In 1969, Timothy Leary challenged the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 in Leary v. The United States. Leary claimed that the requirement to have a tax stamp to possess cannabis, while also requiring possession of the illegal cannabis to obtain the stamp, was self-incriminating and unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor on May 9, 1969.

A year later, Congress enacted the Controlled Substance Act, and to this day they use the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to outlaw cannabis. The CSA was effective on October 27, 1970.

Does this mean cannabis (and any other previously banned substance) was legal under federal law for 17 months between 1969 and 1970?

  • Not convinced that NCA and Boggs Act were truly dependent upon the act declared unconstitutional after reading the opinion. Worth more research, if I have time I'll look into it.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 22, 2017 at 3:18
  • @ohwilleke I just saw your comment. I gave the bounty to user6726, but if you have a better answer, I'll give that part to you. Thank you.
    – Cannabijoy
    Jan 22, 2017 at 4:41

1 Answer 1


The only other Federal laws were the Narcotics Control Act of 1956 and the Boggs Act, which depended on the Marihuana Tax Act. There were labeling requirements under the Pure Food and Drug Act, and the Uniform State Narcotic Act set forth laws for states to adopt, if they wanted. Drug prohibition was left to the states in the event that they did not adopt the laws set forth by the acts above.


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