For decades, the laws surrounding marijuana legalization moved at a glacial pace. Ever since the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, weed has been federally illegal, and there is little evidence that anything will change on that score. It’s a sad situation, but at least individual states have stepped up to the plate.
Some have acted faster than others. California was the first to legalize cannabis for medical consumption way back in 1996. Alas, we had to wait 14 years before any states took the bold step of legalizing it for recreational purposes. That honor went to Washington state, thanks to the Washington Initiative 502 on December 6, 2012.
Several other states have followed suit, and at the time of writing, nine states plus D.C. allow you to use weed recreationally. Let’s look at the laws in each of these states below.
Which States Have Recreational Marijuana?
1 – Alaska
Weed was originally decriminalized in Alaska in 1975, but this decision was reversed 15 years later. The state proceeded to shift position twice during the early 21st century. Alaska is an unusual state with regards to marijuana legalization. Normally, states dip their toe in the water and ensure weed is legal medicinally first.
In Alaska’s case, though, Measure 2 was successful in 2014 and ensured that cannabis was legal recreationally. The measure became law on February 24 the following year, and now all Alaskan residents are allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana if they are aged 21+. They are also allowed to grow six plants per person, or a maximum of 12 in a two-person household.
2 – California
The Golden State has always been associated with a liberal attitude towards the herb. In 1975, Senate Bill 95 (also known as the Moscone Act) decriminalized weed possession; you were charged with a misdemeanor for possession of an ounce or less. It was no surprise that California was the first state in the modern era to legalize cannabis for medical use in 1996 through Proposition 215.
It attempted to be the first state to legalize weed for recreational use in November 2010, but Proposition 19 was defeated by 7%. The main concerns came from police in the state, who were worried about increased criminal activity if legalization occurred.
However, once it was determined that Colorado and Washington did not experience a crimewave after their respective decisions to legalize marijuana, California followed with Proposition 64 in 2016. Adults can now possess up to an ounce and grow six live plants. However, you can grow more with a commercial license.
3 – Colorado
Marijuana was first prohibited by Colorado in 1917. Within a couple of years, alcohol was banned nationwide, so it was a grim time for anyone interested in abiding by the law! The state decriminalized the herb in 1975, and then in 2000 Amendment 20 was approved by voters; medical marijuana became allowed.
Colorado was agonizingly close to becoming the first state to legalize marijuana recreationally but was beaten by four days. On December 10, 2012, Amendment 64 legalized weed and allowed adults aged 21+ to possess up to an ounce of the herb. You are also allowed to grow a maximum of six plants at home.
4 – Maine
The state of Maine decriminalized marijuana in 1976 and was among the first states to legalize weed medicinally through Question 2 in 1999. A whopping 62% of the population voted ‘Yes.’ In 2009, a piece of legislation known as LD 250 downgraded the possession of 2.5 ounces or less to a civil infraction.
It was only a matter of time before Maine went the whole way, and on November 8, 2016, Question 1 (also known as the Marijuana Legalization Act) legalized weed recreationally by a margin of just 0.5%! After protests and delays, retail sales were allowed to commence in February 2018. In Maine, it is legal to carry up to 2.5 ounces of weed, and you can grow a maximum of six plants in your home.
5 – Massachusetts
Although Massachusetts was late to the party, it has made up for lost time in the last decade. The state only decriminalized marijuana in 2008 but by November 2012, Question 3 was approved by 63% of voters and cannabis became legal for medicinal use.
Almost four years later to the day, on November 8, 2016, voters passed a ballot initiative known as Question 4 which legalized recreational marijuana in Massachusetts. However, specific towns and cities in the state can ban recreational sellers, and Governor Charles Baker signed legislation which extended the start date for sales to July 2018. You are allowed carry one ounce, and cultivate up to an ounce outdoors or up to 10 ounces indoors.
6 – Nevada
Nevada legalized pot medicinally way back in 1998 when Question 9 was approved by voters. It was approved again in 2000 because state law dictated that the initiative needed approval in consecutive elections since it was a constitutional amendment. Attempts to legalize weed recreationally were made in 2002 and 2006, but both failed.
Finally, Question 2 was put before voters in 2016 with the aim of legalizing marijuana recreationally. The initiative passed on November 8 by 8%. Dispensaries in the state began selling weed recreationally on July 1, 2017. You are allowed to possess up to an ounce but are only permitted to grow at home if you live more than 25 miles from the nearest dispensary.
7 – Oregon
Oregon was another state that was always likely to legalize pot. During the early part of this century, the ratio of residents using weed outpaced the general population by over 40%. Ballot Measure 67 legalized weed medicinally for patients with certain medical conditions in 1998.
In 2014, Measure 91, which legalized marijuana recreationally, was approved. In 2015, Governor Kate Brown signed an emergency bill which declared weed sales legal from dispensaries beginning in October of that year. You are allowed to possess up to an ounce as long as you are a licensed cultivator. You are also allowed to grow a maximum of four plants per household.
8 – Vermont
Marijuana was first made legal medicinally in Vermont in May 2004 when Senate Bill 76 was passed without the signature of Governor James Douglas. It was decriminalized in June 2013, and the state began looking into the possibility of recreational use from 2014 onward when Governor Peter Shumlin announced his support for a ‘tax and regulate’ system for the herb.
In January 2018, House Bill 511 was passed, which made it legal to buy weed recreationally and possess up to an ounce. Adult residents are also allowed to grow two mature plants and four immature ones.
9 – Washington State
The state of Washington became a history maker when it became the first to legalize marijuana for recreational use. It was also one of the first to legalize it for medicinal use. As early as 1979, the Washington Court of Appeals recognized medical use as a defense for individuals charged with possession. In 1998, Initiative 692 was filed and allowed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with certain conditions.
Public support for full legalization grew, and in 2010 the state’s House of Representatives considered a pair of cannabis bills. On December 6, 2012, Initiative 502 was passed which made Washington the first American state to legalize weed for recreational use. Adult residents are allowed to carry an ounce, but it is illegal to grow plants at home unless for medical use.
10 – District of Columbia
Although Initiative 59 was voted in to allow medical marijuana in D.C. back in 1998, Congress prevented it from taking effect until 2009. In 2014, Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill that decriminalized possession of an ounce or less.
Within a few months, Initiative 71 was approved for ballot and asked voters if they wanted legal recreational weed in D.C. On November 4, 2014, the answer was an overwhelming ‘YES’ as almost 65% voted in favor. Also, residents are allowed to carry up to two ounces and grow up to six plants; commercial sale is banned.
This is an extremely tough question to answer because there are a lot of likely candidates. Michigan is near the top of the list, however. Weed is already legal there medicinally, and in April 2018 an initiative to approve weed recreationally was approved by the Board of State Canvassers. It seems as if the state’s leaders understand the positive impact that marijuana tax revenue will have.
According to the proposal on the ballot, possession and sale of up to 2.5 ounces will be allowed. If the measure passes, recreational sales will come with an extra 10% tax on top of the existing 6% sales tax.
The vote on recreational marijuana is due in November. Recent polls show that over 60% of residents intend to support the measure, so weed lovers in Michigan could be ringing in the New Year with a joint!
One thing’s for sure; it is unlikely that we will have to wait long for another state to legalize marijuana recreationally. The tide is turning, and one day soon, it will turn into an unstoppable flood.