Cannabis Legalization Efforts: Where is Your State in the Process?

Most marijuana enthusiasts know where they can find legal weed.

To date, twenty-nine states allow medical marijuana and eight are both recreational and medical.

This is a great stride in the quest to make cannabis legal, but we have a long way to go. Below is a list of all fifty states and a brief description on where they are in the process of full legalization.

Alabama - To date, there are no ballot measures in the entire state. Alabama is known for being in the “Bible Belt” and many representatives are adamant about keeping their state free of the green leaf, medical included. Leni’s Law passed in 2014 allows for treatment of seizure disorders, but only use of cannabidiol, which is a derivative of the cannabis plant without the high.

Alaska – Interestingly enough, Alaska has allowed marijuana use under their constitution for about forty years. Recreational use marijuana passed (barely) in 2016. Because they’d already allowed small use under their constitutional right to privacy, the state struggles to regulate.

Arizona – This is a medical only state. In 2016, there was an initiative on the ballot to allow for recreational use, but the measure failed. Proposition 203 passed in 2010 and the state now has 122 medical dispensaries. Efforts to pass recreational marijuana continue in Arizona.

Arkansas – Surprisingly enough, Arkansas is a medical marijuana state. However, their laws are slightly stricter and only allows coverage for certain conditions under their law. No one under the age of 21 is permitted to use marijuana, even for medical purposes. 

California – Generally known for being progressive on many issues, marijuana is no different in the Sunshine State. California first legalized medical marijuana more than twenty years ago in 1996. While recreational weed is now legal, they have yet to set up adult friendly dispensaries. However, it is legal for adults over the age of 21 to consume, share and grow marijuana in their homes.

Colorado – Colorful Colorado is a medical and recreational state. When rec initially passed, adults could legally have up to one ounce of marijuana on their person. Tourists were originally restricted to purchasing seven grams per day. In June 2016, that law also changed. Residents and tourists alike can purchase up to 28 grams in a single transaction.

Connecticut – This tiny east coast state struggles with legalization. In early June 2017, representatives debated on whether they should allow for recreational use in adults without putting it to vote. While approximately sixty-percent of the residents in Connecticut are for recreational legalization, the state is still MMJ only with a mere nine dispensaries across its 5500 square miles.

Delaware – Interesting discussions are happening in Delaware. In early July 2017, a measure to pass recreational use of marijuana for adults hit the ballot. There is a lot of opposition to this measure in Delaware, however. If it does pass, private cultivation of cannabis would remain illegal and only state regulated facilities, testing companies and manufacturing businesses would be allowed.

Florida – Seemingly one of the stricter states on the issue, Florida only recently passed a law allowing medical use marijuana. Despite that, there are very few conditions allowed under this law and smoking cannabis remains illegal. Representatives are fine tuning the new law, but it appears recreational use is off the table for the foreseeable future.

Georgia – Medical marijuana is legal, but it is tightly regulated. In line with several other med only states, Georgia restricts medical use to patients with certain conditions. Recently, eight new conditions were added to the list, which expanded it to approximately twenty coverable conditions. Smoking is still prohibited and most MMJ patients use oils.

Hawaii – Considering this is the state that brought enthusiasts Maui Wowie, Hawaii isn’t one of the front runners when it comes to legalization. Although medical use passed in 2000, patients could grow up to seven plants at a time, but medical dispensaries were not allowed. That has recently changed. In January of 2016, the state began accepting license applications from potential dispensaries. Currently, there are no serious actions to make recreational use legal in the island state.

Idaho – One of only two states who has yet to legalize even medical use, Idaho does not seem to be in any rush to catch up with the rest of the nation. Possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is a misdemeanor and representatives have no intention of changing this soon. In 2016, residents tried to get an initiative on the ballot, but failed to gain enough signatures.

Illinois – Medical is legal in Illinois and in the first quarter of 2017, lawmakers began to work on a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana as well. Their efforts to legalize appear to be financially motivated as some estimate that recreational legalization can bring in nearly 700 million ­per year in revenue. Regardless of their motivation, it looks like Illinois will join the eight other recreational use states very soon.

Indiana – This state still lags when it comes to legalization of marijuana. Cannabis in any form is considered a Schedule 1 hallucinogen and carries strict penalties for those who are caught using or carrying. Medical marijuana is legal in Indiana. Representatives in this state continue to argue over passing recreational use and as of early July 2017, there has been no positive movement.

Iowa – Another state that isn’t too quick to join the marijuana movement is Iowa. They’ve just recently passed a bill at the state level to allow medical use for a variety of severe medical conditions including cancer. However, there is speculation that the measure that passed overwhelmingly at the state level (45-5), will not pass at the Iowa House level. Currently, approximately thirteen thousand Iowans could benefit from the state passing a medical use law.

Kansas – One of two states vehemently against any form of marijuana use, Kansas residents are not likely to see any effort to legalize soon. In April 2017, residents overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize marijuana. It does not make any form of marijuana legal, but it does give Kansas residents (and the rest of us) hope that Kansas might one day at least consider allowing medical use.

Kentucky – States in the Midwest aren’t exactly known for being progressive. However, Kentucky is the first state in the Midwest to start discussing the legalization of recreational marijuana. Talks are said to include adults over the age of 21 carrying up to an ounce of cannabis and cultivation for five plants or less in Kentucky homes. This is a great stride in a more conservative state. As of April 2017, medical use initiatives were still pending.

Louisiana – The state known for throwing the biggest party of the year (Mardi Gras), surprisingly only recently passed medical use marijuana. However, MMJ patients cannot smoke cannabis, nor are they able to cultivate it at home. Only oils are permissible and must be prescribed by a doctor, then purchased from a medical dispensary. Louisiana is still fleshing out the details, which includes what sector will grow and distribute.

Maine – This eastern seaboard state allows medical and recently, recreational use, though they are one of the stricter states. Patients and rec users are unable to purchase cannabis, nor are they able to smoke in public. However, residents of Maine can grow cannabis. Cannabis is not available for retail purchase until February 2018.

Maryland – While a good majority of residents in Maryland are pro-legalization, the state only allows medical use. Constituents were unable to get recreational use marijuana on the ballot for 2017, but residents in support of legalization are working to have it hit the ballot in 2018.

Massachusetts – Recreational has passed in Massachusetts, but legislative representatives continue to push the dates rec shops can open back. Currently, dispensaries for recreational use are slated to open in 2018. There is good news for residents, however. They can cultivate up to six plants and possess an ounce or less of marijuana, so long as they are over the age of 21.

Michigan – Medical marijuana for qualifying conditions is approved in Michigan. In May of 2017, activists could get enough signatures to get recreational marijuana on the ballot for 2018. The structure for Michigan’s law is very structured, though not considered as strict as some.

Minnesota – This is one of the more intriguing states. They do not have a ballot initiative process, so if residents want to see recreational marijuana legalized, they must actively reach out to their lawmakers. Medical is legal in Minnesota, although their laws are strict and the list of acceptable conditions is limited.

Mississippi – Despite the valiant efforts of activists and some of the residents of Mississippi, patients who use medical grade marijuana are still subject to criminal punishment. This state is still in limbo and while it looks like there might be progress made toward the legalization of at least medical, that could take several years. Recreational use is highly unlikely in Mississippi soon.

Missouri – Another state currently in limbo, Missouri neither allows medical or recreational use. In addition to pursuing legalization for medical and recreational marijuana, Missouri is working toward allowing cultivation of industrial hemp plants, which are often used to make clothing, paper and many other products.

Montana – Considering Montana is one of the more conservative states, they’ve had a medical marijuana program in place since 2004. Montana still has relatively harsh penalties when it comes to marijuana. Legislation is currently working on amending the medical bill, however there does not appear to be any hope of recreational legalization.

Nebraska – What’s fascinating about Nebraska is that the state teamed up with Oklahoma to file suit against Colorado when the state passed recreational use of marijuana. The feds have asked the lawsuit to be dropped, however. Nebraska is one of the few states who has yet to allow medical marijuana and last year, the measure failed yet again.

Nevada – This is yet another incredibly interesting state. They allow prostitution and consumption of alcohol openly, but have just recently passed recreational use marijuana. The measure was haphazardly put into place and although recreational cannabis is legal, there is no access to weed. Legislators continue to dispute who will distribute the product. Alcohol distributors demand the right while private businesses are hoping for a shot as well.

New Hampshire – This state has very strict laws surrounding cannabis use. They are in the “decriminalization” process, which means people who have marijuana on them are subject to less harsh penalties. New Hampshire has a “therapeutic use” law in effect, but since its passing in 2013, it has been largely criticized and a failure. Although this law has passed, patients still do not have legal access to cannabis.

New Jersey – Medical use cannabis was legalized about seven years ago. Currently, New Jersey is working out some of the kinks regarding taxation and regulation. There is nothing to indicate recreational use will make the ballots anytime soon.

New Mexico – Medical marijuana is legal in New Mexico. Two bills were introduced early 2017 that would allow adult recreational cannabis use, but neither passed. Approximately 34,000 patients use medical marijuana in the state of New Mexico. Efforts to legalize recreational cannabis continue.

New York -  Although medical use is legal, New York has not tried to update their decriminalization laws in four decades. Their medical use laws are strict and until recently, have not allowed patients with chronic pain and PTSD access. As of June 27, 2017, Governor Cuomo still has not signed the bill, leaving sufferers of chronic pain and PTSD in limbo.

North Carolina – Medical use is awaiting the house vote. It is archaic compared to most, however. The bill will protect medical cannabis users from persecution only if they suffer from a condition on an approved list. While North Carolina has made decriminalization efforts, it is considered one of the weakest attempts in the United States. There are currently no discussions surrounding recreational legalization.

North Dakota – Perhaps it isn’t much of a surprise to discover that North Dakota has some of the strictest guidelines regarding medical use marijuana. 64% of voters agreed to pass medical marijuana, but the list of approved illnesses is short. Additionally, those who live more than 40 miles from a dispensary cannot cultivate and only certain strains are permissible. North Dakota residents won’t be allowed medical use for at least a year.

Ohio – This state is in the earliest stages of legal medical use. Businesses seeking cultivation licenses had until June 30, 2017 to submit their applications. The state plans on an official launch date of September 8, 2018.

Oklahoma – In conjunction with Nebraska, Oklahoma filed suit against Colorado when the state passed their recreational use law. About 58% of residents would like to see decriminalization, but there has been little forward progress made regarding legalizing medical or recreational cannabis.

Oregon – This is one of the select few states that allow adult recreational use of cannabis, which has been in effect (seemingly successful) since 2014. Oregon has both medical and recreational dispensaries. They might even be considered more progressive than California in that SB301 seeks to prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who use recreational cannabis outside of the workplace.

Pennsylvania – One of 29 medical marijuana approved states, Pennsylvania lawmakers and citizens seem to be pleased with the movement. Interestingly enough, over sixty clergy in the state approve of medical use marijuana, all of whom voiced their opinions publicly via news conference earlier this year.

Rhode Island – Many states have decriminalized marijuana and Rhode Island is no exception. Their laws are more lax than most with the first offense being a citation and a maximum 150.00 fine. Medical marijuana is permitted in Rhode Island and MMJ patients can cultivate up to 12 non-flowering plants and 12 flowering plants simultaneously. The dispensaries in the state are known as Compassion Centers and there are only three. Rhode Island is currently working toward recreational adult use marijuana.

South Carolina – This state is currently working on legislation for medical cannabis. Under the Compassionate Care Act, residents in South Carolina with severely debilitating medical conditions would legally be able to use medical grade cannabis. This is an incredibly long process and it looks as though positive strides were made. We won’t know for certain until early 2018 if South Carolina will join 29 other states allowing medical marijuana.

South Dakota – Activists in this state are working to gather the proper signatures, notaries and paperwork to get the use of medical marijuana on the ballot for 2018. They’d almost achieved this for the 2016 ballot, but a notary error caused a delay.

Tennessee – Legislators heard testimony this year regarding the benefits of medical marijuana. Decriminalization in Tennessee is also difficult due in large part to racial tension between citizens and the police. Statistically, four African American civilians are arrested for every one Caucasian. Approximately 75% of residents in this state believe medical marijuana to be beneficial. We won’t know if any positive strides were made until the 2018 session.  

Texas – This is another state that uses the Compassionate Care Act. While technically patients with severe medical conditions could have access to medical cannabis, the law itself is restrictive and vague, making it difficult to say the least. Like Tennessee, we will just have to wait and see if Texas progresses or chooses to keep marijuana in any form illegal.

Utah – Considered by some to be the most conservative state in the US, Utah doesn’t allow for gambling (including scratch lotto tickets) and alcohol sales are limited to state stores and even times are restricted. Shockingly, an overwhelming 73% of voters are in favor of medical marijuana and residents are working on adding the measure to the ballot in 2018.

Vermont – Currently in a state of limbo, the governor of Vermont has shot down a bill aimed at allowing adults to possess small amounts of marijuana. Lawmakers amended the bill and have put it back on the governor’s desk. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in the state.

Virginia – This is one of the few states that is several steps behind the rest. There are no talks of decriminalizing marijuana, however lawmakers are considering easing penalties for those caught with cannabis. Virginia allows medical marijuana, but the list of ailments is quite short. Patients can only use THC-A or cannabidiol. Smoking is not permitted.

Washington – Both medical and recreational cannabis are legal in the state of Washington. Of all recreational legal states, this is considered one of the most successful programs. Each year, lawmakers introduce new bills and fine tune those already in place.

West Virginia – On April 19, 2017, the governor of West Virginia signed SB386 into law, making this the 29th state to allow medical marijuana. Unfortunately, patients will not have access to cannabis until July 2019. It is, however, a step in the right direction. Currently, adult use recreational marijuana is not up for discussion.

Wisconsin – This is another state behind the rest when it comes to decriminalization and talks of allowing recreational marijuana are not on the table. Wisconsin allows medical in the form of cannabidiol, but the list of ailments is small. As a matter of fact, only patients with seizure disorders qualify and approved doctors or pharmacists are the only people permitted to dispense the non-psychoactive effect cannabidiol.

Wyoming – Attempts at decriminalizing marijuana have been shot down on the Senate floor. Residents of Wyoming have no legal access to medical marijuana and it doesn’t appear as though they can expect it soon.