Even though people have been using marijuana for many different purposes for thousands of years, President Nixon still decided to start the war on drugs in 1970, signing the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, which includes the Controlled Substances Act, as part of the “war”. Congress then proceeded to mark cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, saying that it has a high potential for abuse, no medical use, and no safety standards in medically supervised treatments. So the government made cannabis and everything to do with it illegal.
Starting in 1996 in California, people began to fight back. When the sunny west coast state passed the Compassionate Use Act Initiative, it amended the California Constitution. More states followed California’s move, allowing the use of medical marijuana. Now, there are 23 states that allow patients to ingest, cultivate, and purchase marijuana. Then, in 2012, Colorado and Washington took the next step and made marijuana fully legal in their states, meaning anyone over the age of 21 could possess the plant and ingest it in their homes. 2014 brought more changes in the states, with Alaska, Oregon, and Washington DC legalizing recreational marijuana as well.
Unfortunately for states, the federal government still interfered with the laws that were passed. Even after a series of changes to the Controlled Substance Act, saying that the states could enforce their own laws, there were still issues with federal officials butting their heads in to marijuana businesses. Raids were at an all time high and even those people who were allowed to use marijuana according to state law were worried for their legal safety. But on October 28, 2014, the Department of Justice issued a memorandum saying that Native American tribes will be permitted to grow and sell marijuana on their land. This includes tribes that are located in illegal states. The tribes are required to put forth a strict regulatory system that will protect federal priorities, like the distribution of the plant to minors.
Following the passing of that memorandum, December 14, 2014 brought more change with Congress passing the 2014 Continuing Resolution Omnibus spending bill. It actually prevents the Department of Justice, which includes the FBI and DEA, from interfering with medical marijuana laws. The DOJ is also prohibited from using any federal funds to prevent states from creating medical marijuana structures that include cultivation, distribution, and consumption of medical marijuana.