Hemp Legality Timeline

Federal Level


1937 — The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 made recreational use of marijuana illegal, but industrial hemp was lumped in with marijuana, effectually adding hurdles to the importation and production of the crop.


1940s — The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its “Hemp for Victory” campaign, encouraging American farmers to produce hemp for military products, like cords and parachutes.


1970 — The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 designated all forms of cannabis, including hemp, as Schedule I controlled substances.


2014 — The Farm Bill of 2014, signed into law by then President Barack Obama, includes a provision allowing states to conduct hemp research and cultivation.  This bill provided that certain research institutions and State Departments of Agriculture may grow hemp under an agricultural pilot program.  The bill further established a statutory definition for industrial hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any port of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetra-hydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.


2014 —The Rohrabacher–Farr amendment passed the U.S. House and was signed into law. Requiring annual renewal, it prohibits the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.


2015 — The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 is introduced in both houses of Congress. In the Senate, it is referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. In the House of Representatives, it is referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. As of this time, no further action has been taken on either bill.


2017 — Other introduced legislation would amend the CSA “to exclude cannabidiol and cannabidiol-rich plants from the definition of marijuana” intended to promote the possible medical applications of industrial hemp.


2017 — In July, 2017, legislators in the 115th Congress (January 3, 2017 to January 3, 2019) introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill that seeks to remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.


State Level – Colorado (Our State)


2012 — Colorado voters pass Amendment 64 and legalize marijuana. Amendment 64 did not provide for industrial hemp, but instructed the Colorado legislature to address the topic.


2013 — Kentucky passes SB 50 and becomes the first state to legalize industrial hemp production.


2013 — Colorado passes SB13-241 and sets up the parameters for an industrial hemp system.


2014 — Colorado’s first hemp crop is planted. About 200 acres are harvested.


2015 — Colorado farmers plant nearly 2,000 acres, or 10 times more than in 2014.


2016 — Colorado farmers plant nearly 6,000 acres, or 3 times more than in 2015.


2017 — Colorado farmers plant nearly 9,000 acres, or 1.5 times more than in 2016.


State Level – All US States


  • 1911: Massachusetts requires a prescription for sales of “Indian hemp”[3]

  • 1913: California, Maine, Wyoming, and Indiana ban marijuana[3]

  • 1915: Utah and Vermont ban marijuana[3]

  • 1917: Colorado legislators made the use and cultivation of cannabis a misdemeanor;

  • 1923: Iowa, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont ban marijuana[3]

  • 1927: New York,[3] Idaho, Kansas, Montana, and Nebraska ban marijuana[4]

  • 1931: Illinois bans marijuana.[5]

  • 1931: Texas declared cannabis a “narcotic“, allowing up to life sentences for possession.[6]

  • 1933: North Dakota and Oklahoma ban marijuana.[4] By this year, 29 states have criminalized cannabis.[7]


Decriminalization begins – 1973


  • 1973: Oregon decriminalized cannabis.[8][9]

  • 1973: Texas law was amended to declare possession of four ounces or less a misdemeanor.[10]

  • 1975: Alaska‘s Supreme Court establishes that the right to privacy includes possession of small amounts of marijuana[11]

  • 1976: Maine decriminalized cannabis.[12]

  • 1977: South Dakota decriminalized cannabis, but repealed that law “almost immediately” afterward.[13]

  • 1973-1978: California, Colorado, Mississippi, New York, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Ohio decriminalized cannabis.[14] Certain cities and counties, particularly in California, adopted laws to further decriminalize cannabis.

  • 1978: New Mexico passes the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act, becoming the first state to pass legislation recognizing the medical value of marijuana.[15]

  • 1979: Virginia passed legislation allowing doctors to recommend cannabis for glaucoma or the side effects of chemotherapy.[16][17]

  • 1982: Alaska’s legislature decriminalizes possession of cannabis[18]

  • 1990: Alaska re-criminalizes cannabis by voter initiative, restoring criminal penalties for possession of any amount of cannabis[19]


Medical marijuana begins – 1996



Recreational legalization begins – 2012


  • 2012: Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older.[31]

  • 2014: Maryland decriminalized cannabis. Minnesota and New York legalized medical cannabis.[32][33][34]

  • 2014: Utah legalizes CBD oil, becoming the first state to legalize a cannabis-based medicine without legalizing medical cannabis entirely.[35]

  • 2014: Oklahoma legalizes trials of CBD oil.[36]

  • 2014: Alaska and Oregon legalized recreational cannabis.[37] Alaska’s law took effect on February 25, 2015.[38] Oregon’s initiative began on July 1, 2015.[39]

  • 2015: Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas legalized CBD oil.[40][41]

  • 2015: Louisiana legalized medical cannabis.[42]

  • 2015: Delaware decriminalized cannabis.[43]

  • 2016: Ohio[44] and Pennsylvania[45] legalized medical cannabis via state legislature.

  • 2016: Illinois decriminalized cannabis.[46]

  • 2016: California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts legalized recreational cannabis via ballot initiative.

  • 2016: Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas legalized medical cannabis via ballot initiative.

  • 2017: Vermont becomes first state to pass recreational cannabis bill entirely through elected legislature on May 10, 2017 (see cannabis in Vermont).


Sources: Wikipedia, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, PBS, Federation of American Scientists, Kentucky General Assembly, Congress.gov, Duane Sinning and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).