A Brief History of the Legalization of Marijuana in the United States

A Brief History of the Legalization of Marijuana in the United States

(Woahstork) – 1906- Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Food & Drug Act, which formed the FDA. The FDA is now responsible for regulating marijuana. In this same year, the Pure Food & Drug Act is passed which requires any product containing a drug, including cannabis, to be correctly labeled.

1913- California becomes the first state to ban the sale of Marijuana

1914- The Harrison Narcotics Act is passed which taxes all persons involved in the manufacturing, distribution, or sale of coca or opium

1916- New York, Maine, and Massachusetts ban the sale of Marijuana

The 1920s- Mexican immigrants migrate to the U.S., and they bring recreational cannabis with them. Use of the marijuana increases and becomes associated with the Mexican population. Marijuana receives a bad stigma because of this. Anti-drug campaigns were aimed at crimes committed by the Mexicans and linked the crimes to marijuana.

1930- The Federal Bureau of Narcotics is established and its job is to enforce the Harrison Act. Harry Anslinger is appointed the head of the bureau; he seeks to make all recreational drug use a crime.

1931- The list of states outlawing marijuana increase to 29.

1936- Reefer Madness is released. A horrible and inaccurate representation of how marijuana affects people. Causes many people to believe that marijuana is bad for you.

1937- The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 made the possession and sale of marijuana illegal except for a few medical reasons and at the cost of extremely high tax rates.


1951- The Boggs Act was enacted which created mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses. First offense marijuana possession could result in a minimum sentencing of 2-10 years and a $20,000 fine. These acts were later repealed in 1970.

1956- Narcotic Control Act lists marijuana as being as dangerous as heroin

1960’s- Marijuana uses spikes amongst the younger “hippie generation”. Use becomes widespread amongst the upper white middle class.

1970- NORML is founded by lawyer Keith Stroup. The Controlled Substances Act is passed which classifies drugs into four categories based on harm and seriousness of the offense. Marijuana is listed as Schedule 1 which is the worst classification. It remains there to this day.

1972- It is estimated that 24 million Americans had used marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is founded.

1973- Oregon becomes the first state to decriminalize marijuana.

1978- Alaska, California, Colorado, and Ohio decriminalize marijuana.

1980’s- Ronald Reagan becomes president, and there is a reported marijuana-related arrest every 38 seconds. The “War on Drugs” escalates as do Anti-Drug campaigns.

1988- The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 is passed. Life without parole becomes the mandatory minimum for third-time drug offenders.

1996- Voters in California passed Prop 215, allowing the use of medical marijuana.

1998- Medical marijuana becomes legal in Washington.

1999- Use of medical marijuana legalized in Maine and Oregon

2005- The Supreme Court allows the federal ban of marijuana. Allows Congress to prohibit and prosecute medical marijuana even in the states where it is legal.

2010- Recreation use is voted “No” in California

2000-2011- More than 11 states vote to decriminalize marijuana for medical use.

2012- Washington and Colorado became the first two states to legalize recreational use and sale of marijuana to adults.

2013- The Justice Department says that it will not interfere with state laws.

2014- Alaska and Oregon legalize the recreational sale and use of marijuana.

2015- Recreational sales, use, and harvesting are voted down in Ohio.

2016 – See the results of the 2016 election here


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.