A conviction for possession of a small amount of marijuana can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences (also called collateral sanctions). Discriminatory enforcement means these punitive collateral consequences disproportionately affect people of color. Marijuana legalization is a key component of broader criminal justice reform, and perhaps the most profound change being driven by the cannabis movement is in the area of criminal justice.
Learn more about the intersections among cannabis and criminal justice issues, including collateral sanctions, expungement, racial justice, enforcement and policing, and DUI/DWI laws.
In the U.S., someone is arrested for a marijuana offense every 58 seconds. Ninety-two percent (92%) of these arrests are for marijuana possession alone — not for sale or manufacturing. There are more arrests for marijuana possession each year than for all violent crimes combined.
Thirty-one states and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws to stop jailing their residents for possession of small amounts of marijuana. In 18 of those states, marijuana is legal for adults 21 and older, while 13 have “decriminalized” simple possession of marijuana.
Learn more about cannabis decriminalization and the different state decriminalization laws.
Marijuana prohibition entails direct enforcement costs — including police, prosecutorial, judicial, and correctional resources — and prevents the taxation of marijuana production and sale. Marijuana legalization, on the other hand, offers tremendous financial benefits for state governments, and the revenues can be allocated for social good.
Learn more about marijuana and economic issues, including tax revenue, savings, industry growth, and equity.
In most states, the only way to reform marijuana laws is via the legislature. State legislatures across the country are considering new laws to legalize marijuana for adults, to adopt effective medical marijuana laws, or to replace possible jail time with fines for marijuana possession.
Learn more about current legislation being considered in state legislatures across the country, read about legislative updates and types of marijuana policy reform laws, and find MPP's model bills.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana for adults’ use. Nineteen states have legalized and regulated marijuana for individuals over 21, though some of the newer laws are still being implemented. Washington, D.C. voters also legalized cannabis for adults, but because D.C. cannot control its own budget, Congress has been able to block the District from taxing and regulating cannabis sales.
Learn more about legalization laws and how they are working, and find materials to make the case for allowing adults to use a substance that is safer than alcohol.
Polls consistently show the vast majority of Americans — around 90% — support allowing seriously ill patients to use marijuana for medical purposes with their doctors’ approval. Thirty-six states and D.C. have comprehensive medical marijuana laws on the books. Thirteen additional states have laws on the books that acknowledge the medical value of medical cannabis but fall short.
Learn more about medical marijuana, state medical marijuana programs and protections, and other medical cannabis issue areas.