Drugs & Health Blog

How Legal Is Marijuana?

Image by NIDA.

The NIDA Blog Team

Update: On November 7, 2018, voters in four states went to the polls to decide on changes to their marijuana laws:

  • Voters in Michigan legalized the sale and use of marijuana.
  • Voters in Utah and Missouri legalized medical marijuana.
  • North Dakota did not legalize recreational marijuana.

In total, 33 states and the District of Columbia have now passed laws legalizing marijuana in some form.

(Information is current as of November 7, 2018.)

Update: On Nov. 8, 2016, voters in eight states made changes to their marijuana laws, according to uncertified results. California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada legalized marijuana for adult recreational use. Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota legalized marijuana for medical use. The details of the laws and when they go into effect vary by state.

Original post, current as of Oct. 11, 2016:

There’s been a lot of talk in the U.S. lately about legalizing marijuana. Maybe you’ve heard stories in the news about some states that have legalized weed (or are debating whether to do that) and wondered, what does that mean for you?

Recreational marijuana

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: If you’re a teen, it’s never legal to use marijuana recreationally (that is, just to get high).

Marijuana is also still illegal under U.S. federal law, even in states that have passed laws to make it legal under state law.

Confused yet? Okay, so what about those state laws?

The District of Columbia and four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) allow adults to use marijuana recreationally. While the laws in these places vary, all of them prohibit people under the age of 21 from using marijuana recreationally.

Medical marijuana

Some research suggests that marijuana may have the potential to help treat some health conditions including pain, nausea, epilepsy, and others. But there hasn’t been enough research on the subject, and patients across the country are using marijuana strains and extracts that haven’t been fully tested or shown to be effective for their medical condition.

So far, 25 states and D.C. have passed laws to let people use marijuana with recommendations from their doctors (and sometimes by fulfilling other requirements, like having a medical marijuana license). The federal government has decided not to challenge those laws to any great extent. But people who buy marijuana in a state where it’s legal (for medicinal or recreational use) cannot take it across state lines into a state where it is not legal. So it remains a confusing issue.

Marijuana hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and that approval is necessary to grow and sell medicine in this country. But researchers are studying possible medical uses for marijuana and some of the chemicals it contains. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which enforces marijuana laws in the U.S., recently said it would increase the number of places allowed to grow the plant for research purposes in hopes of making it easier for more scientists to study marijuana.

So just to repeat, nothing in the law has changed for teens; using weed to get high is still illegal, wherever you live in the U.S. Depending on what scientists learn about marijuana’s value as medicine, it may (or may not) become legal for more people with certain health problems.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


one time i injected marijuana at a party and now im gay
you cant inject weed, it is a bud, you smoke it, its not an injectable
I'm pretty sure he's kidding...
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that wasnt marijuana sir..sorry to say
i put molly in my lean
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i snorted a weed once and now my left leg is inside out
Thanks for the info
weed...not even once
facts says that every year are being killed by drugs #i need a doctor
# i need a doctor
# drug free
frickkkkkkkkeeeennnnnn liiiiiiiitttttttttyyyyyyyyyyy
What if I drink weed
Avi rules
i injected weed a couple months ago and turned into a rasta jellyfish from sharktales for 3 days
you mean coupons
hi mrs debetta
Ciao non inglese
mrs debetta asks us to behave mature then proceeds to treat us like 3 year olds
i am depressed

Hi Juana, if you are depressed, please reach out to a friend or trusted adult, or contact one of the great resources listed here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/lifeline-where-to-get-help-when-yo...

Ciao mio non parlo inglese
aw thats cool, hello health class
hey :D
Boi no one do drugs your way litter without it
A weed killed my plant once.
thanks for the facts this helped me learn a lot thank you.
nobody cares
that is some good info
lol same
florida ayee
I am Lonely
DOnt use drugs
Are there now studies that link marijuana use to cancer?

A few studies have shown a clear link between marijuana use in the teen years and increased risk for an aggressive form of testicular cancer. Whether there is a link between marijuana smoking and lung cancer is unclear. More research is needed in this area.

"But people who buy marijuana in a state where it’s legal (for medicinal or recreational use) cannot take it across state lines into a state where it is not legal." That's a lame excuse.
I smoked 3 marijuana and now my brother is a cerial rapist and my mom eats pretzels off the floor. DAAAMMNNN YOU MARIJUANA
Holy shizzle you need help


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