Throughout early American history, marijuana use was legal under both federal and individual state laws. In fact, from 1850 to 1941, cannabis was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia as a recognized medicinal. By the end of 1936, however, all 48 states had enacted laws to regulate marijuana.
The federal government's first attempt to regulate marijuana, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, made possession or transfer of cannabis illegal throughout the U.S., but for medical and industrial uses. An excise tax was established for these permitted uses. In 1969, the Supreme Court held the Marijuana Tax Act to be unconstitutional. In 1970, with President Nixon's urging, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act placing marijuana in Schedule I -- the most restrictive of five categories for substances with "no currently accepted medical use" -- along with heroin, LSD, peyote and psilocybin (mushrooms). Drugs of abuse with recognized medical uses, including opium, cocaine and amphetamine, were assigned to Schedules II through V based on their potential for abuse.
Marijuana and Hemp Legislation
In November 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana use. Meanwhile, 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing for the medical use of marijuana. California led the way in 1996 when its voters passed Proposition 215, legalizing medical marijuana. This state-level activity may prompt greater interest in federal marijuana legislation. Already, nearly a dozen bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress.
- HR 1523 The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act: To amend Controlled Substances Act to provide for a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marihuana.
- HR 1635 Establishing the National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy.
- HR 784 The States' Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act: To amend the Controlled Substances Act so as to exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical-marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.
- HR 710 The Truth in Trials Act: To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide an affirmative defense for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States.
- HR 689 The States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act: To provide for the rescheduling of marijuana and for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States.
- HR 501 The Marijuana Tax Equity Act: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the taxation of marijuana.
- HR 499 The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act: To decriminalize marijuana at the Federal level, to leave to the States a power to regulate marijuana that is similar to the power they have to regulate alcohol.
- HR 525 The Industrial Hemp Farming Act: To amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marihuana. (And S 359.)
Congressional Research Service
Cross-posted from POPVOX.