Updated May 2020
The U.S. capital, despite being a city, has its own set of laws. Although the District of Columbia hasn’t led the way in regards to cannabis policy, Washington D.C. marijuana laws have established a comprehensive medical marijuana program and legalized recreational marijuana possession and use in certain situations. Learn more about Washington D.C. marijuana laws below.
Recreational Marijuana in Washington D.C.
Is marijuana legal in Washington D.C.? Yes. As of February 2015, the D.C. Council legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 years of age and older. Under the law, individuals can now possess up to two ounces without being arrested. In addition, people may also grow up to six plants in their homes for personal use.
It’s important to note, however, that Washington D.C. continues to prohibit public possession and the use of marijuana on federal land, which accounts for roughly 20% of the D.C. area.
Additionally, DC residents cannot buy or sell marijuana, but in May 2019, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the Safe Cannabis Sales Act with hopes of establishing safe regulations on the sale of marijuana in the District.
What Is Conditional Release and How Does it Relate to Washington D.C. Marijuana Laws?
A conditional release allows individuals who are facing their very first marijuana-related prosecution to choose to be under probation rather than have their case go to trial. After the completion of probation, the first-time offender will have the charge wiped from their criminal record.
In Washington D.C., all first-time marijuana offenders are allowed to opt for conditional release, giving them the opportunity to accept probation. This allows them to avoid going to trial, have any subsequent jail time, and pay a fine. Once they have successfully completed probation, the marijuana charge will no longer appear on their permanent record.
Hash Laws in Washington D.C.
Hashish (hash) is a substance made from the resin found in cannabis plants. Hash is extremely potent and can cause a user to feel very strong psychoactive effects. While the possession of hash is not a misdemeanor, it can come with up to 180 days of jail time and a $1,000 fine. If you are found manufacturing hash in Washington D.C., you can be sentenced to up to five years in jail and a $50,000 fine. However, manufacturing hash is still not a criminal act and does not come with any misdemeanor charges.
Marijuana Concentrate Laws in Washington D.C.
A marijuana concentrate is created by taking marijuana and removing any excess plant materials and residue that remains from the cannabis plant. The resulting concentrate is an extract that is highly potent and contains very high levels of THC. Similar to hash, possessing and manufacturing marijuana concentrate is not a misdemeanor, but comes with heavy fines and other penalties. The penalties for the possession and manufacturing of concentrates is identical to the penalties for possessing and manufacturing hash mentioned above.
Drugged Driving Laws in Washington D.C.
Even if you have legally acquired and used marijuana, there are no circumstances in which you are legally allowed to drive in Washington D.C. after consuming marijuana. Marijuana use can greatly impact your ability to safely navigate the road and operate motor vehicles, and because of this danger to yourself, anyone in your car, and anyone you share the road with, there is little tolerance for drugged driving. If you have recently used marijuana, Washington D.C. marijuana laws state that you should avoid drugged driving at all costs.
Washington D.C. Marijuana Laws Regarding Drug Paraphernalia
Drug paraphernalia is the name given to any items that are used in the consumption or ingestion of drugs, with the most popular examples of marijuana paraphernalia including pipes and bongs. Washington D.C. marijuana laws regarding drug paraphernalia are actually quite forgiving, as there is no penalty for the possession or sale of marijuana paraphernalia, as long as the individual is at least 21 years old.
Possession of paraphernalia for an individual under the age of 21 can result in a $100 fine and up to 30 days of jail time. Anyone found selling paraphernalia to somebody under the age of 21 or breaking any other paraphernalia selling laws is subject to six months in jail, and a $1,000 fine. Any subsequent offense can result in two years of jail time and a $5,000 fine.
Medical Marijuana in Washington D.C.
Medical marijuana was first legalized in Washington, D.C. in 1998 after voters approved the “Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998.” Despite its passing, the implementation of the program was delayed by Congress passing the Barr Amendment, legislation that prohibited D.C. from using funds to support a medical cannabis program. That amendment was eventually overturned in 2009, finally opening the door for legal medical cannabis purchases.
The District of Columbia’s City Council then unanimously approved the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment to legalize medical marijuana in 2010.
Several changes to the law have been made since it took effect. In 2014, the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee announced it would be adding new qualifying conditions and passed emergency legislation to lift restrictions on physicians to make it easier for patients diagnosed with conditions like PTSD and epilepsy to quality. In September 2016, Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a directive to double the amount of cannabis medical marijuana patients can purchase in a 30-day period to 4 ounces.
On November 1, 2016, the D.C. Council unanimously passed B21-0210 to allow registered nurses, physician assistants, dentists, and naturopathic physicians to recommend medicinal cannabis and to require that an independent laboratory test all marijuana. The bill also includes a provision that allows patients to purchase cannabis from any dispensary rather than being limited to one.
There are currently seven medical marijuana dispensaries and eight cultivation centers operating in Washington D.C. Licensing of dispensaries is operated by the Washington D.C. Department of Health. In August 2019, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that Washington, D.C. dispensaries would accept medical marijuana cards from any state in the U.S.
Medical marijuana can be approved for any debilitating condition as long as it is recommended by a DC licensed doctor.
Consumption of CBD from Hemp Oil in Washington D.C.
Hemp-derived CBD products are legal under Federal Law in the United States; however, individual state laws are dynamic and fluid. Individual states may enact their own laws governing hemp-derived CBD.
Cultivation of Cannabis in Washington D.C.
Under the District of Columbia’s recreational marijuana law, adults ages 21 years and older can personally cultivate up to six marijuana plants within their residence. In a home with multiple adults, residents can grow up to 12 plants, and six of those can be mature.
Legal Status of Other U.S. States
Stay up to date on the latest state legislation, referendums, and public opinion polls. Our Marijuana Legalization Map allows you to browse the current status of medical and recreational marijuana laws in other U.S. states and territories.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice. Although we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Therefore, any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk.
Is Cannabis Prohibition Unconstitutional? – CBD Testers
The United States prides itself on being a nation of social and economic freedom. As a matter of fact, these are some of our founding principles and fundamental rights. Numerous documents have been drafted over the years to make sure these liberties are never taken away from us; the most important being the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
These documents outline our inalienable rights and the responsibilities of a government that works for us to protect said rights. This all sounds amazing, but what happens when there is a major discrepancy between our legal rights and what we consider our intrinsic rights? Regarding cannabis, this is a question coming up with more regularity; because, if we are granted “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, why would something natural, non-toxic, and therapeutic – something that by all definitions, “makes us happy”, be prohibited?
Getting straight to the point here, is cannabis prohibition unconstitutional? Numerous industry advocates and legal experts are raising this question in the United States Supreme Court.
Weed legality is incredibly complicated and constantly changing. But one aspect of it that does not get challenged enough is whether cannabis prohibition is actually unconstitutional? Is banning cannabis, legal? Maybe focusing on our most important historical documents is the key to federal legalization. In the meantime, make sure to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter for deals on legal cannabis products, as well as all the latest news and industry stories. Also save big on Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!
The Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights
Now, let’s get back to these important documents. Earlier I touched briefly on the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, but I would be remiss not to discuss each in further detail. After all, they are undeniably our most valued government documents.
There are some obvious parallels between the three, starting with the fact that they all have a preamble – which are expressive, introductory statements. They were all written to ease civil unrest or general political turbulence. And most importantly, they all work together and play off each other to guarantee that our basic rights – which the founders believed came from God – are protected and that we, the people, have a way to hold our governing bodies accountable.
That said, there are some critical differences between these documents as well – in how they are written, their history, and the purposes they serve. The Declaration and Constitution were both drafted in what is now known as Independence Hall, by a congress and convention that met in 1776 and 1787, whereas the Bill of Rights was written two years later, in 1789, by a congress that met in Federal Hall in New York.
The Declaration was written almost entirely by Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison was the primary drafter of the Bill of Rights and Constitution, along with James Wilson. The Declaration was created as a rationale for breaking away from the oppressive British government; and the Constitution and Bill of Rights were constructed to establish a government that will defend our newly established freedoms, as per the Declaration of Independence. The Bill of Rights describes the rights and liberties of the American people, and the constitution details the government’s role in preserving these rights.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
Regarding cannabis, let’s focus more on the part about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. In that short statement, the preamble to the Declaration of Independence basically encompasses the entire theory of a democratic, American government.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
There are a few different interpretations of the “pursuit of happiness” segment, but there really are not very many ways to misconstrue that. Some describe it as the right to freely pursue anything joyous, as long as you live life in a way that is not violating the rights of another individual. Others take that definition one step further to include breaking the law as a barrier to “pursuing happiness”.
Arguably, cannabis makes most people happy… it does me for sure. My cannabis use doesn’t harm others or infringe upon anyone else’s rights; however, it is still illegal. But legality is just about as subjective as defining happiness. I mean, interracial marriage was once illegal in the US, and the only people allowed to work, vote, and own property were white men. Laws are often unjust and society is waiting on the right people to make waves, shake things up a bit, and abolish the old, archaic ways.
So, at this point, knowing the medicinal benefits of cannabis and how it functions in the human body; and taking into consideration that the level of intoxication and risk of adverse effects are both very low; how can the government justify prohibition anymore? If alcohol is legal, then yes, keeping cannabis illegal does seem to border on unconstitutional.
Liberty vs Personal Sovereignty
If you’ve been following any global cannabis news lately, you’ve likely noticed that some countries, like Mexico and South Africa, are pushing cannabis legalization through Supreme Courts using personal sovereignty clauses in their constitutions.
Personal sovereignty can be defined as follows: To be sovereign over one’s self is to be free of the control or coercion of others – to truly direct one’s own life.” Summed up, it’s the concept of self-ownership and governing one’s own body without interference from anyone else, including the government. This applies to legal/inalienable rights, body and health-related rights, and simply being the sole controller over your own body and life. Personal sovereignty is a central idea rooted in several different political ideologies including liberalism, libertarianism, and anarchism.
Many countries that have constitutional documents and supreme courts also have personal sovereignty clauses. What’s interesting is that even these “God-given” rights do vary based on your locality. So, what’s considered inviolable in one country might not be so in another country. That being said, no, the United States does not have a personal sovereignty clause in its constitution. The closest we get is that passionate preamble, which is not absolute and can be interpreted in different ways.
Because cannabis laws are relaxing all over the world and a greater number of large-scale studies are becoming available, it’s possible, theoretically, that the “pursuit of happiness” argument could hold up in court, but as of now, that has not happened yet.
NORML’s amicus brief
In an amicus curiae brief filed last year by a NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law) Legal Committee member David Holland, Esq., argued that the harsh federal scheduling of cannabis is unconstitutional because all three branches of our government (legislative, executive and judicial) have supported and promoted laws and policies that directly contradict the plant’s illegal status.
Holland said: “The Brief exposes a fundamental paradox – if cannabis is federally illegal for all purposes, and the three coordinate branches of federal government have acted to allow for cannabis businesses, then the federal government is nullifying its own law. Simply put, under the Constitution, something cannot be illegal and legal at the same time especially when it comes to state laws that conflict with federal laws. The only resolution to this constitutional conflict is for the Supreme Court to invoke the doctrine of estoppel to prevent the federal government from reversing course and retroactively penalizing that which it has protected in fostering state cannabis programs and effectively legalizing it.”
He added: “Federal precedent exists for the Court to invoke the doctrine and Attorney General William Barr has testified before Congress about his belief that it would be fundamentally unfair to penalize those who in good faith relied upon those government statements and policies because it would violate Due Process. Due Process and fairness are the very heart of the reasoning for the Court to invoke the doctrine of estoppel.”
Click here to read the full text.
What about Justice Clarence Thomas?
A sudden and unlikely proponent of cannabis legalization is Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative members. Thomas is challenging federal cannabis prohibition based on the government’s inconsistent policies and enforcement. He asked whether the federal government had the right to undermine state-regulated markets, and what to make of all their contradicting messages.
“Once comprehensive, the Federal Government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana,” Thomas wrote. “This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary.”
Thomas’ newfound views stem from a case brought against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by a medical cannabis dispensary in Colorado. They sued over a tax code that blocked cannabis retailers from claiming regular business deductions that other industries were able to do.
In 2009 and 2013, the Department of Justice issued memorandums instructing prosecutors to let cannabis businesses in legal states operate without interference. Additionally, congress passed a law in 2015 that completely prohibits the Justice Department to spend any money going after these legal operators. “Given all these developments, one can certainly understand why an ordinary person might think that the Federal Government has retreated from its once-absolute ban on marijuana,” Thomas wrote.
“If the Government is now content to allow States to act ‘as laboratories’ ‘and try novel social and economic experiments,’ then it might no longer have authority to intrude on ‘the States’ core police powers . . . to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens,’” he wrote. “A prohibition on intrastate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the Federal Government’s piecemeal approach.”
Jim Thorburn, the attorney who is representing the Colorado dispensary whose lawsuit Thomas commented on, believes there’s a way to legalize marijuana federally through the Supreme Court. “Justice Thomas is providing the roadmap to the end of Prohibition,” says Thorburn. “He’s trying to end the federal prohibition.” Thorburn believes that Thomas’ statement was a suggestion to attack Gonzales v. Raich head-on. “When he says this is straining the core of federalism, and calling Gonzalez v. Reich into question, whether the Court could support that case today—I think he’s suggesting that cannabis prohibition might be unconstitutional,” says Thorburn.
Conclusion – Is cannabis prohibition unconstitutional or not?
The fight for cannabis, Thorburn says, could very well be decided by the Supreme Court, similar to how marriage equality, abortion rights, and other social issues have been historically resolved. Only time will where that final push to legalization will come from, but looking at some of our oldest and most important government documents may hold the answer.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.
Is ‘Cannabis Odor’ Still Probable Cause for Searching Your Vehicle?
If you’ve been smoking weed for a long time, it’s highly likely you have found yourself in a scenario where you are getting searched by a police officer for one reason or another. One of the most daunting experiences for any stoner is getting pulled over with weed in the car; because as we know all too well, all a cop needs to do is simply claim that they “smell marijuana” in your vehicle and next thing you know you’re standing on the side of the road while they call for backup and tear your car apart looking for anything illegal they can find.
Is it fair? Of course not! But the more important question here is whether this age-old search tactic is legal or not, and if it will hold up in the court of law. The answer: it’s complicated and depends on where you are, who you ask, and the specifics of your situation. Police officers have relied on odor as probable cause for decades, and it was justified when cannabis was illegal across the board. But if you now live in a state where cannabis has been legalized, especially for recreational use, marijuana odor is no longer an ironclad reason to search without a warrant, because possessing it is not a crime in those states.
Cannabis laws in the USA can certainly be complicated, especially when it comes to knowing your own rights and how to protect yourself from unreasonable actions by law enforcement. We hope this article provides the insight you were looking for. To read more stories like this one, and for exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other products, remember to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter. Also save big on Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!
The 4th Amendment and Probable Cause
Citing the Constitution of the United States of America, the fourth amendment is as follows: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
It’s generally accepted that a warrantless search of someone’s home is unjust, but the extent to which a person’s vehicle is protected under this statute remains up for debate. Despite pretty clear-cut verbiage in the fourth amendment, there exists a clause known as the “automobile exemption”. The automobile exemption was first established in the 1925 supreme court case, Carroll vs The United States.
Simply put, the automobile exception states that, because automobiles can move quickly from one location to another – carrying contraband and evading law enforcement – it would be unrealistic to require officers to get a warrant before searching the car. In a state where cannabis is illegal, the smell of cannabis is enough to lead officers to reasonably believe that a crime is being committed.
One might assume that this exception means that police officers have unlimited access to search the cars of all citizens as they see fit, but that is NOT the case. There are stipulations and it’s important to know your rights whenever you’re on the road. “The automobile exception is not a categorical one that permits the warrantless search of a vehicle anytime, anywhere, including in a home or curtilage,” says Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
So again, there is a lot of ambiguity there because the conditions determining whether the automobile exception can be used vary dramatically from state to state, county to county, and even city to city. Then it comes down to if the person pulled over is even committing a crime, which depends on they much you have, whether they have a medical card or not, if something was left in plain sight, or if the officer was given permission to search the car, or if another crime was being committed.
States can always implement higher standards than what is required by the fourth amendment, to further protect residents from unlawful searches and seizures, but they cannot allow conducts that violate the constitution in any way. If one believes their fourth amendment rights have been violated, a bivens action can be filed against federal law enforcement officials.
Recent Ruling in Illinois
What sparked my renewed interest in this topic is a news report I read from the Chicago Sun Times, in which authorities pulled over a vehicle and conducted a warrantless search that led to the arrest of the vehicle’s passenger for cannabis possession.
According to the court order, an Illinois State Trooper pulled over a grey Chevy Impala on Interstate 88 in rural Whiteside County on December 3, 2020. During the process of requesting identification, the trooper stated that he smelled “raw cannabis”, at which point the passenger, defendant Vincent Molina, provided his state-issued medical cannabis card.
Notwithstanding, the police officer proceeded to search the vehicle. He found 2.6 grams of weed and Molina was arrested for misdemeanor possession. For obvious reasons this arrest is utter nonsense, starting with the fact that recreational cannabis was legalized in Illinois on January 1, 2020, almost a full year before Molina’s arrest. Additionally, Molina was not just a recreational user but a medical patient.
Molina’s defense lawyers, James Mertes and Nichalas Rude, filed a motion to suppress the evidence, saying “the cannabis odor could not be used as a basis for police to search vehicles after the recent legalization of cannabis.”
Associate Judge of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Daniel J. Dalton, agrees with his attorneys, and ruled that Molina, “…did not indicate any other reason for his suspicions or his search other than the smell of raw cannabis,” and that, “Molina did provide a medical use license to (the trooper) prior to the search of the vehicle and there are a number of wholly innocent reasons a person or the vehicle in which they are in may smell of raw cannabis.”
All in all, it’s a pivotal case for The Prairie State which helps determine what is considered probable cause and sets new standards for how officers will conduct future searches and seizures. “I am honored to have been part of such an important decision. This case was much more important than me,” Molina said. “It was about our right to be free from unreasonable searches for legal conduct. I am just grateful to have been a part of protecting that right.”
No Confusion in New York
New York is one of the few states that actually wrote into their legalization law, which passed in March 2021, that cannabis odor is can no longer be used by law enforcement as a sole legitimate reason to conduct a vehicle search.
Under the updated policy, the only time officers are permitted to search a vehicle (as it pertains to cannabis), is if they believe the driver is under the influence of weed, or if they physically see the driver smoking or vaping while operating a vehicle, or while sitting inside of a parked vehicle.
Additionally, “the trunk may not be searched unless the officer develops separate probable cause to believe the trunk contains evidence of a crime.” So, if you want to be extra careful in NY, make sure to keep your stash in the trunk.
“I don’t think any other state was as clear-cut in removing marijuana very clearly from the universe of things that law enforcement can use, and certainly the odor of marijuana, as a reason to search a vehicle,” said Melissa Moore, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.
Cases in Other States
In the other 18 states that have legalized cannabis, as well as Washington D.C., cases where cannabis odor was used as probable cause are still clogging up the court systems. Luckily for us, most of the court ruling have been in favor of the defendants.
For example, in Maryland, only medical cannabis is fully legal but possession of 10 grams or less for recreational use has been decriminalized since 2015. For reference, decriminalization means that even though cannabis is still not completely legal, it’s now a civil matter, rather than a criminal one, if you get caught with it. In April, an appellate court determined that “odor of marijuana by itself does not provide reasonable suspicion of criminal activity”.
In Colorado and California, the Supreme Courts throw out cases like this all the time, claiming there is no justification for searches or drug sniffing dogs to look solely for cannabis, now that it is legal in both of those states and possessing it is no different than having unopened containers of alcohol in your car.
In Michigan, another legal, adult-use state, the high court explicitly stated that “evidence of illegal guns and drugs should not be suppressed,” and that cannabis odor was “sufficient to justify a warrantless search.” Same goes for Florida, where only medical cannabis is legal but discussions of a recreational market are looming.
Rooted in Racism
As with many of our current drug laws, it’s safe to assume that there are some racist undertones to the way vehicle searches are often conducted. Statistics do exist to cement this theory, for instance, black residents make up 50 percent of the population of Newark, New Jersey, but were involved in roughly 80 percent of police department vehicle searches. Overall, policies that hinder automobile searches are supported by the nation’s most prominent civil rights activists.
“Police believe that if they stop more Black people, they’re going to pick up more drugs, because that’s what they’ve been taught,” said Meghan Matt, who works for a criminal defense and civil rights litigation attorney in Baton Rouge. “But it is statistically evident that Black and White people use marijuana at the same rate.”
Data from as far back as 1999 states that African American and Hispanic motorists are pulled over at rates much higher than whites, yet those searches are “equally or less likely to yield contraband.”
Kelsey Shoub, an assistant professor of political science at the University of South Carolina explored this theory further in her 2018 book, Suspect Citizens: What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tell Us About Policing and Race; which examined 14 years-worth of traffic stop data from North Carolina (not an error, research was not conducted in the same state as the University).
Shoub’s data was very telling and left little wiggle room to assume anything other than a systemic, racially-charged issue that seriously needs overhauling. Overall, black Americans where 63 percent more likely to be stopped on the road, even though they drive 16 percent less than whites. Taking into consideration that difference of time spent on the road, blacks where about 95 percent more likely to be stopped.
Furthermore, black Americans were 115 percent more likely to be searched during traffic stops than white Americans (5.05 percent for blacks and 2.35 percent for whites), BUT, contraband was found more often in the vehicles of white drivers.
“For me, there are a few big takeaways from the data, and the first two are probably not surprising,” says Shoub. “The first is that ‘driving while black’ is very much a thing; it’s everywhere and it’s not just a North Carolina or a Southern problem but across the United States,” Shoub says. “The second thing is that it appears to be more systemic than a few ‘bad apple’ officers engaged in racial profiling.”
Thoughts from Law Enforcement
“It’s an extraordinarily gray area,” said Mark Reene, prosecuting attorney for Tuscola County, Mich. “These are going to be decided very much on a case-by-case basis, and they’re going to be very fact-dependent. And what’s ultimately going to happen is this matter will end up in front of the United States Supreme Court.”
Because there is so little clarity on this subject, officers are increasingly reluctant to conduct vehicle searches, which means that potentially dangerous contraband is going unnoticed at a much higher rate. Making matter worse for law enforcement is the variation in laws, like different restrictions in different counties or only being able to search certain areas of the car – which makes it all the more confusing when an officer is working in the moment.
“It’s going to, without a doubt, lead to less searches of vehicles, which would then lead to less guns being recovered and significant drugs being recovered,” said Mary Tanner-Richter, vehicular crimes bureau chief in the Albany County district attorney’s office in New York. “I mean, I think it’s hard to argue against that being the reality we’re going to face.”
Tanner-Richter also mentioned that during her 16 years working for the state’s traffic safety division, she has seen a large portion of firearms and hard drugs confiscated during what started as routine traffic stops. Until now, her office encouraged police to utilize this search protocol whenever possible.
“That’s how they found Ted Bundy. That’s how the Oklahoma City bomber got caught. And quite often, that’s how they’re getting guns and drugs off the street,” she added. “They [police] are now losing a huge tool in their investigation of drugs and guns.”
Again, there is no clear-cut answer on whether cannabis odor can be used as probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle. It all depends on where you are, what products you have and how much, who pulls you over, and so forth. It does seem as though the odor excuse is carrying less weight as legalization sweeps through the nation.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.
Cannabis Laws in the USA: Which State Is the Most Progressive?
The USA is a complex place when it comes to cannabis legalization. It is both the most accepting and the least accepting, the most liberal and the least liberal, the most green and the least green. Due to the fact that each individual state in America has its own laws, cannabis legalization and prosecution are just miles apart from being radically different. And, to make it more confusing, there are 50 states. So that’s essentially 50 different laws on cannabis in one single country. However, some states in the US have shown themselves to be far more progressive than others. But, the question is, which state in America is the most progressive?
Cannabis laws in the USA can certainly be complicated, but we hope this article can help clear things up for you! For more stories like this one, and for exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other products, remember to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter. Also save big on Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!
United States of America
The USA is made up of 50 states, and within 13 of them cannabis is completely illegal, 37 of them only medicinal cannabis is legal, and in 18 of them cannabis is fully legal (including for recreational use). Medical cannabis legalization always comes before recreational legalization as it is evident that cannabis has medical benefits for many people with mental and physical problems. However, recreational cannabis is harder to legalize due to the fact that it revolves around using a drug for fun. Using cannabis for fun is a hard reason to legalize a substance, especially when research into cannabis is limited. However, the fact that 18 states in America have legalized recreational cannabis proves that the tides are shifting. When searching for the most progressive state in America for cannabis laws, it undoubtedly will come from one of the 18.
Where Cannabis is Illegal in the USA
Here is a list of all of the states in America where both medical and recreational cannabis is yet to be legalized. They, obviously, do not win the award for most progressive. But they still need to be mentioned.
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Where is Only Medical Cannabis Legal in the USA?
These are the states that have taken a step closer to cannabis legalization by allowing medical cannabis to be lawful. Whilst they aren’t the most progressive, they’ve shown an intent to be seen as cannabis-accepting states. This deserves recognition.
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
The States in America Where Recreational Cannabis is Legal
These states are the ones who have decided to go against the grain and legalize recreational cannabis, as well as, of course, medical too. These states are, by far, the most progressive in the USA. But which is the most progressive? Let’s find out.
Alaska legalized cannabis in 2014. It was the third state to fully legalize cannabis. Anyone over the age of 21 can possess cannabis and grow up to 6 plans. However, it is still illegal to consume the drug in public.
In 2020, Arizona passed a bill that legalized recreational cannabis for those over the age of 21, decriminalized it and banned it in public. It has a similar system to Arizona, but it took 6 extra years for it to do the same. There are currently 123 active weed dispensaries in the state of Arizona.
California legalized medical cannabis in 1996 and recreational cannabis in 2016. This state is probably the most popular cannabis-accepting state in America due to its beach lifestyle and chilled out attitude. Plus, there are around 4000 cannabis dispensaries in California, which leads to a big tourist culture. However, public cannabis consumption is still illegal.
Recreational cannabis was legalized in Colorado in 2012. The usual rules apply as with other states, and you cannot smoke cannabis in the streets. There are about 446 weed dispensaries in this state.
Connecticut legalized recreational cannabis in 2021. Now people are able to possess up to 1.5 grams of cannabis and 5 grams at home. Weed dispensaries are not yet open or flourishing, but they are expected to start in 2022.
In 2019, Illinois legalized recreational cannabis. Anyone over 21 can possess 30 grams of cannabis. Due to the fact that marijuana for personal use was only recently made legal, there are currently only 110 dispensaries in Illinois.
Maine legalized recreational cannabis in 2016. You can possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis, and grow 6 plants at a time. Despite becoming legalized in 2016, there are limited amounts of dispensaries in Maine.
Massachusetts legalized recreational cannabis in 2016. They allow for one ounce of bud in total (including at home and on you). There are around 689 weed dispensaries in this state.
Michigian legalized recreational cannabis in 2018. This state allows for 12 plants and up to 2.5 ounces in possession. Michigan has around 260 recreational weed dispensaries.
Montanga legalized recreational cannabis in 2021, and all effects will come into fruition in 2022. We won’t know how legalizing cannabis will affect that state until next year.
Nevada legalized recreational cannabis in 2016. It is illegal to consume it in a car or in public. However, you can grow up to 6 plants, or even 12 plants per household. It is legal to have up to 1 ounce of cannabis for yourself. There are currently only 65 weed dispensaries in the state.
New Jersey legalized recreational cannabis in 2020. Again, the amount of dispensaries are limited as cannabis legalization is still new in this state. The specific amounts and laws are unknown until we see how they work in practice in 2022.
New Mexico legalized cannabis in 2021. Another case of a US state with recent progressive laws towards cannabis acceptance. Bring on 2022!
New York legalized recreational cannabis in 2021. It is now legal to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis. Some say you can smoke cannabis outside in public easier in New York than any other state. Or, at least, almost as easy as a Californian beach. The amount of weed dispensaries in New York will become clearer in 2022.
Oregon legalized recreational cannabis in 2015. You are allowed up to 1 ounce in public and 8 ounces at home. You can also grow up to 4 cannabis plants. There are more than 660 weed dispensaries in the state of Oregon. Oregon technically has the most weed dispensaries per 100,000 people in America.
Vermont legalized recreational cannabis in 2018. Whilst it is legal to possess up to 1 ounce and grow up to 6 plants of cannabis, it is still illegal to sell or buy it. This is going to change in 2022 when weed dispensaries open.
Virginia legalized recreational cannabis in 2021. This new law will allow for anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis and grow 4 plants. The introduction of weed dispensaries will follow in 2022.
Last but by no means least, we have Washington. Washing legalized recreational cannabis in 2012; a long time ago in the grand scheme of things. Users can possess 1 ounce of cannabis, but are not allowed to grow recreational plants at home. There are only 103 cannabis stores in this state.
Which Is The Most Progressive?
Out of 50 states in America only 18 have taken the bold step to legalize both recreational and medical cannabis. Because of this, they should all be championed for their open cannabis policies. Because of them, hopefully, the rest of the states should follow suit in due course. However, there should also be acknowledgement of those states that legalized recreational cannabis earlier and took the first steps. These states created a watershed moment for the future of cannabis legalization. California has acted as a national, as well as international, advertisement for how cannabis legalization can be positive. In addition, Oregon, since 2015, has run with its new found cannabis-acceptance and opened up the most weed dispensaries (per capita) in the US. Both states deserve recognition as the most progressive states in America,
But what do you think? Which state do you believe to be the most progressive, in regards to cannabis legalization, in the USA?
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