Legal and Illegal States

All of the legal states achieved legalized marijuana for use by any adult via voter-approved initiatives, except Illinois. All had and have an existing medical marijuana program of some sorts. Almost all the states enacted a regulation structure that issues licenses to grow, process, sell, test, use, and possess, as well as a taxation system.

Washington (2012) Considered a mature market and regulatory structure.

Colorado (2012) Considered a mature market and regulatory structure.

Oregon (2014) Considered a mature market and regulatory structure.

Alaska (2014) Considered a mature market and regulatory structure.

District of Columbia (2014) No sales allowed. Possession only.

Nevada (2016) Rapidly developing market and regulatory structure.

California (2016) A “legacy” market far bigger than any market in the world, with a regulatory structure so complex, so bureaucratic, and so expensive and time consuming to navigate, that it touches just a tiny portion of the market.

Massachusetts (2016) Implementation proceeding, albeit very slowly. Only a handful of stores are open in mid-2020. Decision-making is bogged down in slow deliberation.

Maine (2016) Politics prevented the state from implementing the legalization initiative, but the first licenses and sales are available in Oct 2020.

Vermont (2018) Grow, possess and consume only. In October 2020 they legalized sales; first sales due 2022.

Michigan (2018) Developing market efficiently and reasonably implemented in 2020.

Illinois (2019) The first to be implemented by legislative action. Stores in operation in 2020.

Arizona (2020) A solid medical program and market means they’ll be able to switch to fully legal almost immediately.

New Jersey (2020) The legislature has been preparing to move fast with the implementation. New Jersey is quite different because they do not impose a separate cannabis tax.

Montana (2020) The existing medical program will be a good start for full adult-use.

South Dakota (2020) They passed both medical and recreational at the same time. The governor will likely obstruct the implementation, though.

In 2012 and 2014 the primary objective of legalization was to remove criminal penalties from growing, selling, and possessing marijuana. State regulation and taxation were accepted as helpful compromises to accomplish the main objective, as well as meeting the requirements of the Cole Memo that limited federal interference.

Modern cannabis legalization laws are not just about whether people should go to jail for weed, but how those laws are implemented.

That’s the legal states, where THC does not get you a fine or jail. In the illegal states, any contact with THC involves arrests, fines, and possible jail. Those states are:

Alabama Georgia Idaho IndianaIowa
Kansas KentuckyMississippi Nebraska North Carolina
South Carolina TennesseeVirginia Texas
Wisconsin Wyoming

Considering the 15 legal states, and the 15 illegal states, that leaves 20 states with some form of medical marijuana laws. They generally permit contact with THC as if you were in a legal state, but you must register with the state as a patient or caregiver. Otherwise you are subject to the same fines and jail as the illegal states.

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