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The Past, Today and the Future of Cannabis

The use, possession, sale, cultivation, and transportation of cannabis is illegal under federal law in the United States. However, the federal government has articulated that if a state passes a law to decriminalize  cannabis for recreational or medical use, it can do so, under the condition that a regulation system for cannabis is in place. Cannabis is listed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the highest classification under the legislation.

Part of the reason marijuana remains illegal at the federal level is because it is classified as a Schedule I drug. A Schedule I drug, as defined by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is a substance that has a high potential of being abused by its users and has no acceptable medical uses.[1]

Individual state laws do not always conform to the federal standard. State-level proposals for the rescheduling of cannabis have met with mixed success. As of November 9, 2016, the use of both recreational and medicinal marijuana has been legalized in the states of AlaskaCaliforniaColoradoMaineMassachusettsNevadaOregon, and Washington.[2]

The District of Columbia has fully legalized recreational and medical marijuana, but recreational commercial sale is currently blocked by Congress. Twelve states have both medical marijuana and decriminalization laws (three of them being CBDonly[clarification needed]). Thirteen states, Guam, and Puerto Rico have legalized psychoactive medical marijuana, while another thirteen have only legalized non-psychoactive medical marijuana.

One state and the U.S. Virgin Islands have only decriminalized possession laws. In the remaining three states and two inhabited territories, marijuana possession and sales for any use are illegal and prohibited entirely.

Cannabis for industrial uses (hemp) was made illegal to grow without a permit under the Controlled Substances Act because of its relation to cannabis as a drug, and any imported products must adhere to a zero tolerancepolicy.[6][7] The Agricultural Act of 2014 allows for universities and state-level departments of agriculture to cultivate cannabis for research into its industrial potential.[8]

As a psychoactive drug, cannabis continues to find extensive favor among recreational and medical users in the United States.[9][10] As of 2017, eight states – AlaskaCaliforniaColoradoOregonMassachusettsMaineNevada  and Washington – have legalized the sale and possession of cannabis for both medical and recreational use; the District of Columbia has legalized personal use but not commercial sale.[11] Multiple efforts to reschedule cannabis  under the Controlled Substances Act have failed, and the United States Supreme Court has ruled in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative (2001) and Gonzales v. Raich (2005) that the federal government has a right to regulate and criminalize cannabis, whether medical or recreational.

As a result, cannabis dispensaries are licensed by each state;[12] these businesses sell cannabis products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,[13] nor are they legally registered with the federal government to sell controlled substances.[14] Although cannabis has not been approved, the FDA recognizes the potential benefits and has approved two drugs that contain components of marijuana.[15]

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