Overview of U.S. Medical Marijuana Law

While cannabis continues to be classified as a Schedule 1 substance and is therefore illegal federally, states are allowed to adapt their own legislation. Marijuana laws vary state-by-state.

Medical Marijuana States

Currently, 28 states allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana. California was the first to allow medical use of marijuana with the passing of Proposition 215 in 1996. Since then, several additional states have adopted medical marijuana legislation, including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also allow medical marijuana use. The diseases and conditions for which marijuana can be prescribed vary by state.

Sixteen states have adopted limited access marijuana product laws, allowing only therapeutic cannabis that is low in THC and high in CBD. These states include Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Restrictions and the diseases and conditions for which the high CBD oil can be used to treat vary by state.

Recreational Marijuana States

Eight states, including Alaska, California, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Washington, as well as Washington D.C. have passed ballots legalizing recreational marijuana. The amount you can possess at one time, however, varies between the states.

Cannabis Cultivation Laws

Seven states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Oregon, allow for home cultivation for recreational use of marijuana. Adults in Washington D.C., can also possess plants for recreational use. How many plants an adult can cultivate varies state-by-state.

Thirteen states allow qualified medical marijuana patients or their primary caregivers to cultivate plants. These states include Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota (living 40 or more miles away from a dispensary), Rhode Island and Vermont. The number of plants one can cultivate varies by state.

A provision within the 2014 federal Farm Bill gave permission for universities and state departments of agriculture to cultivate industrial hemp for limited purposes. Since then, at least 30 states have enacted laws to establish commercial or research-purpose industrial hemp programs. At least 15 states so far have adopted statutes allowing commercial industrial hemp, including California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. Several states have established laws allowing industrial hemp farming for research purposes. These states include Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Washington and Utah. Two states (Connecticut and Missouri) have passed laws legalizing hemp to allow individuals to cultivate hemp.

Legalization of CBD from Hemp Oil

The Food and Drug Administration of the United States considers hemp oil, which contains CBD, to be a dietary supplement and therefore it is legal to import, sell, purchase and consume hemp oil in all 50 states.


State Laws. (n.d.). NORML. Retrieved from http://norml.org/laws.

State Medical Marijuana Laws. (2015, October 16). National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx.

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