States Where Marijuana is Legal – Marijuana Legalization in USA

January 10, 2021by admin0

Cannabis legalization is the removal of criminal penalties for cannabis activities such as production, distribution, possession, and consumption, and includes the replacement of those penalties with regulations on commercial cannabis activity.

Legalization is a huge topic and an important societal trend in the United States in the 21st century. Voters have many questions about legalization in their US state, as well as the difference between federal and state laws for cannabis. Learn more about marijuana legalization in the US by browsing the topics below.

Is marijuana legal in the United States?

In the United States, marijuana is illegal on a federal level for any purpose, be it adult use or medicinal. Cannabis is listed as a “Schedule I” controlled substance, meaning it is classified as having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

However, despite marijuana’s illegal status federally, the majority of states in the US have legalized cannabis for medicinal or adult use. In 2013, the Justice Department said it would not sue to block laws legalizing cannabis at the state level as long as states enact regulations that curtail underage sales, interstate trafficking, illegal cartel and gang activity, and excessive cannabis-related accidents and violence.

This tenuous “trust but verify” policy has largely remained in place, with the federal government generally declining to devote resources toward enforcing federal laws in legal states.

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Marijuana legality in the United States: A brief introduction to federal weed laws and States Where Marijuana is Legal

The federal government first criminalized marijuana in the 1930s with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, and cannabis activity remains a federal crime today.

Modern federal marijuana law is codified under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which sought to update the Marihuana Tax Act. Since then, marijuana has remained a “Schedule I” controlled substance, meaning it sits at the top of the list of dangerous drugs alongside heroin and LSD, and that scientists deem it to have a high potential for abuse and no medical use.

Prohibition proponents have maintained cannabis as a high potential for abuse and no medical value. They allege cannabis is a “gateway drug” to harder drug use and that allowing cannabis encourages teen use of the drug.

Legalization supporters counter that marijuana has no lethal overdose and is not physically addictive. Unlike alcohol, marijuana withdrawal is mild and medically benign. The gateway theory has also been disproved in many studies. And legalization has not led to increased teen use, according to federal surveys.

There’s also a racist component to prohibition: pot drug laws first targeted Mexican-Americans in the West in the 1930s. By the 1970s, President Nixon used drug laws to lock up political enemies on the left, including minorities and college students, and to deny them the right to vote. Today, Blacks are four times more likely as whites to be arrested for cannabis.

Types of weed legalization and States Where Marijuana is Legal

Drug policy reform can occur across a spectrum of policies, and it can sit alongside aspects of other policies.

Most broadly, these are the most common categories of cannabis policy reform:

  • Prohibition: Criminal penalties for marijuana activity
  • Decriminalization: The removal of some criminal penalties for marijuana activity (like low-level personal possession), often replacing criminal penalties with civil fines
  • Medical legalization: Medical marijuana laws can range from a limited criminal defense in court for medical marijuana use, all the way to full medical legalization with commercial licensing and testing
  • Legalization: Changing state law to make cannabis activity no longer a crime. This often involves striking cannabis from the state’s Controlled Substances Act and adding new rules for legal commercial cultivation, distribution, testing, and sales.

A state by state guide to marijuana legalization

Below is a quick at-a-glance view of each state and US territory’s legalization status. Click on the name of the state to navigate to more information about its marijuana laws.


State Legalization status Adult use? Medical marijuana? Decriminalized statewide?
Alabama Medical No Yes No
Alaska Adult use Yes Yes Yes
Arizona Adult use Yes Yes N/A
Arkansas Medical No Yes No
California Adult use Yes Yes Yes
Colorado Adult use Yes Yes Yes
Connecticut Medical No Yes Yes
Delaware Medical No Yes Yes
Florida Medical No Yes No
Georgia Medical No Yes No
Hawaii Medical No Yes Yes
Idaho Illegal No No No
Illinois Adult use Yes Yes Yes
Indiana Illegal No No No
Iowa Medical No Yes No
Kansas Illegal No No No
Kentucky Illegal No No No
Louisiana Medical No Yes No
Maine Adult use Yes Yes Yes
Maryland Medical No Yes Yes
Massachusetts Adult use Yes Yes Yes
Michigan Adult use Yes Yes N/A
Minnesota Medical No Yes Yes
Mississippi Illegal No No Yes
Missouri Medical No Yes Yes
Montana Adult use Yes Yes N/A
Nebraska Illegal No No Yes
Nevada Adult use Yes Yes Yes
New Hampshire Medical No Yes Yes
New Jersey Adult use Yes Yes N/A
New Mexico Adult use Yes Yes Yes
New York Adult use Yes Yes Yes
North Carolina Illegal No No Yes
North Dakota Medical No Yes Yes
Ohio Medical No Yes Yes
Oklahoma Medical No Yes No
Oregon Adult use Yes Yes Yes
Pennsylvania Medical No Yes No
Rhode Island Medical No Yes Yes
South Carolina Illegal No No No
South Dakota Adult use Yes Yes N/A
Tennessee Illegal No No No
Texas Illegal No No No
Utah Medical No Yes No
Vermont Adult use Yes Yes Yes
Virginia Adult use Yes Yes Yes
Washington Adult use Yes Yes N/A
Washington, DC Adult use Yes Yes Yes
West Virginia Medical No Yes No
Wisconsin Illegal No No No
Wyoming Illegal No No No
Guam Adult use Yes Yes N/A
Puerto Rico Medical No Yes No
US Virgin Islands Medical No Yes Yes

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