As a result of the state-by-state exit from full cannabis prohibition in the last four decades, beginning with Oregon’s decriminalization in the 70s, there has been a lack of uniformity across the country. The United States has four stances toward cannabis within its borders: prohibition, decriminalization, medical cannabis, and personal use cannabis.
- Prohibition entails total illegality with criminal and financial penalties.
- Decriminalization is usually the great reduction–i.e. a small fine, no record–,or removal, of penalties. (Those caught may still have a record in some states with “decrim” laws passed in the 70s.)
- Medical cannabis allows patients with a doctor’s recommendation to obtain cannabis by growing their own, asking a caregiver to grow for them, or buying at a dispensary.
- Personal use cannabis resembles the alcohol system in which anyone age 21 or older can participate. (Each state has its own possession limits, tax structures, rules about home growing, etc.)
The current U.S. climate as it relates to cannabis is one of legal and regulatory uncertainty, which we detail throughout this Starter Kit. Some examples: agitation of Alzheimer’s is considered a valid condition in some medical cannabis states, but not others. In most states, patients simply need a doctor’s recommendation, while in Illinois they must also undergo a background check–a process not required of other medications. In most states, the medical cannabis program is housed under the department of health, but in Vermont, for example, it is under the Criminal Information Center alongside the sex offender registry. Speaking of registries, patients are required to register in some states, like New Jersey, but not in others, like Washington (depending on who you ask, a registry can be seen as protection from arrest, or as an invasion of privacy).