Where Is Pot Legal? A State-by-State Guide to US Marijuana Laws

Rhode Island grew to become the most recent state to legalize pot when lawmakers approved a recreational marijuana bill on May 24. North Carolina could be next, because the state Senate considers a medical marijuana measure this month. If it passes each chambers and is signed by Republican Gov. Roy Cooper, the Tarheel State would be a part of the three-quarters of US states which have legalized marijuana to some extent. 

On the federal degree, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act — which is now earlier than the Senate — would legalize hashish on the federal degree, expunge the data of nonviolent offenders and fund social and criminal-justice packages in communities most impacted by overpolicing. The MORE Act cleared the House in early April, largely alongside get together traces, however faces a harder battle within the higher home. 

Last yr the leisure, or adult-use, hashish market alone hit almost $15 billion. It’s on track to surpass $25 billion by 2025. 

Here’s what to find out about marijuana legalization, together with which states have handed legal guidelines, what occurs to the MORE Act subsequent,  and the way Americans really feel about authorized weed.

Which states have legalized leisure marijuana?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the grownup use of marijuana for leisure functions (and medical makes use of, as nicely): Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. 

In addition, leisure hashish is authorized in Washington, DC, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

marijuana legalization

Recreational use of marijuana for adults is authorized in 18 states and the District of Columbia.


Heath Korvola

In 2021, the South Dakota Supreme Court struck down an modification to the state structure legalizing leisure hashish that voters handed with a 54% majority in 2020. 

Which states have legalized medical marijuana?

As of June 2022, 38 states have legalized the medical use of hashish, according to World Population Review, together with Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

In addition, the District of Columbia and the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Virgin Islands have all legalized medical marijuana.

Each jurisdiction has its personal standards concerning what situations hashish could be prescribed for, at what quantities and what the method is for issuing medical marijuana licenses to certified residents.

What does federal regulation say about marijuana?

Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency nonetheless classifies hashish as a Schedule I drug, “with no at present accepted medical use and a excessive potential for abuse.” (Other Schedule I medicine embrace heroin and LSD, whereas cocaine is listed as a Schedule II drug.)

In 2013, President Barack Obama directed the Justice Department to defer to state authorities in jurisdictions that had legalized marijuana, “based mostly on assurances that these states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system.”

Known because the Cole Memorandum, this steering was rescinded in 2018 by Jeff Sessions, lawyer common beneath President Donald Trump. Marijuana legalization advocates have inspired President Joe Biden to direct present Attorney General Merrick Garland to reinstate the Cole memorandum.

What is the MORE Act?

Now heading to the Senate, the Marijuana Opportunity and Reinvestment Expungement Act would abolish federal felony penalties for these rising, possessing or distributing hashish and expunge nonviolent hashish convictions. It would additionally institute a tax on hashish to assist communities impacted by a long time of policing targeted on nonviolent crimes associated to marijuana use. The cash would pay for packages similar to job coaching, authorized help and youth mentoring.

The act would not require states to legalize hashish, nevertheless. Regulation can be left up to state lawmakers.

marijuana legalization

Three-quarters of US states have legalized marijuana to some extent, although it stays a scheduled substance on the federal degree.


Bulat Silvia

It initially handed the House in December 2020, the primary time both chamber permitted repealing federal marijuana prohibition. Then-Sen. Kamala Harris of California, a Democrat, launched an identical invoice within the Senate, although it wasn’t taken up for consideration.

The identical factor could occur this time: Even if it does come up for a vote within the higher chamber, it might want 10 Republicans and all Democrats to give their help.

“It is unlikely to cross the Senate in its present kind,” Michael S. Lavery, a senior analysis analyst at monetary companies agency Piper Sandler, advised shoppers, according to Yahoo Finance.  

What is the proposed Senate invoice to legalize marijuana?

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is a separate marijuana-legalization invoice being drafted within the Senate. It would finish the federal ban on hashish and provides state-compliant hashish companies entry to monetary companies like financial institution accounts, enterprise loans and bank card transactions.

In a letter despatched in February, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Cory Booker invited their colleagues within the higher chamber to assist finalize the laws.  

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The Senate plans to introduce its personal hashish legalization invoice this spring.


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“Hundreds of hundreds of thousands of Americans reside in states which have legalized hashish in some kind whereas it stays unlawful on the federal degree,” the lawmakers wrote. That discrepancy “breeds confusion and uncertainty,” they stated, and raises questions in areas from small-business progress to public security.

In a February press convention, Schumer stated he hoped to introduce a invoice by April. “As majority chief, I can set priorities. This is a precedence for me,” Schumer stated, in accordance to Bloomberg.

Per NJ Cannabis Insider, Booker stated that the invoice is sort of written and he hopes to introduce it within the Senate by April 20, the unofficial vacation for marijuana. 

Are there different marijuana legalization efforts in Congress?

As extra states legalize medical and leisure marijuana, extra lawmakers need to sq. up federal legal guidelines so they do not battle with state laws.

In late March, the Senate unanimously permitted the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, which might streamline the appliance course of for researchers who need to examine the medicinal worth of hashish and associated merchandise.

“This vital laws will minimize the purple tape across the analysis course of, serving to get FDA-approved, marijuana-derived drugs safely to sufferers,” Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a sponsor of the invoice, said in a March 24 statement

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The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act would grant state-licensed marijuana companies entry to monetary companies.


Marguerite Reardon/CNET

On Feb. 4, the House handed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, which might grant state-licensed marijuana companies entry to monetary companies. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado, first launched the invoice in 2019. He stated he is assured it would lastly clear the Senate this session.

“I feel that is the invoice that is going to break the ice, after which different issues could be added or advocated for, over the course of the following few months or years,” Perlmutter told Yahoo News.

How do Americans really feel about authorized marijuana?

According to a 2021 Pew Research poll, 91% of Americans imagine hashish ought to be legalized to some extent — 31% for medical use and 60% for each medical and leisure use. Only 8% of respondents stated marijuana shouldn’t be authorized in any respect.

An April 2022 CBS News/YouGov poll confirmed even stronger help, with 66% % of respondents believing leisure marijuana ought to be authorized at each the state and federal ranges.

Does President Biden help authorized weed?

During the 2020 presidential marketing campaign, then-candidate Biden promised to “decriminalize cannabis use and robotically expunge prior convictions.” 

According to Biden’s campaign website, “No one ought to be in jail due to hashish use.”

Biden press conference

While campaigning for president, Joe Biden stated he supported leaving regulation of leisure marijuana to particular person states.


Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/CNET

The website promised that, as president, Biden would “help the legalization of hashish for medical functions, go away choices concerning legalization for leisure dissipate to the states, and reschedule hashish as a Schedule II drug so researchers can examine its constructive and adverse impacts.”

While the president cannot repeal federal marijuana legal guidelines on his personal, he can grant amnesty to individuals with federal convictions for nonviolent marijuana-related crimes. He may reinstate Obama-era steering to the Justice Department not to prosecute low-level marijuana offenses or intrude with state marijuana legal guidelines

Biden may additionally throw his weight behind the present congressional laws and related payments.

“Biden and his get together each are in want of political wins, and enjoyable marijuana legal guidelines — or absolutely legalizing the drug — is extraordinarily standard,” Alex Shepard wrote for the New Republic in December. 

What’s the distinction between legalization and decriminalization?

Many states which have legalized marijuana initially decriminalized possession of a small quantity. Broadly talking, hashish “legalization” means passing legal guidelines that enable the shopping for, promoting and possession of marijuana, often with restrictions on the age of the buyer and the quantity bought.

Decriminalization, alternatively, usually implies that violating sure marijuana legal guidelines can nonetheless lead to fines or different penalties however not felony prices or jail time. 

In North Carolina, possession of half an oz. of marijuana or much less is taken into account a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a $200 wonderful, “however any sentence of imprisonment imposed have to be suspended.”

In Nebraska, the first-offense possession of an oz. or much less is punishable by a most wonderful of $300 and a potential requirement to full a drug training course. A second conviction is taken into account a misdemeanor, punishable by a most wonderful of $500. Subsequent convictions are additionally misdemeanors, punishable by a most wonderful of $500 and up to seven days in jail.

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