In the United States
, the non-medical
use of cannabis
is decriminalized in 13 states (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands
), and legalized in another 10 states (plus the District of Columbia
and Northern Mariana Islands
), as of November 2018. "Decriminalization" refers to a policy of reduced penalties for cannabis offenses, typically involving a civil penalty
for possession of small amounts (similar to how a minor traffic violation is treated), instead of criminal prosecution or the threat of arrest. In jurisdictions without any penalties the policy is referred to as legalization, although the term decriminalization is sometimes broadly used for this purpose as well.
The movement to decriminalize cannabis in the U.S. emerged during the 1970s, when a total of 11 states decriminalized (beginning with Oregon
in 1973). The findings of the 1972 Shafer Commission
helped provide momentum to these efforts, as did the 1976 election of President Jimmy Carter
(who spoke in favor of decriminalization and endorsed legislation to federally decriminalize). By the end of the decade the tide had turned strongly in the other direction, however, and no state would decriminalize again until 2001.
Efforts to legalize cannabis in the U.S. included a number of ballot initiatives
leading up to 2012, but none succeeded. In 2012, success was finally achieved when Washington
became the first two states to legalize. In 2014 and 2016 several more states followed, and in 2018 Vermont
became the first to legalize through an act of state legislature
. All jurisdictions that have legalized allow for the commercial distribution of cannabis, except Vermont and the District of Columbia. All allow for personal cultivation, except Washington state. Read more...