CHICAGO -- Once the hallmark of the counterculture in the United States, cannabis is now legal in some form or another in all but two states.
Cannabis is a drug that primarily contains the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the nonpsychoactive cannabidiol (CBD). It comes in various forms, including as a dried plant, dried plant resin, liquid oil and extract (wax). Cannabis can be smoked, added to foods and beverages or vaporized. The drug goes by names such as marijuana, pot, weed, hash, dope, joint and chronic. Medical cannabis, a controlled substance with labeled levels of THC and CBD, can be prescribed to relieve symptoms of various medical conditions such as epilepsy and glaucoma.
Laws that penalize for possessing, using, making or selling cannabis are slowly fading on the state level. In 1996, California became the first U.S. state to legalize medical cannabis, a trend that has spread to most of the country today. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize recreational cannabis; since then, eight more states (Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont) have done the same.
But cannabis manufacturers are still waiting for federal legalization. Jessica Lukas, vice president of consumer insights for BDS Analytics, Boulder, Colo., a cannabis research firm, said the U.S. is likely two years away from allowing cannabis sales on a federal level.
“We do anticipate a federal legalization in 2021, but we’re still assuming that means a state-by-state right to choose, so this is not a light switch,” Lukas says.
More: A Cannabis/CBD Glossary