April 4, 2013

Marijuana in America: Shifting Attitudes, Events and Laws

Public support for legalizing marijuana use is at an all-time high of 54%, according to Pew Research polling. This interactive explores events that have taken place over the last 45 years and the states’ legal actions on marijuana use.

Timeline: Marijuana in America

Americans' views on the legalization of marijuana have ebbed and flowed over the past four decades. Click through the points in the interactive timeline below to see significant marijuana legal and cultural events over time.

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Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or illegal?

Source: Gallup, General Social Survey and Pew Research Center

Aug. 15-18, 1969

The outdoor music festival Woodstock draws hundreds of thousands of music fans to New York. Marijuana permeates the festival.

Source: The New York Times | Image: Getty Images

Oct. 27, 1970

Controlled Substances Act lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a class of drugs that have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

June 18, 1971

President Richard Nixon declares a “War on Drugs.”

Source: The American Presidency Project | Image: Getty Images

Mar. 22, 1972

The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (Shafer Commission) recommends marijuana be decriminalized for personal use, but President Nixon and Congress did not act.

Source: NORML | Image: Getty Images


Oregon becomes the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Source: Slate | Image: Wikimedia

Aug. 2, 1977

President Jimmy Carter sends a statement to Congress asking it to decriminalize marijuana possession in America for adults

Source: The American Presidency Project | Image: Getty Images


The chief of the Los Angeles Police Department establishes Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.).

Source: D.A.R.E. | Image: D.A.R.E.

Sept. 14, 1986

First Lady Nancy Reagan introduces and champions the “Just Say No” campaign.

Source: history.com | Image: Getty Images

Nov. 7, 1987

Judge Douglas Ginsburg withdraws from consideration as a Supreme Court justice after admitting he had used marijuana as a Harvard Law School professor.

Source: The New York Times | Image: Newsweek

Nov. 18, 1988

Anti-Drug Abuse Act creates the Office of National Drug Control Policy. William Bennett is the first director, popularly known as the “drug czar.”

Source: whitehouse.org | Image: Getty Images

Mar. 29, 1992

Presidential candidate Gov. Bill Clinton admits to smoking marijuana as a student at Oxford, but says he “didn’t inhale.”

Source: The New York Times | Image: Getty Images

Nov. 5, 1996

California voters pass Proposition 215, legalizing medical marijuana.

Source: The LA Times | Image: Wikimedia

May 14, 2001

Supreme Court rules that federal anti-drug laws do not permit an exception for medical marijuana.

Source: Cornell Legal Information Institute

June 6, 2005

Supreme Court upholds the government’s ability to prohibit marijuana, even in states that have legalized it for medical use.

Source: Cornell Legal Information Institute

Nov. 2, 2010

California Proposition 19, which would have fully legalized marijuana, fails 54% to 46%.

Source: The LA Times | Image: Getty Images

Nov. 7, 2012

Colorado and Washington become the first states to legalize the sale and possession of marijuana for recreational use.

Source: CNN | Image: Getty Images

Dec. 14, 2012

President Obama says prosecuting marijuana users is not a top priority in interview with ABC News. “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Source: ABC News | Image: ABC News

Marijuana Laws in 50 States

Marijuana use is now legal in some form or decriminalized in 24 states and the District of Columbia. Pew Research Center has found growing public support for legalization over the past decade.

Federal law prohibits the possession, selling or harvesting of marijuana. Decriminalization laws reduce the penalties associated with the use or possession of small amounts of marijuana.
SOURCE: National Conference of State Legislatures and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws