Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, and the Law

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I know I’m late to this one, but what’s going on with marijuana these days? I understand that it’s legal in a lot of states now, but I don’t totally understand how these laws are working and what the marijuana is actually being used for. I’m particularly curious about medical marijuana, because it seems strange to me that some states would consider a plant to be medicine while other states would consider the same plant to be a bad drug.

Experts, what can you tell me about medical and recreational marijuana? Can you explain the different laws to me and why the states don’t agree? Is marijuana really good medicine? Thanks in advance for your help!

Marijuana has a long and complicated history, but some simple truths exist about it. One is that marijuana gets users high; another is that marijuana has powerful medicinal properties. The medical uses for marijuana are real indeed.

Marijuana’s complicated legal history made things tough on scientists and doctors for a long time. It was difficult to legally research marijuana’s medicinal properties, even though scientists and doctors had good reason to expect marijuana to be a gold mine of medicines (many of these research hurdles exist to this day). Slowly but surely, the scientific findings trickled out: Marijuana could help stop seizures, ease pain, help people with anxiety, and do much more. Furthermore, marijuana’s active ingredients — called “cannabinoids” — could actually be extracted from the plant. A cannabinoid called CBD, for instance, could be isolated. And since CBD has impressive medical benefits and is not psychoactive (that is, it won’t get you high), extracting it seemed like a good idea.

People caught on as they read the research. States that were weighing legalizing marijuana for medical reasons found that their residents supported the measure. From early on in marijuana’s slow march to legalization, a gap grew between the number of people who supported the legalization of marijuana for medical use and the smaller group of people who supported marijuana’s legalization for recreational use. Even now, while most Americans support fully legal recreational marijuana (57 percent), an even larger group supports legal medical marijuana (85 percent).

Medical marijuana is now legal in 30 states — a larger number than offer legal recreational marijuana (nine states have legalized recreational marijuana, though one of those states — Massachusetts — has yet to actually license a legal recreational dispensary to go with its numerous medical marijuana dispensaries).

In states with legal medical marijuana, patients need to meet certain requirements to get their marijuana and marijuana-based medicines. That usually means a prescription. There are certain exceptions, though: CBD products (which, again, are not psychoactive and will not get you high) are sold as health and lifestyle products without any legal hurdles in many states. But by and large, say medical marijuana lawyers in California, medical marijuana is carefully regulated. New businesses hoping to get into the growing marijuana industry need to team up with specialized lawyers to make sure that they stay on the right side of the myriad regulations and laws related to medical marijuana. Medical and recreational marijuana, in states where both are legal, are considered separately by different sets of laws and, in many cases, are sold by different dispensaries.

Marijuana is still illegal in plenty of states, and some states even still ban medical marijuana. The federal government has not yet rolled back its own anti-marijuana laws, though it has shown relatively limited willingness to enforce such laws in states where marijuana is legal. But marijuana’s increasing legality seems to be a trend, and states like New Jersey and New York are weighing their options. Marijuana is here to stay, and the marijuana industry seems destined only to expand as more and more states and countries legalize the drug. That’s good news for many people, especially those who can be helped by the powerful medicinal properties that marijuana offers.

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