- Marijuana is legal for adults in 22 states and Washington, DC. Medical marijuana is legal in 38 states and DC.
- Delaware is the latest state to legalize recreational cannabis.
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Marijuana legalization is spreading around the US.
In April 2023, Delaware became the latest state to legalize cannabis, pushing the total number of states where adults can legally consume marijuana to 22, along with Washington, DC and Guam.
Last year, legalization votes failed in deep-red South Dakota, North Dakota, and Arkansas. South Dakota previously voted to legalize cannabis in 2018, but the law was struck down in court. Two states — Missouri and Maryland — legalized cannabis through ballot measures in the 2022 elections.
Cannabis is still considered an illegal Schedule I drug by the US government.
Recent polls show 68% of Americans support legalizing cannabis for personal use, including 52% of Republicans.
See 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. It was last updated on April 27, 2023. Melia Russell contributed to an earlier version of this story.
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 $2 billion.
The ballot measure was backed by a number of cannabis giants, including Curaleaf, Cresco, and Harvest Enterprises.
The Arizona Department of Health Services began accepting applications for adult-use licenses on January 19, 2021, and approvals were issued just three days later. Sales began immediately.
Arizona rolled out adult-use sales faster than any other state that voted to pass recreational cannabis in those elections. Companies already operating in the state’s medical market had a first crack at recreational customers.
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize 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.
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 legalize 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.
On June 18, 2021 the Connecticut legislature legalized cannabis for adults 21 and over and the law took effect on July 1.
Recreational cannabis is now legal in the state and adults are allowed to possess or consume up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana. Sales aren’t expected to begin until the end of 2022, according to the state’s official website.
In March 2023, the Delaware Senate passed a pair of bills that would legalize an adult-use cannabis market in the state.
The legislation was expected to receive pushback from Delaware Governor John Carney, who vetoed a legalization bill in 2022. Instead, Carney said in April that while he still has concerns about legalization, he would allow the bills to become law.
House Bill 1 legalizes marijuana use and possession for adults 21 and older in the state but still prohibits individuals from growing cannabis at home or consuming cannabis in public. House Bill 2 creates a framework for a cannabis industry in the state and taps the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement to oversee the new market. Recreational cannabis products will have a 15% sales tax and around half of the tax revenue will be earmarked for the Justice Reinvestment Fund, which will be used to “improve quality of life for communities most impacted by the prohibition of marijuana and ‘war on drugs’ era policies.”
Stores aren’t expected to open their doors until August 2024, according to WHYY.
Illinois lawmakers in June 2019 passed a bill that legalized the possession and commercial sale of marijuana starting on January 1, 2020.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who made marijuana legalization a core component of his campaign for office, signed the bill into law.
Illinois is the one of the few states to legalize marijuana sales through the state legislature, rather than a ballot initiative.
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.
Voters in Maryland passed cannabis legalization by a large margin, with over 65% in favor, in 2022. The legislation makes the purchase and possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis legal for adults over the age of 21.
Adults will also be allowed to grow up to two cannabis plants at home, and the legislation will remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession of up to 2.5 ounces.
In April 2023, Maryland lawmakers finalized details for the state’s new recreational cannabis market. Starting from July 1, adults 21 and older in the state will be allowed to purchase cannabis from retailers.
Massachusetts was the first state on the East Coast to legalize 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.
Voters in Michigan passed Proposition 1 in 2018, making it the first state in the Midwest to legalize 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.
Missourians voted to legalize cannabis with over 53% in favor. Missouri’s legislation will allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to three ounces of cannabis, grow six plants at home, and levies a 6% tax on recreational cannabis sales in the state.
That tax revenue will be used to automatically expunge the records of nonviolent marijuana offenders in the state.
In February 2023, cannabis dispensaries began recreational sales in the state.
Montana residents are officially allowed to use marijuana as of January 1, 2021. At the start of 2022, the state allowed stores to begin sales.
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.
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 license.
New Jersey in 2020 voted to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, opening a market that could near $1 billion.
In February 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legalization legislation, after months of back-and-forth arguments about criminal penalties for minors possessing marijuana and the proper way to set up a licensing framework for cannabis sales in the state, among other details.
Cannabis shops opened their doors in the Garden State this year.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the state’s legalization bill in April, after convening a special session of the legislature to hammer out the details.
The law took effect June 29 — allowing state residents to possess and consume marijuana — and recreational started on April 1.
After two failed attempts to legalize adult-use cannabis in New York, the state finally passed recreational marijuana on March 31, 2021.
New Yorkers are now able to possess and smoke cannabis legally, and legal sales are expected to begin later this year.
Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wrighttold Insider in October that the state plans to have multiple cannabis shops open their doors before the end of this year — but that the bulk of stores would open next year.
Oregon legalized marijuana in 2015, and sales in the state started October 1 of that year.
Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee signed legal marijuana into law on Wednesday May 25, though it will be a few months before cannabis shops are allowed to open. The law includes expungement of past cannabis convictions.
Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislature, rather than a ballot initiative, when Republican 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 was limited in scope. It didn’t establish a legal market for the production and sale of the drug.
In 2020, the state legislature passed a bill that would allow for adult-use sales in the state. All localities must opt-in to allow for dispensaries, however.
Retail cannabis sales began in Vermont earlier this year.
A majority of state legislators in Virginia approved Gov. Ralph Northam’s suggestion to legalize the consumption, possession, and cultivation of marijuana on July 1, years earlier than the initial legislation intended.
Marijuana was legalized 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 license.
Residents in the nation’s capital voted overwhelmingly to legalize 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. (Full Story)