Nineteen states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of cannabis (marijuana) for adult recreational use. Most recently, Rhode Island passed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act. In late June of 2021, Connecticut legalized the recreational use of cannabis with the passage of SB 1201. Some aspects of the bill do not take effect immediately, but those 21 years old and higher will be able to recreationally use cannabis starting July 1, 2021. On April 7, 2021, Virginia's legislature accepted the governor's recommended amendments for a significantly speedier implementation window for HB 2312 which would legalize recreational cannabis use in Virginia and establish a regulated commercial market. New York legalized cannabis with the governor's signature of AB 1248, which was passed during New York's 2021 session. Additionally, on March 30, 2021, New Mexico's legislature introduced its Cannabis Regulation Act within their first special session. The bill, HB 2a, has been signed by the Governor.
In the 2020 elections, South Dakota voters passed Constitutional Amendment A (54%). Quickly after the amendment passed, it was challenged in court. On Feb. 8, 2021 Circuit Judge Christina Klinger ruled that the measure was unconstitutional. The map below summarizes cannabis policy throughout the states as of June 2021.
Colorado and Washington approved adult-use recreational marijuana measures in 2012. Alaska, Oregon and District of Columbia followed suit in fall of 2014. In 2015, Ohio voters defeated a ballot measure that addressed commercial production and sale of recreational marijuana. On Nov. 8, 2016, voters in four states, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, approved adult-use recreational marijuana, while voters in Arizona disapproved. In 2018, Michigan voters approved “Proposal 1” by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in the state. In 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana for adult use through the legislative process (rather than a ballot initiative.) Vermont’s law went into effect July 1, 2018. In May 2019, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, House Bill 1438 and the Governor signed the legislation in June. Recently, New Jersey (AB 21) legalized certain personal use, while removing marijuana as a schedule I drug.
On March 16, 2021, NPR's Planet Money released a newsletter entitled The Data On Legalizing Weed. The newsletter discusses studies on crime rates, traffic accidents, prices, jobs, state budgets, and state workers' comp programs.
In 2020, Virginia adopted SJR 67 - having Virginia begin it's journey to join the other states in legalizing cannabis for recreational use. The resolution begins a study requiring recommendations for implementing legalization by July 1, 2022.
In 2018, study bills were filed in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota and Rhode Island. The measures in New Hampshire and Rhode Island were enacted and established commissions to study the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana.
Bills to repeal voter initiatives approving adult-use legal marijuana were introduced in 2018 but did not pass in Washington. On February 8, 2021 Circuit Judge Christina Klinger ruled that South Dakota’s Constitutional Amendment A was unconstitutional.
Recently, Michigan (HR 151) urged Congress of the United States to clarify its position on the legality of marijuana under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Several bills before state legislatures in 2018 addressed the federal role in marijuana policies. California passed a resolution urging Congress to pass legislation that would allow financial institutions to provide services to the cannabis industry. Bills or resolutions were introduced in 2018 in Alaska California, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania call on Congress to reschedule or otherwise allow state authority for marijuana policy. NCSL has sent a letter to Congress in 2018 in support of a recently introduced bill to protect state sovereignty with respect to marijuana regulation. NCSL also sent a letter in support of language prohibiting the DOJ from using justice funding for enforcement actions against states with legal medical marijuana laws. NCSL’s Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee also recently enacted a policy resolution on cannabis.
Under federal law, marijuana is still a Schedule I illegal substance.