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Cannabis Legality In The US

As more states begin to legalize Cannabis in different ways, there are some questions as to what constitutes legal when it comes to Cannabis and the various industries. With no federal guideline at the current moment, it’s up to the states to dictate what is allowed in each state.

By standard definitions, there are considered three degrees of legalization across the 50 states and US territories: Those with full commercialization, those with legal medical cannabis and those that currently forbid it. In more detail they are as follows:

First degree Commercial states: This tier is for those who have commercialized adult recreational use and medical markets. Whether through legal rulings or voter agreement, these states have commercial markets in place or are beginning the process of establishing them. Sixteen states, including recently legalized Virginia, are in this category. Many states, such as Colorado, California and Michigan had established medical cannabis markets before establishing a commercial market.

Second degree Medical States: Second-degree states and territories are places that have legalized, implemented, or established implementation dates for medical marijuana programs, which provide broad patient access to marijuana for the treatment of multiple medical conditions. Second-degree programs vary enormously but, generally, second-degree states and territories permit patients at a minimum, to possess and use medical marijuana. Almost all states follow the California model, initially starting out with medical use programs and then, after a period of years, progressing into coexisting first-degree adult use programs.


Third degree Severely Limited Access (SLA) states: Contrary to popular belief, most states that supposedly are illegal are in fact severely limited in what is defined as legal and who can use it, primarily university and lab programs with some very limited patient programs. Otherwise, they are illegal to sell and distribute. 11 states, including Texas and South Carolina fall under this SLA banner.


Fully illegal states: Three states, Nebraska, Kansas and Idaho and the territory of America Samoa fall under this label. They are illegal across every facet of their jurisdiction, roughly affecting about 7 million people. Even in these states, the tide seems to be turning in the favor of legalization with legal framework in the planning stages or in measures that are currently stalled.[1]


Despite the states increasing their acceptance of Cannabis, it remains illegal at a federal level, resulting in several legal issues as it pertains to taxes and transportation. Each state also has different rules for legalization, so when conducting business you should always consult with experienced lawyers.