The current legislation surrounding cannabis in the United States is quite varied, but most notably in regard to its use and regulation. Many US states are now legally regulating some level of marijuana use, either for medicinal purposes or as a recreational substance. The legality of cannabis in regard to recreational and medical use varies significantly by state, with some states’ licensing medical cannabis users and providers, while others simply criminalize its sale and possession. California is perhaps the nation’s biggest advocate of legalized cannabis, having legalized medical cannabis in many forms over the last decade. This position is shared by many other states in the US.
Medical use cannabis is gaining momentum across the US. Although the reasons for this may vary by individual case, medical cannabis is thought by many, including patients and doctors alike, to provide significant therapeutic value in relation to chronic pain management, as well as helping patients to treat their symptoms of serious diseases such as cancer and glaucoma. It is also used to alleviate the side effects of certain cancer treatments. Some cancers are best treated by tackling the underlying cause, rather than relying on a single treatment to overcome the condition. The medicinal properties of cannabis help to achieve this aim by regulating the body’s natural production of chemicals and nutrients, reducing the negative side effects of chemotherapy and other more severe drugs.
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Adults and children alike use cannabis regularly without negative effects or negative social consequences. Legalisation of cannabis use has coincided with the increasing acceptance of medical cannabis use, both by patients themselves and by healthcare professionals. However, legislation continues to vary significantly in different jurisdictions. Although medical use of cannabis is legal in the majority of US states, the laws vary significantly among them. Despite this, several states have made public consumption of cannabis illegal, including Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, and New Hampshire.
Legally-speaking, there is not much meaning or consequence for the possession or sale of cannabis. Like any other controlled substance, it may be sold or provided for personal use. However, many laws specifically prohibit the distribution or cultivation of cannabis. Despite this, police officers enforcing these laws often confiscate cannabis plants, as well as cannabis users and sellers found in public. An ounce of cannabis in most states can be used legally for medicinal purposes; in others, it is an absolute misdemeanor to buy, sell, or distribute.
In some jurisdictions, the distribution or cultivation of cannabis is not considered illegal, but the cultivation of plants for personal consumption is. For example, in California, a person caught growing cannabis in a private residence can be arrested and prosecuted under the state’s medical marijuana laws. In many states, like Colorado, cannabis is legal but not regulated, so it is difficult to regulate the supply, manufacture, or sale of the drug. Since marijuana remains illegal under federal law, any sales are illegal as well. However, possession of cannabis is still a major problem, both in terms of criminal justice and social health costs associated with the drug.
In addition to state-wide cannabis legislation, there are national and local ordinances that affect the legal distribution and possession of cannabis. Some states, like Colorado, have legalized recreational marijuana, while others, like New York, have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes only. While the Controlled Substances Act regulates nationwide cannabis distribution and regulation, local laws govern local distribution and possession, with varying penalties. Local governments are also trying to enact additional regulations on the production and sale of cannabis, including taxes and licensing schemes.