December 12, 2023

Legal Weed States: A Close Look At The Legalization Of Cannabis

In the last decade, the conversation about cannabis and its potential benefits or drawbacks has taken the center stage in discussions on public health, public policy, and social justice. Currently, the legality of marijuana varies enormously across the U.S. This article provides an overview of the legal weed States and considers the implications of legalizing the use of cannabis and where cannabis medicines fit into the bigger picture.

Marijuana Legalization in the United States

Over the years, public opinion and laws regarding marijuana have shifted dramatically. As of 2021, marijuana is legal for adult use in 15 states and Washington D.C. It is also medically legal in 36 states. Among those, the pioneers in legalization movements were Colorado and Washington, legalizing recreational marijuana use in 2012, marking a significant shift in drug policy.

Implications of Legalization

The decision of each of these ‘legal weed states’ has implications beyond simply allowing people to use marijuana freely. There are potential economic, social, and public health impacts to be considered. For example, a study of Colorado by Vicente Sederberg found that in 2020, the state accrued $2.2 billion in marijuana sales. Major positive economic contributions come in the form of job creation and tax revenue.

The social implications are also significant. Calls for marijuana legalization often cite racial disparities in drug convictions. Data from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reveals that despite similar usage rates across races, black individuals were nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. Legal weed states can potentially reduce these racial disparities by decriminalizing its use.

Medical Marijuana and Cannabis Medicines

The conversation around marijuana is not limited to recreational use — medicinal marijuana plays an equally important role. Cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids that have been shown to relieve symptoms of certain medical conditions. As such, 36 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Cannabis medicines can help manage the pain from diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, curb nausea from chemotherapy, and stimulate appetite in AIDS patients.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of cannabis medicines is their use in pediatric patients. For instance, some parents have reported the successful use of cannabis in treating their children’s severe forms of epilepsy. However, its use in children is still heavily debated due to potential harmful effects on neural development.

Federal Law Vs. State Law

Despite the widespread legalization at the state level, it is crucial to note that on a federal level, marijuana remains an illegal Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This causes a confusing dichotomy and poses various challenges, particularly around banking and tax rules for marijuana-related businesses.


As societal perspectives on marijuana change, we are likely to see more legal weed states in the future. This could lead to increased research opportunities, potentially leading to the development of innovative cannabis medicines. However, it’s crucial that legalization is accompanied by well-thought-out policies to maximize benefits and mitigate potential negative impacts on public health and social disparities.