The Trajectory of Cannabis Law in the United States

It seems inevitable that cannabis will be legal in all 50 United States, at least within the next 10-20 years. At one time, this seemed unbelievable, but public opinion has been swayed, and laws swayed along with it. States like California have been the guinea pigs of cannabis legislation. Now that the country has had these laws in place for a few years, it is time to start looking at their effects. If things are going well, as proponents claim, then expect to see a lot of marijuana-friendly laws start to pop up in more and more states around the country. Here are some insights to think about as the tides continue to turn.


  • States are looking to alcohol to help determine where cannabis products may be sold. If you are over the age of 21 and have tried to drink in more than one state, you know that state law on liquor differs wildly. In some states, you can buy whiskey in a regular grocery store. In others, the sale of these spirits is restricted to government operated stores. Most cannabis sales occur in privately run stores like Leafbuyer, or dispensaries, but these have strict restrictions on when they can be open for business, subject to the needs of their communities. In Colorado, for example, state law states that stores may be open until midnight, but this is further restricted by most towns and municipalities, most of which call for a closing time of 10 PM, if not much earlier.


  • Most states are adopting “common sense” laws, that fit with the way people actually consume cannabis. If you are 21, there is little impediment to buying cannabis. You may have to have a special “cannabis card” in order to buy. In California, where cannabis is identified with “medical marijuana”, such a card will have to come from a healthcare professional. But the situation is much more lax in Colorado, where anyone over the age of 21, even those from out of state, should be able to buy cannabis products without difficulty. Common sense limits on how much an individual can carry or own at one time are in place. People also can’t smoke anywhere they please, with private consumption at home or in special clubs seeming to work well for most communities.


  • Driving intoxication poses a challenge but is enforced. Like alcohol, you aren’t allowed to drive if inebriated with cannabis, but the issue is a bit murkier than with alcohol. Like alcohol, tolerance may make a huge difference in the extent to which an individual is impaired by marijuana. Blood tests and breath tests are still being developed, at least for that which will be the National Standard. But as yet, people cited with driving under the influence are even allowed to argue that the extent to which they were “high” does not result in a dangerous amount of impairment. Expect a lot of variation as this issue becomes more national in scope.


The Trajectory of Cannabis Law in the United States — 1 Comment

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