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Marijuana in the US

Author: Chris Boggs

Marijuana is still listed as a Schedule I drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Nothing done at a state level can change this; only the federal government can alter this classification.

According to the US Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), a Schedule I drug is defined as a substance having no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse. Heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), peyote, methaqualone and ethylenedioxymethamphetamine ("Ecstasy") are examples given by the DEA.

Schedule I drugs are divided into five primary classifications:

  1. Opiates and opium derivatives: Drugs derived from the poppy plant;
  2. Hallucinogens: A psychoactive agent that causes hallucinations or changes in thought or mood. Almost all hallucinogens contain nitrogen and are classified as alkaloids;
  3. Depressants: Drugs that lowers neurotransmission levels to depress or reduce arousal or stimulation in various areas of the brain;
  4. Stimulants: Drugs that result in increased activity, “enhanced" performance and euphoria. These drugs speed up mental and physical processes in the short-term by increasing levels of dopamine in the brain; and
  5. Cannabimimetic agents: Added to the schedule in 2012, these are known as “designer" drugs synthesized from marijuana and stimulants.

For those interested, a listing of the substances within each class is found in Part 1308.11 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Marijuana, listed as “marihuana" in the Act, is classed as an hallucinogen. Additionally, the act specifically lists products containing any amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as hallucinogens. Essentially, any variation of marijuana or cannabis intended for individual consumption is federally illegal.

But states are debating and deciding whether to comply with federal law or not. Most states are NOT fully complying with the federal law.

Eleven states still consider marijuana a wholly illegal substance in compliance with federal laws. However, 11 states have fully legalized the use of marijuana – ignoring federal laws. DC has sided with the violators of the federal law granting marijuana “fully legal" status.

A majority of states are thought of as “mixed" states. Twenty-eight states have legalized medicinal marijuana but not recreational use; but even these are out of alignment with the federal laws.

As of October 2019, the states “roll up" as follows:

Fully Legal: Medicinal and recreational use allowed

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • DC
  • Illinois (1/1/2020)
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Fully Illegal: Still “no-no" joints

  • Alabama
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

But even some of these “no-no" states have altered or removed criminal penalties surrounding possession of marijuana. Possession may now be a misdemeanor rather than a felony depending on the amount involved.

“Mixed" States: Generally limited to medicinal use:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia (CBD Oil)
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana (CBD Oil)
  • Iowa (CBD Oil)
  • Kentucky (CBD Oil)
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas (CBD Oil)
  • Utah
  • Virginia (CBD Oil)
  • West Virginia

(Information taken from According to the website, this information is updated monthly.)

Because of the variations between state and federal laws, the insurance industry is “stuck in the middle." However, the industry has some “wiggle room" because insurance is state regulated. Insurance carriers may have the ability to adopt marijuana and cannabis underwriting guidelines that vary by state without violating federal laws.

If state laws allow the possession, sale and use of marijuana, then the insurance industry should be allowed to insure the possession, sale and use of marijuana when done in accordance with the state law. But this is just a non-legal opinion and is not necessarily a reflection of the writer's personal feelings about marijuana and marijuana use.

Last Updated: November 8, 2019

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