It’s difficult to keep up with America’s rapidly changing marijuana laws, but this knowledge is critical, both for employers who want to ensure a safe and productive workplace while complying with employment law, and for employees, who may want to partake in marijuana on their own time, either medically or recreationally, without risking their jobs.
So we’ve created a handy interactive map to show you which states marijuana is legal in, and we’ve even broken it down by medical and recreational marijuana. Below the map, you’ll also find state-specific information and resources.
This should help you to avoid a lot of the myths and misconceptions going around today about the laws regarding marijuana. For example, a lot of people mistakenly believe that drug testing is no longer allowed in states like Denver, Colorado where marijuana has been legalized, but what most don’t realize is that the US Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that an employer is well within their rights to test their employees for marijuana use. Likewise, many don’t know employers that are regulated by the Department of Transportation, like those found in busy transportation hubs like Atlanta, Georgia, don’t have the option of not testing for marijuana use because of federal Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines.
Eight states currently allow for recreational marijuana use (California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia). In these states, marijuana is regulated and laws are enforced much like those for alcohol. For example, several states provide that only individuals over the age of 21 may buy and possess marijuana. It is a crime in those states to buy or give marijuana to those under the age of 21. In each of these states, it still remains a crime to drive while impaired by marijuana
Many states are currently developing statutes permitting medical marijuana. There are extreme variances in the permitted use and amount of medical marijuana even within the states with more liberal regulations. Some states, such Connecticut, require patients to register with the state and have one of eleven qualifying conditions, and only allow the sale of medical marijuana from a licensed dispensary. Other states are more liberal in their regulation of medical marijuana and simply require a recommendation from a certified physician in order to obtain medical marijuana. Still other states, such as North Carolina and Georgia, do not currently allow for the use of medical marijuana, but do allow for the limited use of cannabidiol (“CBD oil”).
Some states have “decriminalized” marijuana use and possession. Be very wary of this categorization, however, because what may constitute “decriminalized” in one state, resulting in a purely civil penalty or fine, is actually a misdemeanor in another state and may carry with it a permanent mark on your criminal record. For example, Connecticut imposes a maximum possible fine of $150 for possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana for first time offenders. This is a purely civil penalty, resulting in no criminal record. Similarly, Maryland has decriminalized small amounts and possession of less than 10 grams will constitute a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine for first-time offenders. North Carolina, despite claims that it has “decriminalized” marijuana, still counts possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana as a class 3 misdemeanor. Conviction of a class 3 misdemeanor in North Carolina will go on your criminal record.
Medical Marijuana is Legal
Recreational Marijuana is Legal
Employer rights in medical/recreational use states
While employment law has not shifted as dramatically as the drug laws over the years, the Colorado Supreme Court has recently upheld, in Coats v Dish Network, the firing of an employee who legally smoked marijuana. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, employers are well within their rights to test for illegal substances, even in states where marijuana is legal for recreational or medicinal purposes. The statues of the State of California specifically provide that employers may still enforce policies that include marijuana screening.
Arguments in favor of including marijuana in workplace drug screening
Those who support the inclusion of marijuana as one of the screened substances in pre-employment drug testing in those states where marijuana is legal for either recreational or medicinal purposes primarily cite safety standards in support of their argument. Safety-sensitive industries such as the trucking, railway, transportation and aviation industries are also the most federally regulated employers. Marijuana remains illegal under federal laws. Because these employers are bound by federal regulations and testing is mandatory under these regulations, these employers lack discretion in their drug screening policies.
Other employers, those not bound by the federal regulations, oppose changing their pre-employment drug screening policies because they wish to remain autonomous in dictating their employment policies. Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, they are well within their rights to screen for all illegal substances and they simply choose to exercise their rights.
Another argument in favor of testing is that even though an employee may have used a couple days before work—their reaction times are still slowed down months after their last use. In fields where reaction time is vital, like nursing and emergency care, supporters argue that it’s a life or death type of situation.
Arguments in favor of removing marijuana from workplace drug screening
In states where marijuana is legal for recreational purposes, is treated like alcohol under the statutes. Unlike alcohol, which disappears from the user’s system several hours after consumption, marijuana says in the user’s system and is detectable on tests a month or more after the user’s last use. Those who argue that marijuana should be dropped from pre-employment drug screening in recreational and medicinal use states contend that the test is not a good test for safety purposes because the user may have smoked while off-duty, just as a person who consumed alcohol off-duty, but is now completely free from the influence of any impairing substance. Therefore, the presence of marijuana in an employment drug screening could be a poor indicator of any workplace safety issues and creates an unwarranted and unnecessary distinction between the marijuana user and the alcohol consumer. Because there is no such distinction in the state’s statute, they argue, no such distinction should exist in pre-employment drug screening.
Changes in workplace drug polices due to changes in drug laws
In cities such as Denver, Colorado, where marijuana is legal for recreational purposes, many employers have simply removed marijuana from the list of drugs for which pre-employment drug screening is required. The reasoning behind this is largely to widen the applicant pool for available jobs. In Colorado, there is a less than 3% unemployment rate, meaning there are sometimes more jobs available than employers can fill. Further limiting the pool of available workers is not something many employers are willing to do. The result is that they have altered their drug-screening process to specifically exclude marijuana.
Some employers, however, remain bound by federal regulations and therefore unable to change their drug-screening policies.
Marijuana laws by state
No legalization for medicinal or recreational purposes. No decriminalization. Marijuana remains totally illegal in Alabama. Possession of even a small amount of marijuana for personal use could result in up to a year in jail and a $6,000 fine.
Legal for medicinal and recreational use, but with restrictions. Marijuana cannot be sold or consumed in public. It is legal to grow marijuana and to possess up to four ounces in your home or one ounce on your person.
Recreational use is illegal. Medicinal use is legal, but with restrictions. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, passed in 2010, authorizes possession and personal use of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by patients with a valid, written physician’s certification, but only for certain conditions including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Chron’s Disease and Hepatitis C.
Recreational use is illegal. Medical use is permitted for certain conditions. The state’s 2016 Medical Marijuana Amendment expanded the number of qualifying conditions to seventeen including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Fibromyalgia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Marijuana was decriminalized in California pursuant to the state’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Adults over the age of 21 may consume, purchase and possess up to one ounce in a private residence or in a facility licensed for marijuana consumption. Medical use is permitted but requires a physician recommendation for an approved medical use.
One of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, Colorado allows the possession and sale of marijuana, but with limits. All buyers must be over the age of 21. The Department of Revenue regulates the licensing of all marijuana establishments.
Decriminalized. Possession of less than half of an ounce will result in a civil penalty of $150 for first time offenders. Medicinal use is permitted, but patients must register with the state and have one of eleven statutorily defined conditions including Chron’s disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS and must be purchased from a licensed dispensary.
The use or possession of marijuana remains illegal, even in medicinal use cases. Possession of small amounts of marijuana is an “unclassified” misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in prison.
District of Columbia
Recreational use permitted. It is legal for persons over the age of 21 to possess two or less ounces of marijuana. However, possession is still prohibited on Federal parks or land, a plethora of which is located in or around the District of Columbia.
Recreational use is illegal. Medicinal use is legal under limited circumstances. A doctor must be certified and must determine whether marijuana use is an appropriate treatment. The state licenses business to cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients. Qualifying conditions include cancer, glaucoma, MS, Parkinson’s disease, HIV/AIDS or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class.
Marijuana is illegal for recreational and medicinal use. A very limited use of cannabis oil is permitted. In May 201, these permitted uses were expanded to include more conditions eligible for treatment and allows hospice care patients to possess cannabis oil. Any other uses, however, remain illegal.
Marijuana use for medicinal and recreational purposes remains illegal.
Possession and use of marijuana remains illegal for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Recreational use of marijuana is illegal. A medical marijuana program for eligible patient is set to run as a pilot program in 2018.
Marijuana use for medicinal and recreational purposes remains illegal.
Recreational use of marijuana is illegal. Medical marijuana is illegal, but in 2014 the legislature legalized the possession and use of cannabidiol in very limited circumstances.
Possession and use of marijuana remains illegal for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Recreational use of marijuana is illegal. Medical marijuana is illegal, but the possession and use of cannabidiol is permitted in very limited circumstances.
Recreational use of marijuana is illegal. Medical marijuana has been legalized for limited medicinal purposes since 1991, but there is no provision for the legal dispensing of marijuana. Doctors can prescribe and patients can possess medical marijuana, but there is no legal mechanism for the supply of marijuana.
Recreational use is legal. Possession of up to 2.4 ounces of usable marijuana is permitted as is home cultivation of up to six plants.
Marijuana use for medicinal and recreational purposes remains illegal, however small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized. Possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine for first time offenders.
Recreational use of marijuana is legal for persons over the age of 21. Possession of up to one ounce outside of the home is legal, while possession of up to 10 ounces is legal in a residence. Up to six plants may be grown in a residence and an adult may give up to one ounce to another adult without payment.
Recreational use of marijuana is illegal. Medical marijuana is allowed for limited medicinal use by approved patients. Patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces and cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use.
Possession and use of marijuana remains illegal for medicinal and recreational purposes. However, possession has been decriminalized in that possession of up to 42.5 grams will result in a $200 fine and a petty misdemeanor which will appear on a criminal record.
No provision in law for permitted uses of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes.
Recreational and medical use of marijuana remain illegal.
Marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes subject to specific limitations including the requirement that a user hold a current “registry identification card” issued by the state of Montana. Both patients and caregivers must register with the state.
No laws legalizing marijuana for either recreational or medical use. Decriminalization has occurred for possession of very small amounts of marijuana.
Recreational use is legal as of 2016. Adults over the age of 21 may possess, transport and cultivate marijuana for personal use.
Marijuana is illegal. There are no provisions in law allowing for recreational or medicinal use of marijuana.
Recreational use remains illegal, but medical use is permitted. Patients and caregivers must both register with the State.
Recreational use remains illegal, but medical use is permitted. Patients must apply to the state Medical Cannabis Program.
Recreational use is illegal, but medicinal use is permitted for certain listed conditions which, as the statute requires, must be accompanied by a complicating condition such as severe chronic pain, nausea or muscle spasms.
There is no provision in law for the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana. Although North Carolina is said to be a “decriminalized” state, the possession of less than .05 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by a $200 fine.
No recreational uses are permitted. Medical use became permitted in November 2016 for specific medical conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Glaucoma and Epilepsy.
Recreational use is illegal, but medical use is permitted. A State issued patient identification card is an affirmative defense to marijuana possession charges incurred by medical marijuana patients.
Neither recreational nor medicinal marijuana use is legal in Oklahoma.
The third state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana in Oregon has been legal since July 2015.
Both the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana are illegal.
While the recreational use of marijuana has been decriminalized, the medicinal use of marijuana has been legalized. In Rhode Island, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana (without medical permission) is a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $150.
Neither recreational nor medicinal marijuana use is legal in South Carolina.
Neither recreational nor medicinal marijuana use is legal in South Dakota.
Neither recreational nor medicinal marijuana use is legal in Tennessee.
No medical or recreational uses have been legalized in Texas. Possession of under two ounces of marijuana could result in a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Neither recreational nor medicinal marijuana use is legal in Utah. However, cannabidiol (“CBD Oil”) is permitted for specific types of epilepsy.
Currently marijuana remains illegal for both recreational and medicinal use in Vermont, but the legislature is considering legalizing recreational use.
Neither recreational nor medicinal marijuana use is legal in Virginia.
Legal for both recreational and medicinal uses. However, while it is legal to possess and use marijuana, private cultivation is not allowed. However, with the permitted medicinal use of marijuana, patients may grow up to 15 plants.
Marijuana remains fully illegal in West Virginia with no permitted recreational or medicinal uses.
Neither recreational nor medicinal marijuana use is legal in Wisconsin. However, cannabidiol (“CBD Oil”) is permitted for seizure disorders.
Marijuana remains fully illegal in Wyoming with no permitted recreational or medicinal uses, despite multiple legislative efforts.