Legal and Illegal Cannabis States

Living in the United States and enjoying Cannabis at the same time can be a challenge. Whether you travel or want to find a recreational dispensary near you, it’s important to know the states that are legal and those that aren’t.

On Election Day in 2012, voters in Colorado approved a ballot initiative legalizing the recreational use and sale of cannabis, making the state the first in the U.S. to do so. Eighteen other states, Washington, D.C., and Guam would go on to legalize the drug in the next 10 years as public support for legalization rose rapidly – despite marijuana being illegal at the federal level.

Much of the West Coast and the Northeast are fully legal and the center of the nation has embraced medical cannabis, but there are still a few holdout states where cannabis is restricted to medical use only or fully illegal. Beware or you may end up in jail.

1:  Know your local laws: There are even some cities like Atlanta, GA, and Austin, TX that have decriminalized marijuana separately from state law. Most states have their own processes for licensing dispensaries, but in all states where marijuana is legal, businesses that sell marijuana must have a license from the state to do so.

2:  Taxes: The sales are regulated and taxed by the states at varying rates. Some states implement an excise tax on the sales, which are taxes on a particular good – in this case, cannabis – levied on the seller, which typically passes it on to the consumer by including it in the product’s price.

3: Plan your trip: You can find a recreational or medical dispensary near you, or plan to find a dispensary near your destination if you choose to travel. But beware of traveling with your cannabis across State lines. Provisions outlining the amount of marijuana an adult can legally possess, if adults can grow their own marijuana plants and how the tax revenue is spent vary from state to state.

States Where Cannabis is Fully Legal: Recreational + Medical

In which states is cannabis totally legal? There are a total of 17 states where both recreational and medical use of marijuana is legal. In these states – including the legendary legal front-runners Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and California – medical and recreational dispensaries are often found in the same place. In most cities, you can find dozens of marijuana dispensaries nearby.

Cannabis Legal States

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Virginia

Districts & Territories

  • Washington DC 

States Where Cannabis is Legal for Medical + Decriminalized

In states where medical marijuana is legal and cannabis is decriminalized, it is safe to walk around with a few buds in your pocket as long as you toke respectfully. In these 11 states, most major cities and many small communities have at least one cannabis dispensary where those with a medical card can buy medical marijuana. You can also safely share your cannabis with friends in private spaces because possession has been decriminalized.

Cannabis Medical Decriminalized States

  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island

Districts & Territories

  • US Virgin Islands

States Where Cannabis is Legal for Medical Only

In strict-medical states, you will need to have a medical marijuana card in order to legally possess cannabis on you, in your car, or in your home. You can often find a medical marijuana dispensary near you, though these venues are very tightly regulated to discourage or prevent recreational use. In most medical-only states, cannabis possession is a misdemeanor without a medical card or in excess quantities.

Cannabis Medical Only States

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

Districts & Territories

  • Puerto Rico

States Where Cannabis is Illegal but Decriminalized

In only two states, you will find no cannabis dispensaries, but you also won’t get in a lot of trouble for personal possession within state borders. Nebraska and North Carolina have, so far, decriminalized and hopefully legalized in the near future. Decriminalization alone is often a small step on the slow legalization path.

Cannabis Illegal Decriminalized States

  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina

States Where Cannabis is Illegal

Finally, it’s important to remain aware of which states marijuana is illegal and not safe to carry or use within state borders. Be safe when in these states. Where possession is fully illegal, even traces of THC in shake, vape cart empties, and concentrated crumble in the car can get you into trouble.

Cannabis Illegal States

  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
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