All the states where marijuana is legal — and 5 more that just voted to legalise it

Crystal Cox/Business Insider
  • Marijuana is legal for adults in 11 states and Washington D.C. Medical marijuana is legal in 34.
  • New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota just voted to legalise recreational marijuana.
  • South Dakota also voted in favour of a medical-cannabis program, as did Mississippi.
  • Subscribe to Insider Cannabis for more stories like this.

Marijuana legalization is spreading around the US.

Since 2012, 11 states and Washington, DC, have legalised marijuana for adults over the age of 21. And 34 states have legalised medical marijuana — meaning that a majority of Americans now have some form of access to marijuana, whether medically or recreationally.

Four more states — New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota — just voted to legalise recreational cannabis, though it won’t become legal immediately. On top of that, voters in Mississippi backed the creation of a medical cannabis program.

Though Canada legalised marijuana federally in 2018, the US has not followed suit, forcing states to chart their own courses. As it stands, marijuana is still considered an illegal Schedule I drug by the US federal government. The House in September was set to vote on a bill to legalise marijuana and expunge the records of those convicted under previous laws, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, though the vote was punted to after the election.

Read more: Venture investors are piling into red-hot cannabis tech startups, despite the industry’s struggles. Here’s why mainstream funds are betting on software over pre-rolls.

The presidential election still hasn’t been called. Neither candidate supports outright legalization, though Democratic nominee Joe Biden said he would support federal decriminalization. His running mate, Kamala Harris, sponsored a previous version of the MORE Act in the Senate, and it’s likely that a Democratic administration would sign that — or a similar legalization bill — into law if passed in the House and Senate.

Control of the Senate also remains unclear. If Republicans maintain control, federal legalization is unlikely, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is vocally opposed.

House Democrats included a provision in the recent stimulus bill, the SAFE Banking Act, that allows cannabis companies to access banking and financial services much like any other company so they don’t have to rely on cash transactions. It remains to be seen whether it will be included in the final legislation.

Despite the political back-and-forth, most Americans want legal marijuana, according to recent polls. Sixty-seven per cent of Americans polled by Pew Research said marijuana should be legal, with only 32% in opposition.

All the states where marijuana is legal:

This article was first published in January 2018 and has been updated with new information about where cannabis is legal. Melia Russell contributed to an earlier version of this report.


AP Photo/Chris CarlsonA cannabis-testing laboratory in Santa Ana, California.

Adults 21 and over can light up in Alaska. In 2015, the northernmost US state made it legal for residents to use, possess, and transport up to an ounce of marijuana – roughly a sandwich bag full – for recreational use. The first pot shop opened for business in 2016.

Alaska has pounced on the opportunity to make its recreational-pot shops a destination for tourists. More than 2 million people visit Alaska annually and spend $US2 billion.


AP Photo/Hans PenninkNate McDonald, General Manager of Curaleaf NY operations, talks about medical marijuana plants during a media tour of the Curaleaf medical cannabis cultivation and processing facility Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Ravena, N.Y

Arizona in 2020 voted to legalise cannabis for all adults over the age of 21.

The measure had support from almost 60% of Arizona voters, according to preliminary results from Decision Desk HQ.

The ballot measure was backed by a number of cannabis giants, including Curaleaf, Cresco, and Harvest Enterprises.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is required to lay out adult-use cannabis regulations by April 5, 2021.


REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonA MedMen store in West Hollywood, California, on January 2, 2018.

In 1996, California became the first state to legalise medical marijuana. California became even more pot-friendly in 2016 when it made it legal to use and carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

The law also permits adults 21 and over to buy up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrates, which are found in edibles, and grow no more than six marijuana plants per household.


AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenA marijuana leaf.

In Colorado, there are more marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined. The state joined Washington in becoming the first two states to fully legalise the drug in 2012.

Residents and tourists over the age of 21 can buy up to 1 ounce of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrates. Some Colorado counties and cities have passed more restrictive laws.


REUTERS/Jeenah MoonIllinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Illinois lawmakers in June 2019 passed a bill that legalised the possession and commercial sale of marijuana in the state starting on January 1.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who made marijuana legalization a core component of his campaign for the governor’s office, signed the bill into law.

For its part, Illinois is the first state to legalise marijuana sales through a state legislature, rather than a ballot initiative.


REUTERS/Chris WattieHarvested cannabis plants at Hexo Corp.’s facilities in Gatineau, Quebec, on September 26, 2018.

A ballot initiative in 2016 gave Maine residents the right to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, more than double the limit in most other states.

Recreational-marijuana dispensaries are set to open in Maine in October.


AP Photo/Steven SenneMedicinal cannabis cigarettes on July 12, 2018, at a cultivation facility in Milford, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts was the first state on the East Coast to legalise marijuana after voters approved the measure in 2016.

Marijuana dispensaries opened their doors to consumers in November 2018. Adults over the age of 21 can purchase up to 1 ounce of marijuana but cannot consume it in public.


AP Photo/Carlos OsorioThe Far West Holistic Centre dispensary on November 7, 2018, in Detroit.

Voters in Michigan passed Proposition 1 in 2018, making it the first state in the Midwest to legalise the possession and sale of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. Adults can possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, and residents can grow up to 12 plants at home.

The law is more permissive than other states with legal marijuana: Most allow residents to possess only up to 1 ounce at a time.

Marijuana dispensaries in Michigan opened on December 1.


AP Photo/Matilde CampodonicoA CPlant employee organizes a box of hemp for export at the company’s farm on the outskirts of Tala, Uruguay, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

Montana in 2020 voted to legalise recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over.

Montana residents will officially be allowed to use marijuana as of January 1, 2021. A year later, the state would begin to open up applications for dispensaries.

New Jersey

AP Photo/Matilde CampodonicoA CPlant employee trims a hemp flower for export at the company’s farm on the outskirts of Tala, Uruguay, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

New Jersey in 2020 voted to legalise recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, opening a market that could near $US1 billion given New Jersey’s proximity to New York City and Philadelphia.

It might be some time before New Jersey residents can purchase marijuana legally. At the earliest it could take effect in January 2021. Before that happens, the state’s legislature will have to pass laws legalizing the sale of marijuana.


John Locher/APThe Essence cannabis dispensary on July 1, 2017, in Las Vegas.

Residents and tourists who are 21 and over can buy 1 ounce of marijuana or one-eighth of an ounce of edibles or concentrates in Nevada. Less than two weeks after sales of recreational weed began on July 1, 2017, many stores ran out of marijuana to sell.

There’s bad news if you want to grow your own bud, though. Nevada residents must live 25 miles outside the nearest dispensary to be eligible for a grower’s licence.


Anthony Bolante/ReutersOregon’s Finest medical-marijuana dispensary in Portland, Oregon, on April 8, 2014.

Oregon legalised marijuana in 2015, and sales in the state started October 1 of that year.

Sales in Oregon pot shops have exploded since legalization: They’re expected to top $US1 billion by 2020, Portland Business Journal reported.

South Dakota

South Dakota in 2020 voted to legalise both medical and recreational cannabis, the first time a state has voted in favour of both at the same time.

State lawmakers have until April 2o22 to create rules around cannabis, including regulations around dispensaries.


REUTERS/Leonhard FoegerCannabis plants in a laboratory.

Vermont became the first state to legalise marijuana through the legislature, rather than a ballot initiative, when Republic Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill into law in January 2018.

Adults in the Green Mountain State can carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow no more than two plants for recreational use. The law went into effect in July 2018. But it is limited in scope. It doesn’t establish a legal market for the production and sale of the drug, though the Vermont Legislature is working on adopting rules to create a recreational market.


REUTERS/Nir EliasA medical-marijuana plantation on March 21, 2017.

Marijuana was legalised for recreational use in Washington in 2012.

The state allows people to carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana, but they must use the drug for medicinal purposes to be eligible for a grower’s licence.

Washington, DC


Residents in the nation’s capital voted overwhelmingly to legalise marijuana for adult use in November 2014.

The bill took effect in 2015, allowing people to possess 2 ounces or less of marijuana and “gift” up to an ounce, if neither money nor goods or services are exchanged.

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