed. However, in recent years the Golden State has lagged behind its progressive neighbors. Finally in 2016, voters passed Proposition 64, which allows for the legal consumption of weed in private homes or licensed businesses.While this law made possession of marijuana legal upon it’s approval by voters, the laws regarding legal sale will only take effect January 1st 2018. Will other states follow suit? Perhaps, though key players in the White House are fighting this movement at every opportunity.
Get involved by finding your local activism groups, learning your state’s laws and finding out what you can do to protect yourself.
How do you feel about legalization? Please comment and share below and let us know how these laws have affected you in your daily life.