As you may know, marijuana is still not totally legal everywhere. You might find yourself asking the (in)famous question — where is marijuana legal by state? Before I answer this question, you should learn a bit of history. Ever since the United States crack down on cannabis by the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana remains illegal for possession, sale, use, and growing under federal law. So what happened?
The law, mostly in place to villainize the counterculture and hippie movement of the 1960s, stated that cannabis provides no potential for medical use, along with a high potential for abuse. However, after decades of prohibition, state governments realized that the law failed to hinder widespread marijuana use. Therefore, they either decriminalized cannabis for medical use or outright legalized both it and recreational use.
Where Is Marijuana Legal By State?
The Free States
So far, eleven states legalized the possession, sale, and cultivation of cannabis for both medical and recreational use. California and Colorado pioneered the cannabis legalization movement. California did it first and actually declared cannabis possession a misdemeanor all the way back in 1975. Later, it legalized medical use in 1996. Then, Colorado started the revolution in 2012, signing the Colorado Amendment 64. Besides the pioneers, cannabis is entirely legal in:
Marijuana is also allowed in a few other places. For instance, it’s legal in D.C., but selling it is prohibited. Moreover, you can find legal cannabis in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and all the Native American reservations.
The Gray Area
Here’s where the waters get murky. In the following states, both medical and recreational use is decriminalized and widely tolerated:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Dakota
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
The next few states allow medical use, but recreational use is illegal. In other words, if you have a prescription, you can buy marijuana in these states:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
Finally, we’ve come to the states where cannabis still remains mostly illegal. However, in some cases, CBD oil and low-THC strains are exempt for medical use. In addition, some states tolerate recreational cannabis use, or they’ve bumped it down to a misdemeanor. Anyhow, you should still be careful if you’re in:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Thanks to the brave states of California and Colorado, the list of places where marijuana is legal keeps growing by the day. Even though it still contradicts the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis use is tolerated in more than half of the U.S. In addition, what used to be a huge criminal enterprise, sending a huge number of otherwise law-abiding citizens to prison, is becoming a booming industry creating jobs and income for hundreds of Americans.
In my opinion, marijuana will soon be legal everywhere in the U.S. Until that happens, I hope this updated ‘where is marijuana legal by state?’ list helps you navigate.