Where Is Weed Legal? – A Guide To Marijuana Legalization

Nikhil Goswami

Weed legalization has become a popular topic of debate in the United States. Weed is also known as marijuana or cannabis. Support is growing for its legalization, and the number of states legalizing it is rising.

Some believe that the government should legalize medical and recreational marijuana use. Other people believe that only medical cannabis should be legal. A few others are against legalization completely.

There have been many arguments regarding marijuana legalization. One is that the adverse health effects of marijuana are not as bad as that of other illegal drugs. You can find how to pass a drug test for weed on the web which might come in handy.

Further, the criminalization of marijuana seems to have affected minority populations more. For those who support it, legalization serves as a tool of social justice. They also argue that recreational cannabis sales are great for the economy.

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration’s reports seem to support this. California was the first state in the US to legalize medical marijuana as far back as 1996. Their 2022 first-quarter revenue from taxing adult use of cannabis was $293.54 million. Their website also states that they have made $3.76 billion since January 2018.

Opponents of marijuana legalization argue on the basis of morality. They also express concerns about public health and safety. Today, most state legislatures are dealing with creating recreational and medical marijuana laws. Efforts are also ongoing to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

States Where Recreational Marijuana Is Legal? 

The American states that have legalized marijuana are in one of two categories. Some states have only legalized medical marijuana. There are stores that let you buy weed online legally.

On the other hand, there are states where medical and recreational marijuana is legal. A total of 19 states have legalized recreational marijuana in the United States. It is also legal in two inhabited territories of the US, part of a third one, and the District of Columbia (Washington DC). Below is the complete list:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Guam
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington, DC

Alaska – Legalized in 2014

In Alaska, the recreational use of weed became legal in November 2014 by a ballot initiative. A citizen’s group named The Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana was behind it. The ballot became approved as a state statute allowing recreational weed.

According to the legislation, adults above the age of 21 can have an ounce of marijuana. As for cultivation, they can plant up to six cannabis plants. It also allowed the possession of other marijuana-related apparatus to be legal.

Arizona – Legalized in 2020

The passing of Proposition 207 legalized the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona. The name of the act is the Smart and Safe Act. It started as a ballot initiative endorsed by two cannabis-dedicated organizations in Arizona.

The act allows Arizona adults to have an ounce of marijuana and up to six marijuana plants. Households with up to two or more adult members can have up to 12 plants. Adults must be 21 years old and above, and all sales of marijuana are subject to taxes based on this act. It also bans the use of marijuana in public places.

Also, workplaces can regulate drug use within their establishments. The act passed with a 60% vote, and a few months later, Arizona began the state-licensed sale of marijuana. Arizona is the swiftest state to begin retail sales after legalizing weed.

Colorado – Legalized in 2012

Colorado’s legalization of weed came in 2012 through Amendment 64 of its constitution. This early legalization has led to marijuana tourism attraction in the state. In Colorado, adults over 21 can buy or own weed 1 ounce or below.

Adults can also gift marijuana to their fellow adults but are not allowed to sell it. Even selling home-grown weed is illegal. Only state-licensed individuals can sell retail. Also, public use of the product is illegal, and having more than 2 ounces in public may result in penalties.

Connecticut – Legalized in 2021

Connecticut is one of the states where the government recently legalized weed. The law came as a bill through the legislature. It came into effect after the governor signed it in 2021. It is now legal for Connecticut adults above 21 to use recreational weed.

Adults can legally possess 1.5 ounces of marijuana or less in public. This quantity is beside another 5 ounces. The person possessing the marijuana must store it at home or have it locked away in a vehicle. Retail sales have yet to begin but should start by the end of 2022.

Guam – Legalized in 2019

Back in 2019, it became legal for adults to use marijuana in Guam. The law started as a bill in the Guam legislature and was narrowly passed for the governor to sign. Guam became the first American inhabited territory to legalize recreational marijuana.

According to the governor, the aim was to regulate the widespread illicit use of the drug. The law allows adults over 21 to use, own, and transfer 1 ounce of marijuana. However, selling is prohibited. They can also plant up to six marijuana plants, but only three can be fully matured.

Illinois – Legalized in 2019

The state of Illinois made recreational marijuana legal via a bill in 2019. The governor signed it into law by June 2019. From 2020, adults above 21 in Illinois could buy and own weed. The law, however, restricts the amount of weed a resident can legally carry in public.

A person can only have an ounce of plant material. It also states that adults can legally own weed edibles with 500 mg THC or less. Non-residents can only have half of the stated quantities. Further, only licensed dispensaries can legally sell the product.

Maine – Legalized in 2016

Maine citizens voted for the legalization of recreational cannabis in November 2016. Maine’s government created licensed dispensaries to sell the product afterward. Since then, Maine has recorded great revenue from selling cannabis. This is due to the 10% tax on all adult-use marijuana, separate from a 15% excise tax.

To buy marijuana, individuals must be 21 years old and above and own a valid government-issued ID card. The law allows individuals to have 2.5 ounces of marijuana on their person. They can also cultivate 6 to 12 plants depending on the level of maturity of the plant.

Moreover, Maine adults should have no more than 5 grams of concentrated marijuana. There is a limit to the number of mature or immature plants someone can have but no limit to the number of seedlings. The government regulates the retail market in Maine. Although it initially had a limited supply of products, it is very productive now.

Massachusetts – Legalized in 2016

Recreational marijuana became legal following a ballot initiative in Massachusetts in November 2016. Adults above 21 can legally have and buy an ounce of the flower and five grams of the concentrate in public.

Also, they can have up to 10 ounces and six plants at home (12 for a home with two or more adults). But, public use is not allowed. An adult who wants to buy weed need not be a resident of Massachusetts. They do, however, need to have a valid government ID. The sale of marijuana is also subject to taxes according to the law.

Michigan – Legalized in 2018

The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act passed with 56% votes in favor. The initiative came about in 2018, and state-licensed sales started the following year.

Following the act, adults in Michigan can now own up to 2.5 ounces of weed in public. Individuals can cultivate up to 12 plants and 10 ounces of weed at home. The law allows for the use of weed only in private, and the state licenses its cultivation and sale.

Montana – Legalized in 2020

The process in Montana started with a bill initiative. The initiative was by marijuana activists that were pushing for favorable marijuana legalization.

The legislature passed the bill in 2020 and took effect in 2021. It allows adults above 21 to own and use an ounce or less of marijuana. They can also cultivate two seedlings and two matured plants in their private residence. Public use is still illegal. Further, public possession is banned, so individuals can only use it privately.

Regarding sales, it is only legal in Montana counties, where most voters supported the bill initiative. It remains illegal in other counties.

Nevada – Legalized in 2016

The state of Nevada began licensed sales of recreational cannabis officially in 2017. Residents of Nevada above the age of 21 can use and carry an ounce of marijuana. If the marijuana is concentrated, they can have up to one-eight of an ounce.

Also, adults can grow 6 or 12 plants in their homes, depending on how many adult members live there. Possession or use in public has criminal penalties and, as such, remains illegal.

New Jersey – Legalized in 2020

New Jersey legalized weed by an amendment to its constitution in 2021. It came into effect after a successful ballot initiative in 2020. Under the law, consumers can buy up to 1 ounce of dried cannabis flower.

They can also have a total of 1 gram of edibles and 5 grams of other forms of marijuana like oils and concentrates. The legal adult age for use and buying is 21, and people can get it from licensed dispensaries.

New Mexico – Legalized in 2021

New Mexico’s governor signed the proposed bill officially legalizing marijuana in April 2021. The bill allows adult New Mexicans to carry up to 2 ounces of marijuana in public. They can also be with a similar amount of concentrates and other product forms.

Also, people can grow up to six mature and six immature plants, totaling 12 at most. State-licensed dispensaries sell the product, and public use is subject to a fine.

New York – Legalized in 2021

In New York, the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) came into law in 2021. This law made recreational cannabis legal for adults 21 and older. It allows individuals to carry weed in public; up to 3 ounces of marijuana is permitted. However, they cannot use it in public. Adults are only allowed to consume marijuana in the privacy of their homes.

They can also have three cannabis plants and up to six plants if there is more than one adult in the house. However, three of the plants have to be immature. Individuals can have 0.85 ounces of concentrated marijuana and 5 pounds of the plant in their homes. New York also allows for public onsite areas where people may consume marijuana.

Oregon – Legalized in 2014

Non-medical cultivation and use of marijuana became legal in Oregon by ballot measure. Oregon adults can carry 1 ounce of marijuana in public and 8 if they are at home. They are also allowed up to four plants, 16 ounces of edible marijuana, and 72 ounces of liquid marijuana. It, however, remains illegal to consume marijuana in public in Oregon. 

The state has licensed dispensaries. Here, retail sales of marijuana are legal, and subject to taxation. All these liberties result from Measure 91, which got approved in 2014.

Rhode Island – Legalized in 2022

Rhode Island is the most recent state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in 2022. The law permits the legal and adult use and sale of weed. It also removes past offenses from the law. For public possession, a person can carry 1 ounce of the flower.

For other forms of marijuana, they are allowed an equal quantity. The act also allows residents to have up to 10 ounces of weed. Further, residents can have three cannabis plants in these individual residences. Such cannabis products are to be securely kept in a house with adults.

Although sales have not begun yet, they will likely begin in December 2022. Residents can smoke marijuana in public places where tobacco smoking is allowed.

Vermont – Legalized in 2018

The government legalized cannabis in Vermont for recreational use in July 2018. It was by a proposed legislative bill, which the governor neither signed nor vetoed. The bill makes it legal to grow and have marijuana but not trade it. Vermont will likely legalize buying and selling soon.

According to the cannabis legalization bill, an adult can carry an ounce of marijuana. Also, they can cultivate two mature plants or four immature ones. The penalties associated with possessing a limited amount of cannabis are gone. Although trading is not legal, there are plans for licensed dispensaries to be set up by October 2022. It is also illegal to use marijuana in public in Vermont.

Virginia- Legalized in 2021

The General Assembly of Virginia legalized weed through amended legislation in 2021. Adults of Virginia above the age of 21 can own an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes. They can also cultivate up to four cannabis plants in their private homes.

There is no framework for the commercial transaction of marijuana yet. However, the law permits sharing or gifting among adults. The only criterion is that the quantity gifted must be 1 ounce or less.

Washington – Legalized in 2012

In 2012, Washington legalized recreational marijuana in the US. Washington and Colorado were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. However, Washington’s law restricted selling to only licensed retailers.

Cultivation remained illegal, along with direct selling from the growers to consumers. Adults could possess up to an ounce of marijuana under this state law. Washington does not allow weed cultivation for personal use. Growers can only sell to government-licensed processors.

The law protects the private use of marijuana. It means that a person can openly use weed on their property or that of someone else (if the owner permits). But, the law prohibits use in public places, on federal grounds, or in the public’s view.

Washington, DC – Legalized in 2014

Voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in DC in 2014. The law is now called the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014. It came into effect in 2015 to allow adult recreational use and possession of cannabis. Possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana is legal.

Cultivation of three mature and three immature plants is also allowed. The law also allows adults to gift one another an ounce of marijuana or less. Public use of marijuana has remained illegal. But, it is legal to be in public possession of marijuana apparatus or paraphernalia.

Unlike other states, the District of Columbia does not control its sales of marijuana. This situation is because congress exercises oversight over it and opposes the idea.

States That Have Only Legalized Medical Marijuana

There are 37 states in the US that have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Moreover, four US territories and DC also have laws that legalize medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in all the states where recreational marijuana is legal.

Hence, medical marijuana is more accepted by the public than recreational marijuana. That is why medical marijuana is legal in the majority of US states. Besides legalizing medical marijuana, five states have legalized using CBD oils. These states are Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

States Where Marijuana is Illegal

According to cannabis professional Julie A. Werner Simone, legalization has four degrees. 

The first degree is legalizing recreational cannabis and medical marijuana. 

Next is legalizing marijuana for only medical use.

In third-degree states, residents have limited access to marijuana. These states may have decriminalized or legalized it in certain forms, e.g., CDB products.

Finally, the last degree of legalization is the outright banning of marijuana. In these places, marijuana is illegal. Only three states and one territory of the US fall into this category. They are Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, and American Samoa. There are ongoing deliberations between residents and the legislatures in each of these places. There are plans to either decriminalize or legalize marijuana for medical use.

Is Marijuana Legal Under Federal Law?

Federal laws make marijuana illegal in the United States. According to the Controlled Substances Act, Marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance. It is a drug with no medical use and that people are very likely to abuse.

This stance is in direct contrast with state laws that recognize medical marijuana. This should mean that federal attorneys can prosecute anyone for marijuana offenses. However, this has not been the case in practice.

The federal government has allowed states that have legalized marijuana use to regulate themselves. This stance is reflected in the Cole Memorandum and the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act of 2019.

Efforts to legalize or decriminalize marijuana at the federal level are ongoing. It is evident with the introduction of several bills that the law could change soon. One notable bill is the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. Another is the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. They are popularly known as the MORE and CAOA Act.

The MORE Act

The Marijuana Opportunity and Reinvestment Expungement (MORE) Act passed the lower house in 2020. It is on its way to the Senate for approval, although many assume its failure.

The proposed act aims to abolish penalties for certain marijuana-related actions federally. These actions include cultivating, distributing, and possessing cannabis. While it is not a cannabis legalization bill, it would also introduce a cannabis tax.

The bill aims to overturn and expunge non-violent marijuana convictions. The taxation would also help develop communities that marijuana policing has affected negatively. It will focus on communities with non-violent marijuana records.

Despite these liberal propositions, the act would not legalize marijuana federally. It leaves legalization and regulation to state governments. Many are skeptical about the bill passing because of the number of votes it would need.

The CAOA Act

This proposed action is an ongoing bill in the Senate. Its content aims to legalize marijuana at the federal level completely. It will end decades of marijuana bans and convictions. It will also allow small businesses to operate freely. These businesses will have access to financial support, among other things.

The Cole Memorandum

The Cole Memorandum was a memo from the office of the Deputy Attorney General, James Cole. The memo concerned federal prosecutors’ approach toward the prosecution of weed-related offenses. The memorandum resolved the opposing stance of federal law and some state laws.

The Justice Department would not prosecute residents of places where marijuana was legal. This was because the federal government expected these states to have their regulations.

However, Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed this memorandum in 2018. In his memo, he encouraged federal prosecutors to abide by the federal marijuana laws. Despite this, the norm has not changed much from what was obtainable in the Cole Memorandum.

Decriminalization Of Marijuana

Marijuana decriminalization is not to legalize it entirely but to reduce its penalties. Acts that would attract penalties get lesser penalties due to decriminalization. Further, governments may legalize possession or private use. However, it depends on the quantity of the substance in question.

The idea behind decriminalization is to reduce the number of arrests of otherwise law-abiding citizens. Most of whose actions are in no way harmful to the public. Decriminalization may also have a retrospective effect. Incarcerated people could regain their freedom if their convictions were for minor things.

Advocates of marijuana legalization argue that decriminalization is a form of racial justice. It is because most individuals jailed for marijuana possession come from minority communities.

Thirty-one US states have decriminalized marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. The district of Columbia has also done so. For opposers of marijuana legalization, decriminalization represents an acceptable compromise.

Public Opinion on Legalizing Weed

The public opinion on legalizing recreational marijuana use has changed over time. It seems to represent a marked change in mindset among generations as the years have passed. According to Pew Research, 2013 was the first time most Americans supported legalization. The percentage had been steadily increasing from a mere 12% in 1969.

A recent 2022 CBS poll breaks up the support percentage by different demographics. It revealed that over two-thirds of Americans support recreational marijuana in their states. From the demographics, people did not seem to care much about jurisdiction. The majority believed that marijuana legalization should occur at the state and federal levels. The figures showed that citizens of states where weed is illegal felt the same.

The poll also found that about 70% of Americans would favor or not mind marijuana sales in the vicinity. Support was the same regardless of gender, race, and education level. The only significant differences were age and political ideology.

The conclusion is that younger generations support marijuana legalization the most. On political ideology, liberals support legalized marijuana more than conservatives. But, the conservatives accept the legalization more as they get younger.

Conclusion: Where Can You Consume Weed Legally?

A consensus is beginning to form on the topic of marijuana legalization. For opposers, decriminalization is a middle ground where they can agree with supporters.

However, confirm your state laws before smoking, consuming, or even owning any cannabis. The same applies if you travel as this could save you a lot of trouble in the long run.


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