Eleven states in the Union, plus Washington D.C., have legalized the recreational use of marijuana since Vermont became the first to do so on Dec. 6, 2012. The latest state blazing the trail for the recreational use of weed is Illinois, which will allow this practice on Jan. 1, 2020.

The 11 apostle states are Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. In addition to the District of Columbia, recreational weed is also legal in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific.

Eleven out of 50 doesn’t seem like much but it is an inexorable state-by-state progress from the Dark Ages of the 20th century when weed was considered as dangerous as cocaine -- and punished accordingly. Weed is entering an era of enlightenment where its medical value has been proven as a potent, non-addictive painkiller unlike opioids.

Pain is the main reason people ask for a medical marijuana prescription, said Dr. Barth Wilsey, a pain medicine specialist at the University of California Davis Medical Center.

Medical marijuana is also used to treat muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, nausea from cancer chemotherapy, poor appetite and weight loss caused by chronic illnesses such as HIV, nerve pain, seizure disorders and Crohn's disease.

On the other hand, the case for legalizing recreational marijuana was demanded by citizens in 10 of the 11 states where this form of weed is now legal. Citizens in these states approved ballot initiatives that made recreational use legal.

Illinois took a different route, approving a legal weed bill that allows recreational use. The bill also establishes a system for commercial sales through its state legislature.

The stolid federal government, however, remains the biggest stumbling block to the legalization of weed for recreational use.

The federal government still classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug with a "high potential for abuse." This makes weed as dangerous to human health as heroin and ecstasy in the eyes of Washington, D.C.

Support for the legalization of recreational marijuana is growing in Congress, especially among Democrats. It’s no surprise most of the 11 states where recreational weed is legal are historical strongholds of the Democratic Party. Most of the states where it remains illegal are dominated by the Republican Party.

Smoking weed
Here are the Top 7 THC Detox Pills For Your Next Marijuana Drug Test. jantaaa/Pixabay

Last April, prominent members in Congress introduced the bipartisan Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act that seeks to protect states' rights to determine their own marijuana laws without federal interference.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-CA) is one of its main sponsors of the bill. Another presidential contender, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NY), wants much more progressive legislation, which he calls the Marijuana Justice Act.

This radical bill will end federal prohibition of cannabis and attempt to make things right in marginalized communities populated by minorities such as African-Americans most targeted by cannabis arrests.