Despite marijuana remaining illegal under federal law, nearly 30 U.S. states have passed their own policies permitting its possession and use in some capacity.
In recent years, marijuana legalization has expanded dramatically throughout the United States. While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, where it’s been classified as a controlled substance since 1970, a majority of states have passed their own policies broadly legalizing cannabis in some form.
In 2016 alone, the United States saw its number of states with medical marijuana laws grow by nearly 20 percent and its recreational marijuana states double. Today, 95 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state where there is some form of legal cannabis.
With legalization now even extending to states once vehemently opposed to cannabis, and polls indicating public support for marijuana policy reform is at an all-time high, there is more pressure now than ever on surrounding states and the federal government to end prohibition. This summer, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker introduced a wide-reaching bill that would federally legalize marijuana.
Until federal cannabis law changes, however, marijuana can only be obtained legally in states with their own laws on the books. Below is an overview of the nation’s marijuana laws as of now.
States with Marijuana Law Changes in 2017
So far in 2017, one state joined the ranks of those with legalized marijuana: West Virginia. In April, Gov. Jim Justice signed into law the Medical Cannabis Act, permitting patients diagnosed with at least one of 15 conditions and a recommendation from a licensed physician to legally purchase cannabis.
Also this year, New Hampshire became the 22nd state and the last in New England to decriminalize marijuana. Gov. Chris Sununu signed House Bill 640 to eliminate the possibility of jail time for those convicted of simple possession. The new law reduced possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of hashish from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation.
States With Medical Marijuana Laws
A total of 29 states so far have adopted laws legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. Each state has its own regulations, which determines which diseases or conditions for which marijuana can be recommended, the amount and what types of marijuana products are legally accessible, and whether or not a qualified patient can personally grow their own plants.
The 29 states with medical marijuana policies include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
Sixteen additional states have passed highly restrictive, limited access laws that permit only therapeutic cannabis that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high in cannabidiol (CBD). These states include Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Unfortunately, these laws offer little additional benefit, as CBD hemp oil derived from imported hemp is already legal in all 50 U.S. states, regardless of prescription.
States With Recreational Marijuana Laws
As of 2017, eight states have passed laws allowing adults aged 21 years and older to legally purchase and use recreational marijuana. The regulations determining how much can be possessed and whether plants can be grown for personal use varies by state.
The D.C. Council legalized recreational marijuana in Washington D.C. as of February 2015.
Which States With Legalize Marijuana Next?
Campaigns and efforts to legalize marijuana are already underway in several other states, indicating that 2018 could be another groundbreaking year for the cannabis advocates.
Oklahoma voters will get to decide on a medical marijuana measure in November 2018, after a campaign organization collected enough signatures this summer to certify State Question 788 for the ballot.
Campaign groups in both Missouri and Utah are also in the process of gathering signatures for medical marijuana measures. Missouri voters were almost given an opportunity to decide on medical marijuana in 2016, but a bill fell short by just 23 signatures needed to make the ballot. A Public Policy Polling survey from July 2016 indicates that more than 60 percent of Missouri voters support allowing marijuana for medical use. Favor for medical marijuana legalization in Utah appears even stronger, with more than 3 of 4 voters indicating they would support a cannabis measure in a recent poll.
In Michigan, cannabis advocates are busy collecting signatures and fundraising to certify their recreational marijuana measure – the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act – for the 2018 ballot. A poll from February shows support for adult use marijuana at 57 percent.
Keep up with the developing cannabis industry by regularly visiting our news page.