Last year, 2018, was a big year for cannabis enthusiasts across the United States. In the midterm elections last year, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The other states where it is recreationally lawful for those Americans 21 or older to use are Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Colorado, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and nonstate Washington D.C. (which has the same self-governing capabilities as a state regardless of not being one). Other states have legalized medical marijuana, but have left it illegal to use recreationally. In 33 states including New York medical marijuana is legal, despite the remaining federal ban on the plant.


Marijuana prohibition dates back some 80 years, with the federal government outlawing the sale, cultivation, and all uses of the plant. Legalizing marijuana is one of the few hot button issues in the states that has widespread support with the Pew Research Center reporting that last year 62% of Americans were in favor of legalization. Even the traditionally conservative states are in on the action, with Oklahoma voting to join the other states that have legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. American President Donald Trump signed legislation to legalize hemp, a plant identical to marijuana but lacking the psychoactive compound THC in December of 2018. Also last year, American neighbors Canada and Mexico, both federally legalized marijuana, so the peer pressure is definitely on for the United States to follow suit.

The States

In the meantime, the state government have taken the matter into their own jurisdiction. Last year, Vermont was the first state to legalize marijuana through legislation, rather than a ballot vote. Most recently, New Jersey has entered the ring to fight for legalizing marijuana. Unfortunately, the New Jersey legislators have postponed the vote despite support from the governor and the majority of state residents. The proposed bill will legalize the use and sale of marijuana for citizens over 21 as well as expunge criminal records of state citizens for the possession of marijuana.

In Alaska, however, the use, possession, and transportation of up to an ounce of weed for recreational purposes (again, 21 and over) has been legal since 2015. The state capitalized on the novelty of legal recreation and opened the first pot shop in 2016. Since then, Alaska has seen two million visitors annually who spend some $2 billion. Oregan also legalized in 2015, allowing residents to also carry up to an ounce and grow four plants. The sales have skyrocketed since legalization, with projected revenue to hit a billion next year.

A little further south in California, legislators legalized medical marijuana way ahead of the game back in 1996. Then, 20 years later in 2016, Cali legalized marijuana for recreational uses as well as allowing residents to carry up to eight grams of concentrated weed (edibles) and grow up to six marijuana plants per household.

In 2012, Colorado become the second state to fully legalize marijuana, after Washington. Residents and tourists 21 and over can buy an ounce of the drug or eight grams of concentrates. There are also more pot shops in Colorado than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. Since legalizing in the same year, Washington has generated over a billion in sales of marijuana for non medicinal purposes. However, anyone looking to grow must first obtain a grower’s license certifying that they need the drug for medical use.

In 2014 Washington D.C. residents were granted the right to possess up to two ounces for recreational use. Unique to this region, residents can also trade up to an ounce of marijuana if no money or anything else can be exchanged.

The year 2016 saw Maine residents allowed to possess more than double the limit of other states, 2.5 ounces. Massachusetts residents can carry and use an ounce, and grow up to 12 plants per household. Last year, Michigan borrowed aspects from both of these states, allowing their residents to grow 12 plants and hold that whopping 2.5 ounces.

In Nevada, the marijuana market has positively flourished. Here, individuals 21 and over can carry an ounce of marijuana or an eighth of an ounce of concentrates. Two weeks after the market legalization in 2017, pot shops actually ran out of merchandise to sell and the weed tax revenue to date has reached nearly $20 million. To have any of your own household plants, however, you’ll have to live at least 25 miles away from any pot shops or dispensaries to even be eligible for a grower’s license.

Vermont is the first state to legalize marijuana via legislation rather than voting. Starting in July, the state’s residents can carry an ounce and grow two plants per household. While groundbreaking as legalization legislation, the new law does not establish any market for growing marijuana for sale.

Along with New Jersey, Illinois and New York are also looking to be next in line for total legalization.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "US Marijuana Legalization – Find Out Which States It’s Legal in," in Medicalopedia, May 7, 2019, [Permalink:].