"As of 2008, THC was a Schedule I drug (i.e., one that has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical indication, and for which there is a lack of accepted safety when used under medical supervision). Under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, a first conviction for cannabis possession can result in a term of imprisonment of not more than one year, a minimum fine of $1,000, or both. A first conviction for trafficking in cannabis (1 to 49 plants) can result in up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. However, there has been a long history of controversy concerning the drug's legal status. Signatories to the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs agreed to “[a]dopt such measures as may be necessary to prevent the misuse of, and illicit traffic in the leaves of the cannabis plant.” Despite the subsequent enactment of prohibition legislation to comply with the Convention, in the latter half of the twentieth century cannabis became the most widely used illicit drug in the Western world.
In the United States in 1972, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse recommended that cannabis possession be decriminalized.
Some people in the United States have argued for full legalization, that is, permitting over-the-counter sale of all drugs. An alternative model that has been suggested is a regulatory system in which cannabis sale is authorized in state-licensed establishments. Proponents of retaining criminal sanctions argue that cannabis use can be harmful and that restrictive laws have effectively kept levels of cannabis use lower than they would be if the drug were to be legalized. Policy reform advocates argue that using criminal penalties to protect users from harming themselves is an unwarranted infringement of individual liberty and that criminalizing cannabis possession has failed to prevent its use."
Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol, and Addictive Behavior Ed. Pamela Korsmeyer and Henry R. Kranzler. Vol. 3. 3rd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2009. p4-10. COPYRIGHT 2009 Macmillan Reference USA, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning