Under federal law, marijuana is fully prohibited. But the national ban on weed hasn’t stopped many states from allowing marijuana possession and use in some form. In the past decade, nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational weed use, and only six states have no provision for some form of medical marijuana.
In addition to widespread legalization efforts, 13 states have taken a middle route, opting to decriminalize rather than legalize marijuana possession and use. In states that have decriminalized, marijuana is still prohibited, but getting busted with a small amount of weed will typically result in a slap on the wrist instead of a criminal conviction. Decriminalization allows states to prosecute marijuana dealers and traffickers without imposing criminal penalties on the consumer.
Here are the states where marijuana is decriminalized but not legalized:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
Despite marijuana’s questionable designation as a Schedule 1 drug — meaning that it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” — popular support for the drug has reached a fever pitch. A Pew Research poll in January found that 61 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal. Some politicians are running on explicitly pro-legalization platforms in the 2018 midterm elections.
Even though marijuana now enjoys mainstream support, the passage of national weed legislation in the near future seems unlikely. While a Republican Senator recently hinted that marijuana might be up for discussion soon, Congress has largely ignored the disconnect between state and federal policy for the last 21 years. Current Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also a staunch opponent of marijuana and in January rescinded an Obama-era policy that effectively allowed individual states to ignore the federal ban on marijuana.