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 recreational use.
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 mitigating harm.
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 considered separately.
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.