Last updated: October 2, 2023
Twenty years ago, California voters passed a proposition that would allow marijuana to be used for medical use. Today—still classified as a dangerous Schedule 1 substance under federal law—marijuana is able to be used in four states recreationally without fear of state prosecution.
Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington may not be alone for long and pot is already allowed in many more states in some form or another.
- Twelve states allow medical marijuana use and have decriminalized possession.
- Ten states and two territories have legalized the drug for medical use only.
- Three states and the Virgin Islands don’t allow medical use but have passed decriminalization measures.
- Twenty-two states still classify possession as a crime, adhering to federal law.
The Golden State decriminalized pot for recreational use and approved it for medical use as far back as 1996. Possession was reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction in 2010, but a bid for full legalization failed that same year. That may soon change if one of the two legalization bills currently on the table passes.
The state decriminalized marijuana in 2011. According to a recent Quinnipiac University Poll, 63 percent of voters surveyed now favor legalization of small amounts of weed for adults. Ergo, it seems entirely possible one of the legalization bills currently before the state legislature will pass.
A 2014 University of Delaware survey revealed 56 percent of respondents favor legalization. A law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug went into effect this January. The state that recently had the twelfth highest marijuana-related arrest rate per capita seems moving toward full legalization.
With the seventh highest rate of marijuana use in the country, the Pine Tree State seems an obvious candidate for legalization. Indeed, medical marijuana has been legal since 1999, and in 2013 the state’s largest city, Portland, voted to legalize small recreational amounts for adults.
The recently adopted Maryland State Medical Marijuana Program allows doctors to treat specific conditions with marijuana. Governor Larry Hogan signed the Second Chance Act, shielding marijuana arrests from records checks. Finally, a majority of voters has come out in favor of legalization, all of which make the state ripe for a change.
Decriminalization has had a dramatic impact, cutting the number of arrests by two-thirds. A Boston Herald poll revealed the fact that 53 percent of voters want to go further with total legalization. This coming November the state legislature will vote on a bill legalizing recreational weed for adults.
Although this state traditionally skews conservative, Minnesota recently legalized marijuana for medical use, and polls have shown a more relaxed attitude toward moderate recreational marijuana use.
Although Nevada has decriminalized possession of small amounts, its penalties for possession are the harshest among states that have done likewise. That could easily change this November when voters weigh in on the Initiative to Tax and Regulate Marijuana.
New York City Mayor de Blasio recently closed a decriminalization loophole that allowed law enforcement to charge anyone possessing marijuana in a public place with a misdemeanor. Medical marijuana was legalized statewide in 2014, and two bills providing for legalization and taxation of the drug are currently before the state legislature.
This small state leads the country in marijuana use, with 20 percent of citizens age 12 and up using the drug in 2012. Although the state’s laws are already among the nation’s most lenient, a legalization and regulation bill currently before the legislature seems likely to pass.
Vermont has already decriminalized pot, but given the fact that the state has the third highest rate of marijuana use in the U.S.—and leads the nation in use by 12 to 17-year-olds—legalization may not be far off.