To date, thirty six states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation aimed at loosening restrictions on the use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. But even though it may be legal to use cannabis openly in these states, laws still vary considerably from state to state – and federal laws prohibiting cannabis in any form are still in effect. That can make create considerable confusion about what’s legal when it comes to using or buying cannabis products in any given state.
Marijuana Laws State-by-State Across the US
In some states, such as Idaho, all use and possession of cannabis is illegal. In contrast, others take a nuanced approach that might include allowing cannabis for medical use or a gradual phasing in of more liberal provisions. As each state has its own laws regarding cannabis use, it’s essential to be aware of the rules before you travel or try to order cannabis products from out-of-state companies.
Here’s a state-by-state rundown
of current laws governing the public consumption and other uses of cannabis in all its forms.
In February 2021, Alabama approved the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes only. The state also prohibits smoking, vaping, and the use of whole plant cannabis products. Recreational use is completely prohibited.
Cannabis has been fully legal in Alaska since 2014, and Alaska is the first state to license businesses for the on-site consumption of cannabis products. The Marijuana Control Board regulates all establishments doing cannabis related business.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Arizona since 2010, and in 2020, the state approved a proposition to legalize it entirely for recreational use. To qualify for medical cannabis, patients must be diagnosed with a "listed" condition. On the recreational side, anyone 21 or older can purchase cannabis products at a licensed establishment, possess up to an ounce of cannabis, and cultivate up to six plants at home.
Arkansas approved a medical cannabis law in 2016, and cannabis products became available in dispensaries in 2019. Still, cannabis laws in Arkansas remain among the harshest in the US. Recreational use is outlawed, and possessing less than four ounces of cannabis can still carry heavy fines and up to a year in jail time.
Medical cannabis has been legal in California since 1996, and cannabis sales for adult recreational consumers became legal in 2016. California now has one of the largest cannabis industries in the world. But some areas still have local restrictions on cannabis use.
Cannabis is fully legal in Colorado for both recreational and medical purposes. Bills signed in 2019 allow both home delivery and on-site consumption of cannabis products, including cannabis cafes and designated places in hotels and restaurants for cannabis users.
Connecticut made cannabis fully legal for recreation and medical uses in July 2021, but many of the law’s provisions won’t take effect until 2022 or later. Current laws allow medical cannabis for a listed set of conditions that includes chronic pain. Adults can possess limited amounts of cannabis at home and on their person.
Delaware allows the use of medical cannabis obtained from any of the state’s "Compassion Centers" with a medical marijuana card. Possession of small amounts of cannabis is a civil violation with no jail time, but Delaware hasn’t fully legalized cannabis yet.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia allows cannabis for medical purposes when provided by a licensed dispensary. Those dispensaries can now accept medical marijuana cards or other official documents from any other state. For now, though, DC laws have no provisions for recreational cannabis use.
Florida sends a mixed message about cannabis. Sale or delivery of cannabis in certain areas near a school or park still qualifies as a felony, and possession of even a small amount is illegal. But medical cannabis is allowed if a doctor certifies that a patient suffers from a listed condition.
Cannabis is completely illegal in Georgia, except for a limited law that allows some cannabis-derived products with no more than 5 percent THC. Georgia still imposes jail time for possession of cannabis and has no compassionate use options for medical cannabis either.
Cannabis in all its forms is completely illegal in Idaho, with no provisions for medical use and stiff punishments for possession of cannabis. Activists are continuing to fight for legalization in upcoming elections.
Illinois fully legalized cannabis for adults in 2019. The state also took measures to expunge the records of people arrested in the past for cannabis possession. Now, people affected by the old "war on cannabis" can get extra help to start a cannabis-related business.
Cannabis is illegal in Indiana, even for medical uses, and possessing even a single joint can result in jail time and stiff fines. But Indiana law does allow the use of low-THC CBD oil products derived from hemp for people with seizure disorders.
Iowa allows medical cannabis use for a limited list of conditions, including PTSD and chronic pain, with a cap of 4.5 grams of THC every 90 days. On the recreational side, Iowa still imposes jail time and fines for cannabis possession, with some of the most severe penalties in the country.
Cannabis containing THC is illegal in Kansas, but the state does allow CBD products that contain no THC for medical use. The state recently enacted an "affirmative defense" law that provides some limited protection for users of very low THC medical cannabis.
Since 2014, Kentucky has allowed CBD-only products for medical use under a physician’s direction, but cannabis products are outlawed in all other circumstances.
Louisiana still bans the possession and use of cannabis outside of a limited list of medical purposes. The state recently loosened restrictions on medical use to include smoking and whole-plant flower.
Maine recently relaxed its cannabis laws to include both adult recreational use and more flexibility for medical use. Adult Mainers can legally possess and grow small amounts of cannabis, and retail cannabis stores can get licenses.
Advocates are working for cannabis legalization in Maryland, but for now, the state only allows limited use of medical cannabis and no longer actively prosecutes marijuana possession.
Cannabis has been fully legal in Massachusetts since 2018 and now allows adult-use retail stores throughout the state. Massachusetts also has a medical cannabis program for people with serious health issues.
Cannabis became fully legal in Michigan in 2019, and the state allows licenses for on-site cannabis consumption in designated areas and at temporary events. Michigan also supports medical cannabis use and has dropped fines and prison time for use or possession of cannabis.
Medical cannabis is legal in Minnesota, and that now includes smoking and raw flower. But although a measure to legalize cannabis for adult use won the vote in 2020, it hasn’t been approved by the state legislature.
Medical cannabis is legal in Mississippi, and the state has decriminalized possession for personal use, with fines and a civil summons instead of jail time. But adult recreational use is still prohibited in the state.
Missouri allows medical cannabis with a physician’s approval for a select list of conditions, including home cultivation for patients and caregivers. But cultivation and possession of more than 10 grams of cannabis is still illegal, with jail time and heavy fines.
Cannabis is now fully legal in Montana for recreational and medical use, and the state expects to start issuing licenses for cannabis-related businesses in 2022. The state also passed an initiative to expunge low-level cannabis offenses from arrest records.
Nebraska recently decriminalized first-time cannabis possession, but possession and use of cannabis is still illegal, with a range of penalties for conviction. Nebraska has no medical cannabis program and prohibits the cultivation of plants for any use.
Nevada allows the use of both medical and recreational cannabis under some restrictions. The state licenses retail stores and allows cultivation for people who live 25 miles or more from a retail store. The state also allows possession of small amounts of cannabis.
Medical cannabis has been legal in New Hampshire since 2013, but home cultivation for patients is still a felony, and there’s no provision for adult use recreational cannabis in the state. New Hampshire also expunges low-level cannabis convictions from criminal records.
Cannabis is fully legal in New Jersey for medical and adult recreational use, but smoking in public is prohibited. Recent reforms have expanded access to cannabis for medical purposes, including home delivery.
Cannabis is legal in New Mexico for both adult recreational use and medical uses, and the state has expanded its list of eligible medical conditions. Cannabis retail sales are expected to begin in the spring of 2022.
Cannabis is fully legal in New York for recreational and medical purposes, and people can legally possess up to three ounces for personal use. New York has also decriminalized possession of cannabis and automatically expunges past convictions.
North Carolina has a state-regulated medical cannabis program that limits use to debilitating and terminal medical conditions. Still, recreational use remains illegal, with jail time and fines for possession of cannabis.
Recreational adult-use cannabis is illegal in North Dakota, but the state has eliminated jail time for low-level possession offenses. Medical cannabis is legal for a limited list of health conditions.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Ohio with some restrictions since 2016, but recreational use, possession, and growing small amounts of cannabis are still illegal, with penalties ranging from fines to jail time.
Oklahoma’s medical cannabis program is one of the largest in the US, but recreational use is still prohibited, with fines and/or jail time imposed for possession in most cities.
Cannabis is fully legal for medical and adult recreational purposes in Oregon, and the state has decriminalized possession of cannabis for personal use.
Medical cannabis is legal in Pennsylvania, but recreational use is still prohibited. In 2021, a number of bills were introduced in the state legislature to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis and smoking cannabis in public.
Rhode Island permits medical cannabis for registered patients to buy products from "compassion centers" and cultivate up to 12 cannabis plants. But although the state has decriminalized possession of small amounts, recreational use is still prohibited.
Cannabis use for any purpose is illegal in South Carolina, including medical cannabis.
South Dakota is the first state to adopt medical marijuana and legalize adult recreational use in the same election. Medical cannabis is now legal for patients with specific conditions, but recreational use is still prohibited, with fines and jail time for possession of cannabis.
Cannabis remains illegal for all purposes in Tennessee, but the state allows low THC cannabis oil for seizure patients only. Tennessee continues to block decriminalization for possession of even small amounts of cannabis.
Texas has a limited medical cannabis program that allows low-THC products for specific health conditions, but recreational use remains illegal.
Utah approved cannabis for medical purposes in 2018, but recreational cannabis remains prohibited, with jail time and fines still on the books for simple possession.
Vermont legalized the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis for recreational purposes in 2018 and passed a bill that requires automatic expungement of all offenses for cannabis possession. Medical cannabis is also legal for a list of qualifying conditions.
Medical and recreational cannabis is legal in Virginia, with licensed sales set to begin in 2024. Now, adults can legally possess and share up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants, and medical cannabis patients can use whole-plant cannabis for approved conditions.
Washington state legalized adult-use cannabis in 2012, but penalties remain for cultivating it at home and consuming it in public places. Anyone can legally buy cannabis in Washington, but it’s illegal to take it out of the state.
West Virginia has allowed medical cannabis since 2017, but its system is still not fully operational.
In all forms, cannabis for recreational use is still illegal and possession is criminalized.
Wisconsin has a limited medical cannabis law that allows only CBD products and no provisions for legal recreational cannabis. Wisconsin still imposes jail time for cannabis possession.
In Wyoming, cannabis is illegal for both medical and recreational purposes. As of 2021, Wyoming still imposes jail time for simple cannabis possession.
The United States is a patchwork of different laws and attitudes toward cannabis, and the line between legal and illegal access isn’t always clear. But advocates for both "compassionate use" medical cannabis laws and legalization of cannabis for adults are working for equal access for everyone who wants to use cannabis for any reason at all.