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A State by State Look at Where Cannabis is Legal

The landscape of cannabis evolved from its dark past as a substance of abuse, it is now considered a drug with therapeutic benefits.

Other areas where cannabis excels are its robust sales, which can help spur economic growth and job generation to fill the staff requirement of companies from seed cultivation to store sales.

In the U.S., more states are expected to wave the green flag in favor of cannabis use for therapeutic or recreational purposes or both. Understanding a legal state’s stand on cannabis is a bit tricky. It is important to look at each state’s cannabis law to cast away any doubt.

States That Legalized Recreational Cannabis

The federal law recognizes cannabis as a Schedule I substance and is not allowed for recreational and medical uses. But, there were states that recognized the benefits that recreational cannabis offers and legalized its usage.

Presently, there are 11 states plus D.C. where adult use of cannabis is legal.


The recreational use of cannabis took effect on February 24, 2015, through a ballot initiative, Measure 2, passed in 2014. Alaska became the third state to legalize the adult use of cannabis.


California is the most densely populated U.S. state. The use of cannabis for recreational benefit was legalized through Proposition 64 in 2016 and legal transactions started on January 1, 2018.


Recreational cannabis became legal in Colorado in November 2012 through the passage of Amendment 64.


Illinois is the most recent state to authorize cannabis for adult use. The new bill was approved in June 2019 through the initiative of Governor J. B. Pritzker and available for adult use from January 2020.


The residents of Maine elected Yes to Question 1 for the recreational use of cannabis in 2016. This was denied by Governor Paul Lepage in 2017 but was reversed in May 2018 and the bill became a law.


Massachusetts legalized adult use of cannabis in 2016 when Question 4 got the nod of 54% of the voters.


Michigan is the tenth state to allow the recreational use of cannabis. Electors voted Yes to Prop 1 in November 2018 with a 56% approval rate.


Residents of Nevada supported the drive to legalize the recreational use of cannabis and allow cannabis dispensaries to sell weed. This garnered 54% of the ballot in November 2016 and became law in January 2017.


Recreational use of cannabis was legalized in 2014 through Measure 91. This was made a law by Governor Kate Brown in October 2015.


HB 511 was approved in January 2018, allowing the use of recreational cannabis. This was a milestone since Vermont was the first state legislative assembly to sanction recreational cannabis.


Washington was one of the first states to legalize the use of recreational cannabis on December 6, 2012, through Initiative 502. Marijuana stores started selling recreational weed on July 8, 2014.

Washington D.C.

D.C. voters legalized recreational cannabis through Initiative 71 in 2014 and became law in February 2015.

States That Legalized Medical Marijuana

There are 33 states and the District of Columbia that allows the use of cannabis for its therapeutic benefits.

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia


How Do Medical Marijuana Laws Differ from State to State?

Presently, there are 41 states that have laws that allow the use of cannabis for its therapeutic benefits in some form.

But, each state has its own cannabis laws. The law in Texas requires a doctor’s prescription to access medical cannabis but since it is illegal under federal law they can only recommend. Louisiana had the same problem, to correct the flaw the House of Representatives adopted new legislation.

Some states use medical cannabis in plant or dried form to smoke. Presently, there are 21 states that allow people to medicate on cannabis in its plant state and these laws vary.

To illustrate, in 15 states people are allowed to grow cannabis plants for medicinal purposes. There is a restriction on the number of plants to be raised which is between 6 to 12 that vary from state to state.

From these 15 states, some allow home-grown cannabis based on situations. Massachusetts permits sick persons to plant if there is no marijuana dispensary nearby.

In six states, people are allowed to possess medical cannabis but not cultivate it.


Which States is Most Likely to Legalize Marijuana in the Future?

Business pundits predict a $30 billion cannabis sales by 2023 and $66.3 billion by 2025. The forecast is right on target with legal states hitting about $15 billion in 2019.

The economy of the states was hard hit by COVID-19 but legal weed states had help from record sales. Oregon consumers bought $89 million medical and recreational cannabis products in April, 45% higher than April 2019 figures. From March 1, 2020 onwards, Arkansas patients have bought $30 million medical cannabis items. Oklahoma enjoyed $5 million in April taxes.

The cannabis industry showed resilience during this pandemic time. Weed supported the economy of legal states, provided jobs, and covered the demand of consumers. The numbers of legal states are anticipated to increase in 2020.

Organizers in Florida are gathering support to legalize recreational cannabis and so is Arizona. In New Jersey, a December 16, 2019 referendum about the legalization of recreational cannabis will be on the 2020 ballot. The adult use of cannabis in New York is temporarily postponed because of COVID-19. Come November 2020, residents of Jersey will voice their opinion on recreational cannabis legalization. Montana is set to wave the green flag on the adult use of cannabis this November. In November, Oklahoma voters might be casting their ballots for recreational cannabis legalization.

Mississippi will cast their ballots on medical cannabis in November 2020. Nebraska patients are waiting for medical cannabis to be legit in the November ballot.

South Dakota will be the first state to vote on recreational and medical cannabis use at the same time.

First posted on Big Easy Magazine


DISCLAIMER: Cannabiz Digital does not sell cannabis. This publication covers business topics surrounding legal cannabis in California and the United States. It does not provide legal or medical advice. Consult your physician, lawyer, and local laws regarding cannabis. We do our best to provide current information at the time of publishing with no guarantees to accuracy. We understand this industry changes quickly and welcome your feedback. [Send Feedback]