Cannabis Legal Landscape:

August, 2021

Cannabis is illegal in the United States, but there are two dispensaries in my town. Cannabis is legal in my state, but I can’t consume it in public or bring it one state over.

Where in the U.S. is cannabis legal?

The regulatory landscape when it comes to cannabis is complicated. With federal legalization still on the horizon, rules and regulations are down to the authority of individual states. This results in a wide variety of laws, but the overall trend is towards broader legalization of adult and medical cannabis use. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, seventeen states and Washington D.C. had legalized cannabis for adult use as of April, 2021. As of May, 36 states and 4 U.S. territories permit some form of medical cannabis use. For a comprehensive list of which states offer legal adult use and which states offer legal medical use, visit the NCSL.

What do people think of cannabis?

The potential for federal legalization is increasing, and public support for legalization is growing with it. In April, a study from the Pew Research Center said that approximately 90% of Americans are in support of some form of cannabis legalization. Between 1969 and 2019, the percentage of Americans who believe that cannabis should remain illegal decreased from 84% to only 32%. As stigma is eradicated and cannabis education is more broadly accessible, this number continues to drop.

What does the future hold?

With the number of Americans who support cannabis growing and the majority of states offering some form of legalization, the future of legalization looks bright. In July, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed the legalization of cannabis on the federal level. Not only would his proposal legalize cannabis, but it would also expunge the records of those with non-violent cannabis related offenses, and allow for people serving time for those offenses to petition for resentencing. The proposed bill is controversial, and is certain to face scrutiny from many, but it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

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