Where is cannabis currently legal?

It is clear that the writing is on the wall for cannabis prohibition. Today, some form of legalized cannabis exists in almost all of the 50 United States of America. It is also federally legal in Cannabis, federally decriminalized in Mexico, and there are numerous countries around the world that are developing their own adult use and medical cannabis markets. There are currently multiple bills in consideration by the US Congress that would effectively legalize and regulate cannabis at the federal level, although there is no clear timeline for bringing them to a vote or enacting the laws once approved.

What is the difference between decriminalization, medical legalization, and adult use legalization?

Decriminalization generally means that cannabis is no longer illegal to possess or consume on private property, although there may be an upper limit to what each individual may possess at a given time. In some markets, decriminalization also means that individuals can grow their own plants, although in most decriminalized markets it remains a crime to grow, sell, or distribute.

Medical legalization generally involves creating a private market that citizens may access by receiving a doctor’s referral to use cannabis for one of any number of qualifying conditions. The qualifying conditions are generally defined by market regulators, and some states keep access to cannabis limited to patients who are suffering from severe conditions like cancer while other states grant access to a wider variety of conditions like chronic pain, PTSD, or insomnia. When medical markets are broad enough in scope, they often lead to the production of some of the best cannabis products in existence — because medical producers tend to be driven more by a desire to produce the highest-quality medicine as opposed to generating the highest profit.

Adult use legalization means that cannabis is available for purchase to anyone over the age of 21 (or the age established by market regulators) at specific retail locations licensed by the government. Adult use markets have taken many forms, with some closely mimicking the medical cannabis markets that predated them, while others more closely replicate the regulatory structure and supply chain for alcohol — with production, distribution, and retail classified separately. Depending on how an adult use market is regulated, opportunities for independent business owners and entrepreneurs may be plentiful or they may be virtually nonexistent.

In general, keeping a legalized market open to a larger number of competing licensees (with a high cap or no cap on licenses at all) is the best way to encourage brands to produce high-quality products, and the best way to foster local economic growth in communities impacted by the Drug War.

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