Ever since the 1930s, the federal government has prohibited the use of marijuana. Although federal law on marijuana use has been relatively static and unflinching, attitudes towards the drug have shifted over the past eight decades. State marijuana laws have evolved along with those shifting attitudes.
In North Carolina, strict punishments are still in place for possession of large amounts of marijuana and for selling and cultivating the drug. But penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana have been greatly reduced in recent years as part of a broader movement known as decriminalization.
After all, people are coming to the realization that imposing stiff penalties for recreational use of marijuana is counterproductive in most cases. And as decriminalization has gained momentum in recent years, some states have taken the evolution of marijuana law even further and have embraced legalization of the drug.
As you may already know, Colorado and Washington voters legalized marijuana for recreational use within the past 12 months. Now, several other states appear to be joining the movement. According to a recent story on Bloomberg.com, efforts are underway to put the legalization question before voters in Alaska, Arizona, California and Oregon. If all four efforts are successful and voters approve the change, then almost 20 percent of Americans will be living in states that have legalized marijuana.
Regardless of North Carolina’s decriminalization efforts and the efforts to legalize marijuana, marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance as far as the federal government is concerned. Until marijuana is legalized at the federal level, people across the nation can still be prosecuted for marijuana-related offenses.
Source: Bloomberg, “Legal-Marijuana Trend Spreads as More States Weigh Votes,” Alison Vekshin, Oct. 8, 2013