Background: Issues related to the legalization of cannabis have
significantly increased over the past 25 years. Federal policy has become minimally
more flexible but essentially maintains marijuana’s dangerous drug status. Myriad
laws and regulations characterize the legal status of cannabis across the US and
internationally. Contradictory laws and regulations across states result from a lack
of coherent federal policy, thus leaving states to address public health, cannabis
industry and consumer pressures. Research prohibition has made public policy
development difficult and informed by inadequately supported, restricted science.
Objective 1. Consider key issues related to cannabis legalization and distinctions
between gradients to access for medical purposes, decriminalization or adult
Objective 2. To consider the status of cannabis legalization on a state and global basis.
Objective 3. Consider implications of cannabis legalization and avenues for
Methods: A review of the background to cannabis legalization intends to provide
insight into cannabis’ current legal status and options being considered for
advocacy and policy development. The three major classifications of legalized
marijuana are detailed; cannabidiol or hemp and synthetic cannabinoids are
Results: The status of cannabis within the US and globally has often been
discordant with reality and science, and rigid with pressures to effect change. The
diversity of state and international laws is significant, even within the same
designation into one of the three major classes or cannabidiol.
Conclusion: Science-based standardized federal and state laws and regulations to
meet the special needs of adolescents and emerging adults must be pursued.