With the passage of recreational marijuana legalization in four more states and medical marijuana in two more, there are now 15 legal states and 36 medical states.
That means that now one-third of the population of the United States can no longer be arrested, fined, or punished in any way for smoking a joint. (Population figures are from 2019 and reflect adults and kids, but each state’s ratio of children to adults is roughly the same, so these estimates should be accurate enough for the water cooler.)
Even as most states still maintain prohibition, states like Hawaii, New Mexico, and North Dakota have recently reduced their penalties for first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana—a policy commonly referred to as “decrim”—such that one won’t be arrested in those circumstances.
If we take those states into account, then three-fifths of American adults caught with a joint won’t be arrested in their state.
Why you’re smoking that joint can make a difference
But what if you’re really sick or seriously disabled? Most states, including now Mississippi and South Dakota, now (or will) allow patients suffering from an ailment found on a certain list of conditions to use marijuana without punishment.
If we consider those states, even if they don’t allow marijuana smoking per se, well over two-thirds of Americans can use cannabis products in their state for medicinal purposes.
Despite maintaining a prohibition on the use of marijuana as medicine, recently most states and the federal government have come to recognize that industrial hemp is not marijuana. That non-drug cultivar of cannabis contains less than 0.3% THC, the cannabinoid associated with the feelings of euphoria from marijuana use.
Another cannabinoid of note is cannabidiol, or CBD. This has become popularized since the 2013 “Weed” special by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN showed the miraculous recovery of an epileptic girl from the use of a low-THC / high-CBD cannabis oil.
Following that special, Utah and sixteen other states moved quickly to legalize the use of so-called hemp CBD oil. In 2018, the federal government passed the Farm Bill, which included in it the removal of hemp and products derived from it from the Controlled Substances Act.
That means that as far as the feds are concerned, nobody is going to be arrested for hemp CBD oil. And for 199-out-of-200 Americans, your state law enforcement is not going to arrest you for hemp CBD oil, either.
There remains but one place in America where 1.7 million Americans can be arrested for possession of industrial hemp and its products—the state of Idaho.