Recently, there was a widely-broadcast news about the release of a man who was serving 90-year sentence for marijuana. After serving 31 years, 71-year-old Richard DeLisi said he's just eager to restore the lost time. DeLisi was believed to be the longest-serving nonviolent cannabis prisoner, according to the The Last Prisoner Project which championed his release.
Cannabis has been maintaining the position in Drug Schedule 1 by DEA for a long time, and war on drugs caused lots of cannabis incarceration, impacting on millions of Americans, especially people in community of colors.
Four-in-ten U.S. Marijuana Arrests in 2018
More and more states have legalized or decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. But marijuana is still illegal under other state and federal laws - in the United States, police still arrest more people for marijuana crimes than for other drugs, according to FBI data.
Police officers made about 663,000 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2018, amounting to 40% of the 1.65 million total drug arrests in the U.S. that year (the most recent for which data is available).
As has long been the case, around nine-in-ten U.S. marijuana arrests are for possessing the drug, rather than selling or manufacturing it. In 2018, 92% of marijuana arrests were for possession and 8% were for selling or manufacturing. The share of marijuana arrests for possessing the drug has inched higher in recent years: In 2011, 87% of marijuana arrests were for possession and 13% were for selling or manufacturing it.
Of course, just because a state has legalized or decriminalized marijuana does not mean its residents are immune from being arrested for having it. Among other things, people in legal marijuana states can face arrest for possessing more than the authorized limit. And since marijuana remains illegal federally, U.S. law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration can make arrests for marijuana offenses, too.
Marijuana is federally decriminalized
Public support for marijuana legalization has steadily increased in recent years. In a Pew Research Center survey last September, two-thirds of U.S. adults said marijuana should be legal, up from around half (52%) five years earlier. The same survey found that 59% of adults believe marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, while 32% say it should be legal for medical use only. Just 8% of adults said it should not be legal under any circumstances.
Meanwhile, in late 2020, a series of inspiring news for the industry flooded in. President-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris was on the side of legalizing cannabis; U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis from the Schedule IV Controlled Substance List in December, and then House votes to federally decriminalize marijuana.
For the first time in congressional history, the House of Representatives voted to pass a measure that would decriminalize marijuana use at the federal level -- the vote passed 228-164, mostly down party lines, with just five Republicans voting in favor of the measure. Six Democrats voted to oppose.
Despite widespread support from Democrats in the House of Representatives, the bill stands almost no chance of becoming law in the current session of Congress due to a Republican firewall in the Senate and President Donald Trump still occupying the White House.
President-elect Joe Biden campaigned in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, but even after Biden is inaugurated in January, Democrats would have to pass the measure not just through the House again but also clear it through the Senate. The upper chamber's majority control is still up for grabs -- with two runoff elections in Georgia scheduled early next month -- but the legislation would be subject to a 60-vote threshold to advance through the Senate and on to the Resolute Desk.
The latest weed map
While the federal government continues to criminalize cannabis, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler stressed that 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis while 15 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use.
As of Nov.13, 2020, nationwide, 15 states, two territories and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use, while 34 states and two more territories allow medical marijuana (weed map from nbcnews).