The attitude toward marijuana as medicine has shifted dramatically towards legalization in recent years. In several states, marijuana is now recognized as a legitimate medicine that can be purchased in licensed dispensaries under the supervision of a doctor. The United States federal government still refuses to recognize the medical value of marijuana, so the legal status of the plant remains a tricky legal issue. Under the Constitution, federal law trumps state law, so even when the citizens of a state vote to legalize cannabis locally, federal authorities theoretically still have the final say. However, most states that have legalized marijuana for medical use are largely left alone to regulate the industry themselves. 

Humble Origins

The first step in the liberalization of marijuana laws in the 1970s was the reduction of small amounts of marijuana to misdemeanors rather than felonies. As research continued to prove the value of marijuana in treating health conditions and public policy groups pressured states to recognize marijuana as medicine, the legalization revolution began in 1996 on the West Coast. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, followed by Oregon, Alaska, and Washington. Maine was the first East Coast state to legalize medical marijuana in 1999. The trend spread, mostly down the Eastern seaboard and in the West to more liberal areas with a political culture traditionally more protective of individual rights. Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016.

Where We Are Today

To date, 33 states have legalized marijuana for medical use, plus the District of Columbia. Most of the holdout states are in the South and Midwest, which are more conservative areas. However, even Louisiana and Arkansas have recently legalized medical marijuana, and it is likely that other states in those regions will follow suit as scientific evidence of the effectiveness of marijuana as medicine mounts.

Looking to the Future

Marijuana advocates have every reason to be optimistic about the future of cannabis legalization. In addition to a wave of states recognizing marijuana as a legitimate medication, 10 states have now totally legalized marijuana for all purposes. The industry is booming, creating jobs and tax revenue for struggling states. Marijuana advocate organizations like NORML are well-organized and are systematically applying pressure on individual state levels as well as on federal, petitioning for the reform of existing marijuana laws.

Although in the past marijuana has been viewed as a recreational drug, the cannabis plant is being slowly recognized for its other applications. The future looks bright for cannabis being integrated into modern medicine. To experience the healing benefits for yourself, book an appointment with us online!