Drugs & Health Blog

How Legal Is Marijuana?

Image from the National Cancer Institute. A map shows the U.S. states and territories that had approved the medical use of cannabis prior to the 2016 elections.

The NIDA Blog Team

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.


a comment
I inhale meme
Ayyyy mann we beeen smokin de spliff all de night mann
loik at dee i am coinfused what is the purpose of marrowana

We're sorry to hear about your struggles and appreciate you reaching out to us. As a federal scientific research agency, we are unable to provide medical advice, so please contact a doctor if you have concerns. If you feel you are in crisis, please have someone drive you to the emergency room or call 911. You can get information about drug abuse treatment programs at https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/. If you aren't sure what to do or just want to talk to someone, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

What the heck is an "marijuana"?

You can read more about marijuana on our Drug Facts page: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana

one time i did some of them mawana and i turned into a 43 year old single dad who eats rice
One time I snorted some herion and it made my pet fish Larry die. RIP Larry
This article is super broccoli friendly!
Very lit
good responses
Federal law beats state law, I proved that in 1865 boi
My dad abuses me and ties me to poles in the basement

Please talk to an adult you trust such as a teacher, counselor, coach, or pastor. They can help you figure out what to do.

what is crack plz

Crack is a form of cocaine. You can read more here: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/stimulants

I smoked the marijawanas now I'm fat and sad.
Supposedly some scientifics say that marijuana kills your neurons, so how is that supposed to help you to treat health conditions if in the other hand is going to kill your neurons?

We know little about the medical effects of marijuana and more research is needed. Marijuana has been used to treat lots of health conditions, but for most of these health conditions there is almost no data regarding whether it really works. But research is telling us a lot about the negative consequences of marijuana use and its impact on the brain, body, and behavior. Marijuana use among adolescents, among other things, is linked with poor concentration, memory, and ability to learn new information. So, from a health perspective, there is no evidence to support adolescent use of marijuana for health conditions but lots of evidence of its negative impact. Despite those negative effects, there is no evidence that marijuana kills neurons.

For more information on marijuana see: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana and https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/medical-marijuana-its-complicated

these comments lol
i don't think marijuana should be legal in any state ever.
dont do drugs they are bad for you
last time i injected the devils lettuce i died
I'm depressed

Hi there, we're sorry to hear this. If you want to talk to someone, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

dont do drugs
I do not think Marijuana should become legal in the US because that is just asking to cause more harm to your body and once you get addicted it could take over and kill you.
WHY don't do drugs never .
Marijuana isn't very addictive, right?

Actually, yes, marijuana can be addictive. Someone who regularly uses marijuana may continue to use it despite negative consequences in their life. Approximately 10 percent of users may develop what is called a marijuana use disorder—problems with their health, school, friendships, family or other conflicts in their life. A serious substance use disorder is commonly called an addiction. This means a person can’t stop using marijuana even though using it gets in the way of daily life. People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder.


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