April 29, 1911: Massachusetts becomes first state to ban cannabis.
1930: Federal Bureau of Narcotics is founded.
August 2, 1937: President Franklin Roosevelt signs federal legislation that banned cannabis use, production and sales; including for industrial hemp.
1941: Roosevelt signs an executive order that allows for emergency hemp production for industrial uses during War World II for canvas, cordage, rope, oil and fodder. Numerous Midwest states were subsidized to produce industrial hemp in support of the war effort.
1943: Medical products derived from cannabis were removed from the US Formulary and physicians could no longer prescribe it.
1945: As soon as the war concludes, U.S. re-bans industrial hemp production, stops subsidizing its production and teaching farmers how to cultivate it.
1951-56: Federal laws set mandatory sentences for drug related offenses. First offense for marijuana possession is a minimum sentence of 2-10 years and a fine up to $20,000.
1968-1969: Appellate court challenges to the 1937 ‘Reefer Madness’ anti-cannabis laws force the federal government to create a Controlled Substances Act and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1970. President Richard Nixon creates blue ribbon commission to review cannabis laws, known as the Shafer Commission.
1970: The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) becomes law and for the first time sets up a scheduling system for illicit and legal substances. Most mandatory minimum sentences for narcotics eliminated.
1972: The Shafer Commission recommends that cannabis should be decriminalized for personal use; and that personal cultivation be allowed along with small transfers for no profit, but Nixon and Congress reject the recommendations.
1973: Oregon becomes the first state to pass cannabis decriminalization legislation. Drug Enforcement Agency is founded.
1976: President Jimmy Carter endorses the Shafer Commission’s findings and sends a statement to Congress asking them to decriminalize cannabis possession in America for adults.
1986: President Ronald Reagan signs Anti-Drug Abuse Act, instituting mandatory sentences for drug-related crimes.
1991: San Francisco becomes the first city to pass an ordinance—with a 79% support rate— in favor of medical patients having access to cannabis.
1996: California citizens approve Proposition 215 to ‘legalize’ medical cannabis use, possession and cultivation. After numerous federal legal challenges, the basic law and right of doctors to recommend cannabis were affirmed.
1997: Arizona’s voters also approve medical cannabis laws, but, because of problems with the language of the initiative, the law was never implemented.
1998: Numerous states pass medical cannabis laws and patient protections: Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Arizona, but Arizona's legislature fails to enact it. A legislative effort in Oregon to re-criminalize pot fails at the ballot box.
1999: Maine voters approved a medical cannabis initiative.
2000: Nevada and Colorado voters approved medical cannabis initiatives. Hawaii legislature passed medical cannabis legislation.
2004: Montana voters approved a medical cannabis initiative. Vermont’s legislature passed medical cannabis legislation.
2006: Rhode Island legislature passed medical cannabis legislation.
2007: New Mexico legislature passed medical cannabis legislation.
2008: Michigan voters approve medical cannabis initiative.
2010: Arizona voters approve medical cannabis initiative for the third time since 1996. District of Columbia City Council and New Jersey legislature pass medical cannabis legislation. Voters in California narrowly defeat a cannabis legalization initiative, 53%-47%.
2011: Delaware legislature passed medical cannabis legislation.
2012: Colorado and Washington decriminalize marijuana. Connecticut and Massachusetts OKs medical matijuana.
2013: Illinois and New Hampshire OK medical marijuana.
2014: Alaska and Oregon legalize recreational marijuana, as does the District of Columbia. Maryland, Minnesota and New York legalize medical marijuana.
2016: Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas pass medical marijuana via ballot initiatives. Ohio and Pennsylvania OK medical marijuana. California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts legalize recreational marijuana via ballot initiative.
2017: West Virginia approves medical marijuana.