Five Cannabis Laws That Apply to Most US States

Ruth Lemon
Ruth Lemon - VP of Operations

Jul 04 2019 - 5 min read

Cannabis is a plant that is as both a medicine and for recreational purposes. However, being a Schedule I substance, possession of cannabis and use for any purpose becomes illegal under federal law. Nevertheless, at the state level, the laws regarding the use of cannabis greatly varies and conflict with federal laws. For this reason, before using it at any one time, it is essential to understand some of the basic laws about cannabis that operate in the state where you are. This will help you conform to such regulations and avoid getting into trouble with the authorities.

Weed; cannabis; hemp; marijuana; growing.
By MasterTux. Source

Below are five laws in the united states about cannabis that you need to know to help you ensure that you do not go against the law.

1. In most states, one needs to have a valid medical marijuana card in order to legally possess cannabis and/or cannabidiol (CBD)

For you to have the privilege of possessing and using cannabis in most states throughout the US, you’ll need a medical marijuana card (although official caregivers may also possess a limited amount of cannabis). Your doctor gives you a card to show that you need to use cannabis to treat one or more of a particular set of conditions or symptoms, and this card can protect you from prosecution by the state as well as give you the opportunity to go to the dispensary. In some states, having a valid medical marijuana identification card also allows you to grow cannabis. In some states, only THC-free (or 0.3% or less) CBD products are legal.

Additionally, individual’s states may have specific physicians who are the only ones with the right to give this card. Although different states have different qualifying conditions, there are some conditions that are likely to allow one to qualify in most states. Cancer, epilepsy or any condition that causes chronic seizures, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, crohn’s disease, AIDS/HIV and chronic pain where opioids may otherwise be prescribed are common qualifying conditions in most states. Although the advice the doctor who issues this card for you cannot necessarily give you any definitive advice on using cannabis as medicine due to both legal issues and the fact that FDA-approved clinical trials are few-and-far-between, they can help you answer other questions such as “How does CBD work?” and “What is CBD?

To get the card, you need to pay a fee to make an application. In some states, the payment will be reduced for those who are eligible for certain state assistance programs or those who are veterans. The price limit also varies among different states.

2. There is a limitation to the maximum amount that you can legally possess

Though cannabis is legalized in some states, there is usually a maximum amount which you can carry. There is usually a difference in the amount of dried cannabis flower and concentrate that one can carry. In some states, only non-smokable forms of cannabis are legal. There are also usually differences in the amounts one can possess for recreational and medical purposes. This also means that this is the maximum amount of cannabis that you are allowed to buy at once. There may also be restrictions on how you carry cannabis, especially in a vehicle. Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal in all states, regardless of medical status. Failure to adhere to these laws could lead to up to fines and/or imprisonment.

3. There is an age limit for cannabis possession, and you need to be licensed to trade

Marijuana; cannabis; weed; pot; green; foliage; growing.
By Rexmedlen. Source

Like in most situations, there is the age limit within which one can is allowed to have cannabis. More often than not, one is not allowed to buy cannabis if they are below 21 years of age for recreational purposes, and 18 for medical purposes. Additionally, you risk facing charges if found providing cannabis to a minor, although under special circumstances those under 18 may be issued a medical marijuana card.

For you to be in a position to trade cannabis, you must be licensed. Some states restrict growing cannabis plants as well, although in other states like California it is legal to grow a limited number of plants on one’s own property. Anyone found selling marijuana without license risks facing charges similar to those who sell cannabis illegally, which is usually fines and/or imprisonment. So, it is not usually possible for a person to sell any extra cannabis they may grow without a license. Additionally, it is important to remember that possession of marijuana seeds in the US is illegal in many places. In some states, you will not be charged if you are found “gifting” cannabis with a friend aged 21 or over without selling it.

4. There are different policies regarding cannabis in the workplace

Considering that cannabis can affect one’s performance at work, especially if they are working with vehicles and/or heavy machinery, most workplaces have laid different rules regarding its use. Some employers have zero tolerance for its use, whilst others may tolerate it if the person suffers from a chronic condition and/or would be otherwise prescribed opioids for their pain (which can have far more deleterious effects).

Detection of the use of cannabis through a drug test is easier said than done. This is especially because a positive drug test does not necessarily mean that the person is working under the influence of cannabis, which can lead to complications in states where medical and/or recreational use is tolerated. There are also different tests, some of which are more reliable than others. A hair test, for example, whilst very sensitive, can yield a false-positive result from second-hand smoke, and various hair products may influence the outcome of the results.

In some cases, however, state law has strict workplace laws concerning the use of marijuana, especially regarding those working with vulnerable people, those working in medical fields, those who work in law enforcement and those who work in the armed forces. Those who work in transport or with heavy machinery may also be subject to stringent drug tests, and employers have it within their rights to fire employees for cannabis use. Some exemptions may be made for medical patients, but this depends upon the type of job and is at the employer’s discretion.

5. Decriminalized cannabis does not mean cannabis is legal to possess, or that you face no charges

Many states have gone through a process of decriminalizing cannabis. Ideally, decriminalization eliminates penalties for the possession and/or use of small amounts of cannabis. However, this does not mean that cannabis use or possession is legal. For this reason, it is possible for you to get arrested by police if found in possession of cannabis. In addition to being arrested, you will be given citations similar to traffic or parking ticket that carry a minimal fee. These citations do not necessarily result in a criminal record (assuming you weren’t carrying a large amount, a “large amount” meaning varying things state-by-state, but usually over 10 g of cannabis). In many police departments and cities, they have come up with several non-enforcement policies that have the same effect as legislative decriminalization. However, selling cannabis and possession of large amounts is still considered criminal activity, and can bring with it fines and/or a prison sentence.

Marijuana; cannabis; pot; weed; roll ups; joint; marijuana joint.
Source. By TechPhotoGal.


The laws regarding cannabis vary widely from state-to-state. Understanding each of these laws is paramount to help you avoid prevent breaking the law, even by accident, as not knowing the law is not a valid defense. Also, it is worth remembering that cannabis and many cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), is illegal throughout the United States and is considered a Schedule I substance unless the CBD product is FDA-approved. Please check out the Leafwell cannabis state laws page for more information on cannabis throughout the United States.

Article by Tammy S. Edited by Leafwell.

Featured image from Pixabay

Written by
Ruth Lemon
Ruth Lemon

Ruth Lemon has worked in Cambodia and Australia, gaining experience in the non-profit sector, education and international development, and digital marketing. Ruth is helping Leafwell to scale without compromising the customer experience and seeks to create a frictionless customer journey. She now lives in the UK with her rescued Cambodian cat and believes Leafwell is improving access to and understanding of a valuable medical alternative.

See A Leafwell Physician Today

Get approved for medical marijuana online from a licensed physician. Only pay if you are approved.

Get Started
Leafwell medical marijuana card

Not Sure If Cannabis Can Help You?

Let us know what you are looking to use medical cannabis for, and we will point you in the right direction.

Contact our support