Medical marijuana has been legal in some states for a few decades, but recreational marijuana has only recently become legal in 20 states. New Jersey is one of the most recent to join that list, having passed a legalization proposal during the 2020 election. Four more states—South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri and Columbia—have also started to consider legalizing recreational cannabis. Montana already allows medical marijuana but has yet to pass any legalization proposals for recreational use. All of these efforts indicate that more and more states are recognizing the potential benefits of allowing individuals to use cannabis recreationally.
The marijuana laws in the U.S. are complicated and vary from state to state, with some states having fully legalized recreational use while others have yet to even consider it. Currently, only two states have legalized recreational marijuana: Colorado and Washington State, but many other states are taking steps towards allowing its use. With the emergence of a cannabis market, numerous different state regulations have been created in order to regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana products for recreational use. Despite these efforts however, federal laws still prohibit any type of commercial activity related to cannabis and impose strict regulations on recreational users as well as businesses involved with selling it. As such, more research is needed in order to determine how different states can effectively regulate their respective cannabis markets while still abiding by federal law.
Medical cannabis laws vary state to state and so do medical marijuana legislation. In many states, personal medicinal use of marijuana is legal with a valid doctor’s recommendation and/or patient registry card. Other states have full legalization for both recreational and medical purposes, although certain restrictions still apply. Every state has its own set of laws regarding the amount of marijuana that can be legally possessed by an individual at any given time. Additionally, the U.S Virgin Islands, District of Columbia, Alaska, Oregon, Hawaii, Nevada and Maine have all legalized recreational marijuana use to some extent as well. It should be noted that regardless of where it is legal or not in the United States (with exception to medical use in certain instances), it is still illegal under federal law; therefore users should always exercise caution when purchasing or using cannabis products in any form for any purpose.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 33 states, and 17 of those have robust medical cannabis programs. The first two states to legalize recreational marijuana were Colorado and Washington in 2012, with New Mexico being the most recent one to join the list in 2021. As of May 2021, 37 states (including Washington D.C.) have legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults over 21 years old; this number is expected to increase next year when Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey signs a bill that was passed by the state legislature last month. California was the first state to legalize medicinal use of cannabis with its Compassionate Use Act back in 1996, which opened up a whole new market for medical cannabis products across the United States.
This set the stage for many other states to follow suit and start creating laws around the cannabis legal status. By 2018, eleven states had taken effect with laws that allowed for recreational use of marijuana as well. These 11 states included Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington as well as Vermont and New Mexico which both passed laws in 2019. With this new momentum of state-level legislation that is legalizing cannabis production and okd marijuana use despite federal laws still prohibiting it outright; it created a powerful message to other state legislatures that these policies are popular with its citizens.