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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana legalization is sweeping the country. It has already spread to nine states and the nation’s capital, and could be on its way to other places as well.

So what exactly is marijuana legalization? How does it differ from other avenues of cannabis reform? How do states approach the cannabis issue? And what about the feds?

Terminology is important, although it isn’t always used correctly. The distinctions between the different levels of marijuana reform are critical, as activities that pass legal scrutiny in one place may lead to fines or even jail time in another.

The legalization of marijuana means that, as long as you abide by the state-specific cannabis laws, you will not get arrested, fined or convicted for the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana. Legalization also allows a retail market to be established where people can purchase cannabis. Each state has different laws regarding the specifics of marijuana legalization, so make sure you are in the know.

Where Is Marijuana Legal?

The map below shows the legal status of marijuana by state.

The legality of marijuana differs substantially depending on the state you’re in. Some states allow recreational use, some allow full medical marijuana, some only allow non-intoxicating CBD use, and a few still completely prohibit any form of the drug.

 

Timeline of Legalization

Cannabis is currently fully legal in ten places in the United States: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington State, and Washington, D.C.  Some form of medical marijuana is available in nearly all other U.S. states.

1996

California legalized medical marijuana use

California legalized medical marijuana use
California become the first place in the world to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana when voters enacted Proposition 215 at the ballot.
1998

Oregon legalized medical marijuana use

Oregon legalized medical marijuana use
Oregon voted to remove criminal penalties for the medicinal use of marijuana by enacting Ballot Measure 67.
1998

Alaska legalized medical marijuana use

Alaska legalized medical marijuana use
Medical marijuana became legal in Alaska when voters approved Alaska Measure 8 at the ballot.
1998

Washington legalized medical marijuana use

Washington legalized medical marijuana use
Washington state voters enacted Washington Initiative 692 at the ballot, allowing marijuana to be used for debilitating medical conditions.
1999

Maine legalized medical marijuana use

Maine legalized medical marijuana use
Maine voters approved Maine Medical Marijuana for Specific Illnesses, known as Question 2, at the ballot by a wide margin.
2000

Hawaii legalized medical marijuana use

Hawaii legalized medical marijuana use
Hawaii became the first state to enact medical marijuana laws by legislation, instead of ballot initiative, when the governor signed Act 228 into law.
2000

Nevada legalized medical marijuana use

Nevada legalized medical marijuana use
Medical cannabis became legal in Nevada when voters approved the Nevada Medical Marijuana Act, or Question 9, at the ballot. The law allows possession of 2.5 ounces of marijuana, and patients are also allowed to cultivate up to 12 mature plants at home.
2000

Colorado legalized medical marijuana use

Colorado legalized medical marijuana use
Colorado voters approved the Colorado Medical Use of Marijuana Act, or Initiative 20, at the ballot in 2000.
2004

Vermont legalized medical marijuana use

Vermont legalized medical marijuana use
Vermont enacted medical marijuana by state legislation.
2004

Montana legalized medical marijuana use

Montana legalized medical marijuana use
Voters in Montana approved the Montana Medical Marijuana Allowance (I-148), allowing the cultivation and possession of marijuana for those with debilitating medical conditions.
2006

Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana use

Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana use
The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act allowed licensed patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, plus 12 plants and seedlings.
2007

New Mexico legalized medical marijuana use

New Mexico legalized medical marijuana use
Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill into law establishing a medical marijuana program in the state.
2008

Michigan legalized medical marijuana use

Michigan legalized medical marijuana use
Voters in Michigan approved The Michigan Medical Marijuana Initiative – or Proposal 1 – at the ballot on 2008.
2010

New Jersey legalized medical marijuana use

New Jersey legalized medical marijuana use
The New Jersey legislature approved a measure allowing patients with chronic illness to use medical marijuana.
2010

Arizona legalized medical marijuana use

Arizona legalized medical marijuana use
Medical marijuana was legalized in Arizona when a slim majority of voters approved Proposition 203 at the ballot.
2011

Delaware legalized medical marijuana use

Delaware legalized medical marijuana use
The Delaware state legislature approved Senate Bill 17, the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act, in 2011.
2012

Connecticut legalized medical marijuana use

Connecticut legalized medical marijuana use
Connecticut became the 17th U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana when then Governor Dannel Malloy signed new legislation into law.
2012

Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana use

Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana use
Medical marijuana has been permitted in Massachusetts since voters approved the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative – or Question 3 – at the ballot.
2012

Washington State legalized recreational use

Washington State legalized recreational use
Adults in Washington are allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use.
2012

Colorado legalized recreational use

Colorado legalized recreational use
It is legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in Colorado.
2013

New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana use

New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana use
New Hampshire became the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana when then Governor Maggie Hassan signed a bill into law.
2013

Illinois legalized medical marijuana use

Illinois legalized medical marijuana use
Illinois legalized medical marijuana when then Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act.
2014

Maryland legalized medical marijuana use

Maryland legalized medical marijuana use
Medical marijuana became legal in Maryland when then Governor Martin O’Malley signed House Bill 881 into law.
2014

New York legalized medical marijuana use

New York legalized medical marijuana use
Medical marijuana was legalized in New York when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed new legislation into law.
2015

Alaska legalized recreational use

Alaska legalized recreational use
Marijuana was made legal for recreational use by voters in Alaska in 2014, and can be purchased from licensed retail stores.
2015

D.C. legalized recreational use

D.C. legalized recreational use
The legal status of marijuana falls into an unsettled legal gray area in the nation’s capital. Marijuana use, possession and cultivation are legal, but sale is not.
2015

Oregon legalized recreational use

Oregon legalized recreational use
It is legal to purchase and use marijuana for recreational use in Oregon.
2015

Minnesota legalized medical marijuana use

Minnesota legalized medical marijuana use
After trial legislation in 2003 that reduced penalties for those using marijuana for medical necessity, Minnesota passed a comprehensive medical marijuana law.
2016

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana use

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana use
Medical marijuana became legal in Pennsylvania when the state legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Act.
2016

Ohio legalized medical marijuana use

Ohio legalized medical marijuana use
Ohio legalized marijuana use for a long list of medical conditions when Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 523 into law.
2016

Arkansas legalized medical marijuana use

Arkansas legalized medical marijuana use
Arkansas voters legalized medical marijuana when they approved the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment – or Issue 6 – at the ballot.
2016

Florida legalized medical marijuana use

Florida legalized medical marijuana use
Voters in Florida approved the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization – or Amendment 2 – at the ballot.
2016

North Dakota legalized medical marijuana use

North Dakota legalized medical marijuana use
Voters in North Dakota approved North Dakota Measure 5 at the ballot, legalizing medical marijuana in the state.
2017

Nevada legalized recreational use

Nevada legalized recreational use
Nevada’s marijuana legalization measure was approved by 55 percent of voters in 2016. Question 2 made it legal for adults to legally possess an ounce of marijuana.
2017

West Virginia legalized medical marijuana use

West Virginia legalized medical marijuana use
West Virginia became the 29th U.S. state to legalize cannabis for medical purposes when Gov. Jim Justice signed a Senate Bill 386 into law.
2018

California legalized recreational use

California legalized recreational use
With MMJ legal in the state since 1996, California has one of the strongest marijuana cultures in the world. The state legalized recreational use of the drug, through Proposition 64 (also known as the AUMA), at the ballot in 2016.
2018

Maine legalized recreational use

Maine legalized recreational use
Maine legalized marijuana at the ballot in 2016. The new law allows adults aged 21 and older to possess and cultivate cannabis for recreation.
2018

Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana use

Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana use
Marijuana was legalized for medical use in Oklahoma when voters approved State Question 788 at the ballot.
2018

Massachusetts legalized recreational use

Massachusetts legalized recreational use
Marijuana became legal in Massachusetts when 54 percent of voters approved Question 4 at the ballot.
2018

Vermont legalized recreational use

Vermont legalized recreational use
Vermont’s marijuana laws allow adults aged 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

How to Get Legal Marijuana?

How you get your hands on marijuana for recreational depends on what state you’re in. In most states with legal cannabis, residents are legally permitted to cultivate their own cannabis at home. There are varying conditions that growers must meet, such as keeping a limit on the number of mature plants, and keeping plants out of public view.

The most popular method of obtaining recreational marijuana is to purchase it from a dispensary. Adults over 21 may legally purchase marijuana for recreation at retail stores in states including Alaska, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, while there are no plans for such stores in the District of Columbia, where Congress has blocked any legal sale of cannabis for recreational use.

In Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, a variety of stores sell marijuana for medicine, recreation, or both. Most stores have websites that indicate what type of customers they serve. It is also legal to gift small amounts of cannabis, provided nothing else of value changes hands.

What Are the Rules for Marijuana Cultivation?

It is legal to grow marijuana plants for recreational use in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. Of the jurisdictions where cannabis is legal for recreational use, only Washington State bans home grows.

Colorado allows adult residents to grow up to six plants on private property, though only three of them may be mature at the same time. The same is true in Alaska, while adults in Oregon may grow up to four plants and District of Columbia residents up to six.

For more information, view our article on marijuana cultivation laws by state.

What States Are Likely to Legalize Next?

More states are expected to legalize over the next few years. New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Michigan are all possible battlegrounds for reform.

But you don’t have to be legal to enjoy marijuana in peace. Marijuana has been somewhat decriminalized in many other states including Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, and Connecticut.

Simple possession in any of these states is punished with a civil fine rather than jail time. The fines vary in size, but they’re typically no more than a few hundred dollars – a hefty sum but no worse than the average speeding ticket.

Legalization vs. Decriminalization

Journalists often use the terms “legalization” and “decriminalization” interchangeably. Technically they’re right, since both approaches remove criminal penalties.

True legalization means that a state allows a full legal marijuana industry where adults can buy, possess, and use the drug freely. Laws against public consumption and high driving still apply, but enforcement is typically lighter in these states.

But there are two big practical differences. For one thing, states that decriminalize still penalize those caught carrying marijuana, even if only with small fines. For another, these states don’t allow any kind of legal retail market for the drug. Growing, processing, shipping, or selling weed can be a felony in many of these places.

In other words, “decriminalization” means you can’t go to jail for possession, but you can go to jail for selling, making, or transporting marijuana.

Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is a legal system in which patients can get prescriptions for weed to treat their disorders. In most of these states, access is limited to patients who suffer from at least one of a short list of severe medical problems that can be alleviated with pot.

These disorders can include glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), HIV/AIDS, cancer and nausea, among others. These laws don’t cover most other conditions, though that’s likely to change in coming years.

MMJ Paves the Way for Full Legalization

It also can’t hurt to live in a state where medical cannabis is allowed. Recreational use and possession aren’t necessarily legal in these places, nor is retail sale, but it’s pretty easy to get away with it in most states that permit MMJ.

Nearly all states in the US have allow some degree of medical marijuana, even if that’s non-intoxicating CBD oil. California is best known for its program, probably the most liberal of its kind.

Other places tend to have tighter controls on medical pot; scoring MMJ in New Jersey without a real health condition is a hopeless task for most patients. Outside California, Hawaii may be the best place to use medicinal weed for recreational purposes.

Wherever you choose to smoke your dope, there are rules unique to every location. Legal possession limits, for example, are lower in Washington State and Oregon than they are in Alaska and Oregon. So choose wisely and above all, know the law before you light up.