The legalization of marijuana is advancing throughout the United States at an unprecedented rate. Currently, 29 states have legalized medicinal marijuana, and 8 states or territories have legalized recreational marijuana for adults. Over 21 years old with varying degrees of regulation and restrictions on access. Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014. Alaska and Washington followed in 2014, with Oregon (initiated for a 2017 ballot measure). California legalized recreational marijuana in 2015. The District of Columbia has decriminalized recreational marijuana since 2014. In 2016, the state of Vermont also voted to legalize cannabis for all adults over 21 years old.
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Legalization is approaching quickly, and if you live within one or more of these states, you can now legally buy and sell marijuana at a medical dispensary or recreational store.
Is Marijuana Legal at The Federal Level?
Nope! Federal law still prohibits all possession, sale, and cultivation of marijuana plants and marijuana seeds. The Justice Department (DEA, etc.) usually takes a hands-off approach to state-legal cannabis operations. But the current administration is still unpredictable. You probably won’t see federal officers raiding dispensaries anytime soon.
Even though you reside in a state where marijuana is currently federally illegal, it is important to know that most states have laws concerning marijuana (possession, distribution, cultivation) that are more lenient than those of the federal government.
What is Medical Marijuana?
Medical Marijuana, or “medicinal marijuana,” is cannabis used to treat symptoms of an illness or other conditions. It is a healthy substitute for prescription medications, often much more dangerous and addictive than marijuana. Medical Marijuana may not immediately cure a disease, but it can help reduce chronic pain and nausea resulting from many illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and epilepsy.
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The potential medicinal benefits of cannabis are many. They include, but are not limited to:
1. Pain Relief
There is a lot of proof that marijuana helps reduce pain. Many of the world’s most prominent medical journals and organizations have shown marijuana’s ability to reduce pain, from muscle spasms to cancer pains. In one study, an Israeli researcher concluded that patients treated with cannabis were more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms.
2. Sleep Disorders
Cannabis has been utilized for ages as a safe and natural sleep aid. The U.S. National Institute of Health published a study that states that “Smoking marijuana before bedtime was associated with better sleep and fewer awakenings in the night.”
Medical Marijuana can be an effective treatment for nausea, one of the most common symptoms suffered by those dealing with chronic illness, and around 50% of cancer patients have admitted to using it, says the American Cancer Society.
Glaucoma is the top cause of blindness for the elderly. Marijuana can help reduce pressure inside the eye and prevent the damage that comes with it. It has also been proven to have neuroprotective effects when it comes to treating brain diseases.
5. Appetite Stimulant
It is the most common reason why people use cannabis. Although it is still not well understood, it may be an effective pain reliever and sleep aid, as well as a natural appetite stimulant. The amount of marijuana a person can safely consume depends on their tolerance level.
Marijuana for Recreation
Recreational marijuana is used by people who are of legal age to buy and consume it. Although originally intended as a safe recreational alternative to alcohol, many people use it for the exact opposite reasons. The high that comes from smoking marijuana can be highly addictive and can negatively affect a person’s daily life, as well as their health in the long run.
You keep it in mind if you decide to use it recreationally. You should use it in moderation and keep close tabs on your health. Stay updated with the most recent laws, as they are always changing.
Do You Need a License to Use Marijuana?
Once marijuana is legalized for recreational use, a state may decide to regulate this area further. Some states require users to get a card, but these are usually not required and are not considered an “official” response. In Washington and Colorado, the state laws do not legalize the cultivation or sale of marijuana; they only legalize the possession of those plants. In Washington, D.C., however, marijuana is legal for recreational and medicinal purposes, but only through a license.
Marijuana and Crime
When marijuana is illegal, it has been used by criminal organizations to generate huge sums of money with minimal risks. The drug’s framework is often dangerous, and its networks are extremely organized. When marijuana is legalized, the risk associated with selling or growing marijuana becomes negligible and quite low. It has a positive impact effect on violent crimes related to the drug trade. For example, in Colorado, there was a 10.4% drop in violent crime from 2013 to 2014 following the legalization of marijuana in 2012.
Marijuana and Tourism
The legalization of recreational marijuana has positively affected the tourism industry, as many people are now considering visiting places where they can legally use it. Marijuana legalization in Colorado brought in over $58 million in 2015 alone.
Marijuana and the Economy
In states like Colorado and Washington, marijuana’s legalization has positively affected overall state economies. For example, Colorado’s economy grew by 6.2% during the first year of legalization alone and is predicted to continue increasing as the industry continues to grow.
As research and study of marijuana continue to advance, its positive effects on society and the economy will become more apparent. Cannabis should not be looked at as a gateway drug or as a drug used simply for recreation. It should be seen as a natural alternative to prescriptive other medicines, which have proven to be much more dangerous and addictive.