Legal Issues Surrounding Marijuana Possession In The United States

Marijuana remains one of the most divisive and discussed drugs in the Western world. That is even before the issue of legality is introduced as different countries adopt contrasting approaches to the substance.


From Portugal and Canada on one hand who have embraced a model of legalization to the United States and others that have classified the drug as illegal, there are conflicting perceptions as to the public dangers and benefits that are sourced through these policies.


Some understand that there are benefits to regulation and taxing of a drug that is already in wide use across the country. Others believe that criminalization is the best course to act as a deterrent.


Whatever perspective marijuana is seen from, there is no doubt that the United States is a country that is evolving and transitioning away from a zero tolerance policy. However, there are ongoing legal challenges and stipulations that must be identified for the sake of citizens, police officers and attorneys alike.

Felony Possession Charges


There are certain states where possession alone can be classified as a felony and the penalty can be severe. Consider Tennessee, Florida, Arizona and Oklahoma in particular when it comes to law enforcement’s view on the substance. Arizona in particular is known as taking the most hardline stance against the drug possible whereby citizens caught with marijuana can face a felony charge completely in isolation from circumstantial evidence.

Legal Possession States


As of 2018, there are ten states where smoking marijuana is legalized. This includes Washington D.C., Alaska, Colorado, Maine, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon and Vermont.



The notion of decriminalization does not make marijuana legal in the purist sense of the word, but it works to end the process of prohibition. As well as those ten states that makes the drug legal in terms of possession, there are others including Minnesota, Mississippi, New Orleans,, Illinois, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Maine, Connecticut and Maryland where the penalties are far less severe.

Medical Use


For states as territories such as New Jersey, Hawaii, Louisiana, North Dakota, Michigan, Montana and Arkansas, marijuana is open for those that can access a medical certificate. In is in the event that the citizen is suitable for use during a form of debilitating illness.

Ongoing Discussion


There is no question that the subject of marijuana will be an ongoing debate for different states to discuss over the course of time. Classifications will change and be debated as social behaviors and perspectives are altered.