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Why is Weed Illegal in Some States of the US?

Weed is illegal in most countries due to various reasons. In the United States, laws differ from state to state. So one might ask where is marijuana legal in the US? Let's dig into the facts about weed, and have a look at its status in all the states of the US.
OpinionFront Staff
Weed, also known as marijuana, had always been legal since the hemp plant had been discovered. The hemp plant Cannabis sativa is not only used to produce marijuana, but also used for a number of other products, like incense, cloth, rope, woven fabric, etc.

The first marijuana Law was enacted at Jamestown Colony, Virginia, in 1619. Under this law, farmers had been ordered to grow Indian hemp seed compulsorily, and failing to do so, one could be jailed. It was not because hemp was used to produce marijuana, but for essential war requirements like rope. The plant was not known for its recreational drug until the early 1900s.
History of Weed in the US
When weed was legal all around, the plant was used for a number of purposes. Even medical practitioners used it to provide pain relief to patients. There were many researches conducted during the 19th century that prompted the British and the US to undertake a stand on its legalization.

During the International Opium Convention in 1928, America too sent its delegates to attend the meeting. Here, they were introduced to several testimonies that proved that marijuana made people go insane, commit murder, and even die due to overdose. This made the United States stop all export of Indian hemp to any country. This agreement led to a fall of the production of weed in the US.

During the same period, during the revolution in Mexico in 1910, there was an increase in the influx of Mexicans. It was seen that many Mexicans smoked marijuana and brought along the plant to America. Thus, California passed the first state law that banned 'preparation of hemp, or loco weed'. Soon, other states followed suit, and passed the marijuana prohibition law. These states included Wyoming (1915), Texas (1919), Iowa (1923), Nevada (1923), Oregon (1923), Washington (1923), Arkansas (1923), and Nebraska (1927).

With many other factors playing a role, the Roosevelt administration signed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. Under this law, any person who sold the drug had to pay a tax. If the tax was not paid, he had to pay a hefty fine, and even serve prison time. But, the US government did not want the tax money, and simply made weed illegal in America.
Reasons Behind Weed Being Illegal
The first reason that lead to making weed illegal in the US was its classification as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. This was because, it was perceived that once a person uses marijuana regularly, he turns into a 'pothead' that is addicted to the drug. The second reason was that, there were no accepted medical uses of marijuana. The benefits of medical use, as claimed by people for weed legalization, had not been accepted on a national level.

Weed has been linked with narcotics like heroin and morphine, and therefore, thought as a 'gateway drug'. Many hippies and other social outcast have been known to use marijuana. This led to making marijuana illegal, as these people were thought to have a criminal streak. Marijuana has been associated with increasing insane behavior. Also, people who advocated weed legalization did not present a stronger case to change the laws.

Nevertheless, in recent times, weed has been legalized on various levels in different states in the US. Some states allow its use for medicinal purposes only, while others also allow certain amounts for recreational use, while the rest consider it illegal.
State-wise Laws
ALABAMA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Felony

Possession can lead to a 1-year sentence and $6,000 fine. Selling is punishable by 2 - 20 years in jail and a $30,000 fine. Selling to minors can lead to a 10-year sentence and $60,000 fine.
ALASKA
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Decriminalized
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Less than 25 plants in one's residence is considered legal. Possession of less than 4 ounces is allowed.
ARIZONA
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Medical purposes only
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Arizona legalized marijuana for the use of medical purposes only, in 2010. Public use and driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal.
ARKANSAS
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession carries a 1-year sentence and $2,500 fine. Subsequent punishments for repeated offences can go up to 6 years imprisonment and $6,000 in fines.
CALIFORNIA
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Decriminalized
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

In 1996, California became the first US state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. In 2010, possession of up to 1 ounce was decriminalized, punishable only by a fine of $100.
COLORADO
Cultivation: Legal with conditions
Possession: Legal
Transportation: Legal
Sale: Medical and recreational purposes only

6 plants in one's residence, with no more than 3 being mature is allowed. Commercial cultivation needs a license.
CONNECTICUT
Cultivation: Felony
Possession: Decriminalized with conditions
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Medical purposes only

Possession is decriminalized, but is illegal within 1,500 feet of a daycare of school. Possession of 1 month's supply is allowed for medical purposes, with the exact amount having to be determined.
DELAWARE
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Medical purposes only
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Possession of 6 ounces for medical reasons is permissible.
FLORIDA
Cultivation: Felony
Possession: Misdemeanor with conditions
Transportation: Felony
Sale: Felony

Growing, transporting, and selling is illegal, with possession of up to 20 grams leading to a 2-year suspension of one's driving license.
GEORGIA
Cultivation: Felony
Possession: Misdemeanor with conditions
Transportation: Felony
Sale: Felony

Growing, transporting, and selling is a felony. Possession of up to 1 ounce is considered a misdemeanor, and leads to suspension of one's driving license.
HAWAII
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Medical purposes only
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Marijuana is legal in this state for medical use only. The possession limit is 3 ounces, and the private cultivation limit is 7 plants, with a maximum of 3 being mature.
IDAHO
Cultivation: Felony
Possession: Misdemeanor with conditions
Transportation: Felony
Sale: Felony

Possession of up to 3 ounces is punishable by a 1-year sentence and $1,000 fine. Possession of larger amounts can lead to a 5-year sentence and $10,000 fine.
ILLINOIS
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Medical purposes only
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

The use of marijuana for medical reasons is legal. 2.5 ounces is permissible for a 2-week period.
INDIANA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor with conditions
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Misdemeanor with conditions

Selling of more than 10 pounds or any amount within 1,000 feet of a school can result in a sentence of 2 - 8 years and a fine of $10,000.
IOWA
Cultivation: Felony
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Felony

Possession can result in a 2-year sentence and a fine of $6,250. Growing and selling is a felony, especially to minors and near schools, and can result in a fine of up to $100,000.
KANSAS
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession can lead to a 1-year sentence and a fine of up to $100,000. Selling can result in a fine of up to $300,000.
KENTUCKY
Cultivation: Misdemeanor with conditions
Possession: Misdemeanor with conditions
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Misdemeanor with conditions

Transporting marijuana is illegal, and growing, possessing, and selling are a misdemeanor.
LOUISIANA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Illegal
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Depending whether it is a first-time or repeated offence, possession can lead to a sentence of 5 - 60 years, and a fine of $50,000 to $100,000. If a minor is involved, it can go up to a 90-year sentence and a fine of $75,000.
MAINE
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Decriminalized with conditions
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Growing, transporting, and selling is allowed for medical use only. Possession is decriminalized, with an amount of 2.5 ounces being legal within the city limits of Portland.
MARYLAND
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Decriminalized with conditions
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

For medical reasons, a 30-day supply is allowed, with the amount needing to be determined.
MASSACHUSETTS
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Decriminalized
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

A 60-day supply for medical reasons is allowed. Otherwise, possession of 1 ounce can lead to a fine of $100.
MICHIGAN
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Medical purposes only
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

For medical reasons, possession of 2.5 ounces and 7 plants at one's residence is allowed.
MINNESOTA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Decriminalized
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession or distribution of up to 42.5 grams can lead to a fine of $200.
MISSISSIPPI
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Decriminalized with conditions
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession of up to 30 grams can result in a fine of $250.
MISSOURI
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Felony

Depending on the amount in one's possession, punishment can be a sentence of 1 - 15 years and a fine of $1,000 to $20,000.
MONTANA
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Medical purposes only
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Possession can be punished by a sentence of 6 months to 5 years and a fine of $100 to $50,000. Selling can attract a punishment of a 20-year sentence and a fine of $50,000.
NEBRASKA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Decriminalized with conditions
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession can lead to a fine of $300 to $500 and a sentence of up to a week in jail.
NEVADA
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Decriminalized with conditions
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Possession of 1 ounce usable and 7 plants, with 3 being mature is allowed.
NEW HAMPSHIRE
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Medical purposes only
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Since 2013, two ounces for a period of 10 days is allowed for medical reasons.
NEW JERSEY
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Medical purposes only
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Since 2010, usable cannabis amounting to 2 ounces has been permitted across the state.
NEW MEXICO
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Medical purposes only
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Since 2007, a usable amount of 6 ounces, or 16 plants, out of which 4 are mature is permissible.
NEW YORK
Cultivation: Misdemeanor
Possession: Decriminalized
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Misdemeanor with conditions

The sale of 25 grams or more is considered a misdemeanor in New York. The process of legalizing its use for certified patients is in progress.
NORTH CAROLINA
Cultivation: Felony
Possession: Decriminalized
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Felony

Possession of up to half an ounce has been decriminalized. Higher amounts can attract a fine of $5,000 and 3 months in jail.
NORTH DAKOTA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession can lead to a sentence of 30 days to 1 year and a fine of up to $1,000.
OHIO
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Decriminalized
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

The process is on to allow the use of marijuana for those over 18 years of age for medical purposes only.
OKLAHOMA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Illegal
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession attracts a sentence of 10 days to 1 year. Subsequent offences go on to attract harsher punishments.
OREGON
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Decriminalized
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Possession of 24 ounces usable has been decriminalized. 24 plants, out of which, a maximum of 6 mature ones is allowed.
PENNSYLVANIA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession of up to 30 grams attracts a 30-day sentence and a fine of $500. Larger amounts lead to a 1-year sentence and a fine of $5,000.
RHODE ISLAND
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Decriminalized
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Possession of 2.5 usable ounces has been decriminalized. It is okay to have 12 plants.
SOUTH CAROLINA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Illegal
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

First-time possession attracts a 1-year probation, with the sentence getting harsher with subsequent offences.
SOUTH DAKOTA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession of up to 2 ounces can lead to a 1-year sentence and a fine of $2,000.
TENNESSEE
Cultivation: Misdemeanor with conditions
Possession: Misdemeanor with conditions
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Felony

Possession for the first time of an amount less than half an ounce can attract a 1-year supervised probation. Any higher amount is a felony.
TEXAS
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Illegal
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession of up to 2 ounces can lead to a six-month sentence and a fine of $2,000. Higher amounts would attract harsher punishments.
UTAH
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Felony

Possession is illegal, and can attract a 6-month sentence and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000. Selling can lead to a 5-year sentence and a $5,000 fine.
VERMONT
Cultivation: Medical purposes only
Possession: Decriminalized
Transportation: Medical purposes only
Sale: Medical purposes only

Possession of usable 2 ounces has been decriminalized. 9 plants, out of which a maximum of 2 are mature is allowed.
VIRGINIA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession is a misdemeanor, and can attract a fine of $500 or more, depending on the amount.
WASHINGTON
Cultivation: Legal with conditions
Possession: Legal
Transportation: Legal
Sale: Legal with conditions

Possession of 24 ounces usable is allowed. Selling requires a license, while growing is allowed for medical reasons only. Those who are 21 years or older can possess up to 1 ounce on themselves.
WEST VIRGINIA
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Felony

Cannabis is illegal across the state. The sale of marijuana is considered a serious offence, and is equivalent to a felony.
WISCONSIN
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Illegal
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Growing, possessing, selling, etc., are all considered against the law.
WYOMING
Cultivation: Illegal
Possession: Misdemeanor
Transportation: Illegal
Sale: Illegal

Possession can attract a 1-year sentence and a fine of $1,000. Even being under the influence is punishable with a 90-day sentence and a $100 fine.
Interesting Facts
  • The first woven fabric produced around 7000 - 8000 BC was believed to be woven from dried hemp weed.
  • The Chinese used hemp seeds as food around 6000 BC. They even used it as a medicine to treat many health problems.
  • The Scythians, in 1500 BC, cultivated weed for weaving cloth, and left cannabis seeds as offerings to the royal tombs.
  • In the Hindu sacred text Atharva-Veda, cannabis has been named as one of the five sacred plants of India. It is used as an offering to Lord Shiva.
  • Around 500 BC, the euphoric properties of hemp plant was mentioned even in the Jewish Talmud.
  • Cannabis sativa was brought to America by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
  • President George Washington was known to grow hemp as his primary crop in 1797 at Mount Vernon. Hemp was grown as a secondary crop by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.
  • Britain banned the recreational use of marijuana in 1928.
  • The short-term effects of marijuana include memory loss, learning problems, distorted perception of sound, touch, and time, loss of motor coordination, increased heart rate, anxiety, and dry mouth and throat.
  • As of now, only Colorado and Washington have legalized the drug for recreational use.
It is to be noted that, off late, the laws regarding marijuana are changing continuously at a rapid pace in the United States. From the grid above, you can get a fair idea about list of states that have legalized weed. The state-wise regulations mentioned are true at the time of writing this piece, but will change from time to time.