The NCSL Blog


By Donna Lyons

So far, 2015 is not shaping up to be the year that a state legislature legalizes adult-use recreational marijuana.

Marijuana leafBills were introduced in at least 21 states this year, and have failed in 14 to date. Bills are still pending in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and measures will carry over in Georgia, New York and Vermont. 

Study bills also have failed in at least three states. Legislative proposals for an initiative petition or constitutional amendment regarding legal, recreational marijuana failed in Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada, while a Georgia measure will carry over.

Voters in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use. In November, Ohio voters can expect to see Issue 3 on the ballot addressing commercial production and sale of recreational marijuana.

Delaware this year became the 20th state to decriminalize marijuana, meaning certain small, personal–consumption amounts are a civil or local infraction, not a state crime, or are the lowest misdemeanor with no possibility of jail time. Delaware’s action makes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults a civil violation with a $100 fine. Maryland and Missouri decriminalized marijuana in 2014, and Vermont in 2013.

Gaining traction is legislation aimed at erasing records of persons who have had marijuana convictions.

Legislation approved this year in Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont address expungement, sealing or set-aside of certain marijuana convictions. Similar legislation in New Jersey currently is in concurrence, and New York and Washington bills will carry over.

A 2015 law in Oregon requires courts to consider set-aside of records of certain misdemeanor marijuana offenses when probation has been successfully completed. Another Oregon act makes eligible for expunction a youthful adjudication for marijuana possession crimes.

Donna Lyons is group director in NCSL’s Criminal Justice program. Email Donna.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.