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A State-By-State Look At The Future Of Legal Marijuana

United Stoners of America.

Posted on January 30, 2014, at 8:03 p.m. ET

Michelle Broder Van Dyke / Via BuzzFeed

UPDATED — April 9, 9:35 a.m. ET:

Around the country, states are adopting or considering marijuana legalization measures, and a majority of Americans now say recreational use of marijuana should be legal, according to recent polls.

Following is a look at the states that have passed or are considering laws legalizing marijuana:


Flickr: 10101046@N06

What is legal? Marijuana possession was decriminalized in 1975 and medical marijuana was legalized in 1998.

What's next? The push to legalize cannabis is strong in Alaska, with a group known as Campaign to Regulate Marijuana leading the movement. CRM gained more than 36,000 signatures on Jan. 15 for marijuana legislation based on Colorado's law to be placed on the August ballot — it only needed 30,000 signatures. If the law passes, Alaska would be the third state to legalize marijuana.


AP Photo/Dave Martin
AP Photo/Butch Dill

What is legal? Nothing as of now, and possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year in jail.

What's next? The Alabama Legislature has passed a bill, called Carly's Law, to allow the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana, for patients with seizures. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley on April 2.


AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

What is legal? Medical marijuana has been legal for cancer and chronic pain patients since 2010.

What's next? There is a push now to add more to the list of approved medical marijuana conditions, such as PTSD. This year, a bill was introduced that would decriminalize weed, and Rep. Ruben Gallegos filed a bill to regulate and tax marijuana. Recreational marijuana advocates also hope to get something on the 2016 ballot that would be similar to Colorado's marijuana legislation.


Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

What is legal? In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Marijuana possession is also decriminalized.

What's next? A 2010 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana failed, and the issue will probably not get back on the ballot for another vote soon. Although Attorney General Kamala Harris noted that it would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually in law enforcement.


AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

What is legal? As of Jan. 1, 2014, cannabis cultivation, selling, and smoking became legal in Colorado.

What's next? The profits have been evident since Colorado legalized marijuana, but opponents and supporters alike will be watching the state very closely to see what example it sets.


Jorge Duenes / Reuters/Reuters

What is legal? Connecticut became the 17th state to legalize medical marijuana in 2012 when Gov. Dannel Malloy signed it into law. Marijuana possession is also decriminalized.

What's next? The state is currently implementing its medical bill: On Jan. 28, Connecticut announced which four locations would be allowed to grow marijuana, and it is still considering which dispensaries will be granted the state's five licenses to sell weed.

Washington, D.C.


What is legal? Medical marijuana became legal here in 2011.

What's next? Washington, D.C., is on the verge of decriminalizing marijuana: On March 4, the D.C. council voted in favor of a measure that would make the penalty for smoking a joint the equivalent of a parking ticket. If the measure is approved by Congress, D.C. would join 15 other states that have decriminalized marijuana. Support for marijuana has increased, according to a Washington Post poll, with 63% of residents currently in favor of legalization. Advocates have also filed a ballot initiative, which could ask voters as soon as this November if recreational marijuana should be legal.


AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

What is legal? In 2011 medical marijuana was legalized, while dispensaries are just starting to open in the summer of 2015. Gov. Jack Markell signed a marijuana decriminalization on June 18, 2015.

What's next? More dispensaries for medical marijuana. The decriminalization bill also goes into effect in six months, and will make it a civil offense instead of a criminal one to possess one ounce or less of marijuana.



What is legal? Nothing cannabis-related is legal in Florida yet, although a "medical necessity" defense has been established in court.

What's next? This November, Florida residents will vote on a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. Advocates gained over 683,000 signatures to get the measure on the fall ballot. Attorney General Pam Bondi is fighting the initiative and Gov. Rick Scott said that he would vote against it, but his office does not have the power to veto the measure if it does pass. In addition, a handful of bills have been introduced in the state legislature to reform Florida’s marijuana laws. On March 6, a medical marijuana bill sponsored by two republican lawmakers that would legalize cannabidiol for severe seizures was advanced by the House Committee on Criminal Justice.



What is legal? Nothing currently.

What's next? Rep. Allen Peake introduced a medical marijuana bill on Jan. 28 that would legalize cannabidiol for patients with severe seizure disorders. The Republican representative said he wanted to sponsor the bill after meeting a 4-year-old girl who suffers from a seizure disorder. The bill would allow academic institutions to produce the medical marijuana, not businesses or individuals. On March 3, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House, but died later in the month when it was not brought to the floor before the legislature session ended.


AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

What is legal? Medical marijuana was legalized in Hawaii in 2000, but there aren't any approved dispensaries that patients can buy from, so a license allows residents to grow their own plants or ask a caregiver to do it for them.

What's next? Speaker of the House Joe Souki sponsored a bill to create a state-regulated marijuana market that could legally sell to adults 21 and older, but it died in committee. A bill to decriminalize marijuana was advanced out of the Senate but has not yet been considered by the House. In March, the House Health Committee voted unanimously to create a task force that would examine issues surrounding the development of a medical marijuana dispensary system in Hawaii. The resolution must now be passed by the House and Senate.


AP Photo/Scott Eisen, File

What is legal? Medical marijuana was signed into law on Jan. 1, 2014, by Gov. Pat Quinn, making Illinois the 20th state to do so.

What's next? The state's medical marijuana program is still in its early stages, and patients will not be able to access weed until this spring. Additionally, Illinois' marijuana penalties remain harsh; the state has the fifth-highest arrest rate for marijuana possession in the nation, according to the ACLU.



What is legal? Nothing. Possession of small amounts of marijuana is punishable with up to a year of jail time and a $5,000 fine.

What's next? Sen. Karen Tallian introduced a bill in January that would decriminalize marijuana, although it was not reviewed by a committee and therefore will not be heard by the General Assembly this year.


AP Photo/Dave Kolpack, File
Baz Ratner / Reuters/Reuters

What is legal? Nothing. In Iowa, first time offenders caught with possession of even a single joint can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

What's next? In 2013, Rep. Bruce Hunter and Sen. Joe Bolkcom introduced medical marijuana legislation to the State Assembly, which would exempt patients in Iowa with cancer, HIV, severe pain, and other conditions from arrest for using marijuana with a doctor’s recommendations. It would also allow patients or caregivers to grow their own weed or to buy it from a nonprofit dispensary. The bill is considered dead this year, but Sen. Bolkcom and other medical marijuana advocates are still trying to raise awareness of the issue. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said he fears medical marijuana would lead to unintended consequences.



What is legal? Nothing. People caught with possession of even small amounts of cannabis can be punished with up to six months in jail.

What's next? An August 2013 survey found that 65% of residents support medical marijuana. A state committee met in January to hear testimony on reforming marijuana laws, but there is currently no active bill.


AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File

What is legal? Nothing cannabis-related is legal as of now.

What's next? The battle to legalize medical marijuana is ramping up as the legislature is set to consider a bill this year that Sen. Perry Clark introduced. The state senator has introduced the bill twice before, but believes it has a good chance to pass this year. In February, Sen. Julie Denton also filed a bill that would legalize cannabis oil for children with epilepsy, which was unanimously passed by the Senate on March 12. The bill would allow the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville medical schools to research and allow anyone enrolled in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration trial to be treated with the oil. The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. The measure also has the support of Gov. Steve Beshear and the Kentucky State Police.



What is legal? Nothing. Kansas has strict weed laws with possession of any amount punishable with up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Second time offenders could be convicted of a felony and face up to three and a half years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

What's next? A survey conducted in Kansas found that 70% of residents support medical marijuana. In 2013, a medical marijuana bill was introduced to the state Senate and another to the state House. Although neither bill was heard by its respective committee last year, both bills carried over to 2014 and both committees are headed by a new chairperson.


Flickr: diver227

What is legal? The state legalized medical marijuana in 2002 and the state has also decriminalized possession. In 2013, Portland, the largest city in the state, voted to legalize recreational marijuana, making it the first place on the East Coast to do so.

What's next? The residents of Portland voted 70% in favor of legalization in November, and the rest of the state may follow this trend, meaning Maine could legalize weed when it appears on the ballot in 2016.


AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

What is legal? Not much, but Gov. Martin O'Malley has signed a bill that establishes a hospital-based medical marijuana research program, and has promised to sign a bill that would decriminalize weed in the state.

What's next? Marijuana Policy Project and the ACLU did a joint poll that found 53% of Maryland voters want to tax and regulate cannabis like alcohol. On Jan. 16, 2014, a bill to legalize up to an ounce of weed and the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants for adults over age 21 was introduced, which has since been passed by the House. The bill would regulate and tax sales of cannabis in the state as well as wipe criminal records of past marijuana offenders clean, although based on the the legislatures previous decisions it probably will be an uphill battle to pass it. On April 7, the General Assembly passed a measure that would decriminalize weed. The bill imposes civil fines, rather than criminal sanctions, on people caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana. The Governor said he intends to sign the measure into law.


Anthony Bolante / Reuters/Reuters
Songquan Deng/Songquan Deng

What is legal? In 2008, Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana. In 2012, the state legalized marijuana for medical use, becoming the 18th state to do so.

What's next? The state is still setting up its medical marijuana program, with patients waiting to get proper identification cards. On Jan. 31, the state granted 20 provisional licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries, which can now begin building their facilities and growing marijuana. Rep. Ellen Story introduced a legalize bill in 2013 that could still be considered this year by the legislature, and if not, advocates hope to get a bill on the 2016 ballot.


AP Photo/Jeff Barnard

What is legal? Medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan in 2008 with 63% of voters in favor, but questions of legality continue because of a court decision that said extractions, including resin and edibles, are not protected by the law. In November 2013, voters in three Michigan cities approved bills to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, adding to four other cities in the state that decriminalized weed in 2012.

What's next? Rep. Mike Callton introduced a bill that would allow dispensaries to open for medical marijuana patients, which passed the House in December, but has yet to be considered by the Senate. Another bill to reclassify edibles as "usable marijuana" is also waiting to be heard by the legislature.


Via Flickr: jimbrekke

What is legal? In 2004, small amounts of marijuana were decriminalized in Minnesota, although possession of two ounces is punishable with five years of jail time and a $10,000 fine.

What's next? The big push in Minnesota is to legalize medical marijuana, and a joint Senate and House bill was introduced last year that will likely be heard in 2014. A similar medical bill passed the full legislature in 2009, although it was vetoed by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty with the support of law enforcement.


AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

What is legal? Marijuana possession is decriminalized in Mississippi, and first offenders who posses 30 grams or less are punished with a $250 fine.

What's next? Sen. Deborah Dawkins has introduced a medical marijuana bill to the Mississippi legislature five times in the past, but it has been dismissed every time. The House voted on March 27 to make the marijuana oil legal in the state under tightly controlled circumstances. The Senate still must approve the agreement before it goes to Gov. Phil Bryant for his consideration. The vote was significant though, since the House had previously rejected the measure.


Rick Wilking / Reuters/Reuters

What is legal? Missouri has strict marijuana laws, with a gram receiving punishment of up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

What's next? Rep. Rory Ellinger introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana and a bill to reduce Missouri's harsh marijuana penalties. In February 2014, Rep. Chris Kelly introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana and set up a system for growers and dispensaries as well as impose a 25% tax on marijuana. In addition, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation hope to get a voter initiative on the ballot in 2016, when they believe it would pass based on polling.


Via Flickr: flatworldsedge

What is allowed? Medical marijuana was legalized in 2004, but the program still has many problems to work out, some of which were caused by federal raids in 2011.

What's next? There are currently stiff penalties for possession of even very small amounts of weed — for example, a joint can land someone in jail for six months. Advocates in the state are currently fighting to decriminalize weed as well as reform the medical marijuana program in the state. They also hope to get a recreational marijuana law on the 2016 ballot.


Via Flickr: isnapshot

What is legal? Marijuana is decriminalized here with a first offense punishable with a fine of $300 instead of jail time.

What's next? A bill known as Will's Law was introduced in January that would make cannibidiol oil accessible to medical marijuana patients who suffer from seizures or muscle spasms. The bill is named for an 11-year-old boy, who has suffered from daily seizures since he was 4 months old. Also, the Nebraska chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Law is currently circulating a petition to put a medical marijuana initiative on the 2014 November ballot.


Steve Marcus / Reuters

What is legal? Medical marijuana was legalized in 2000, and the state has also decriminalized weed, making it punishable with a $600 fine for the first offense.

What's next? In 2013, the legislature passed measures that allow for 66 medical marijuana dispensaries, which should begin operating in late 2014. Also advocates will likely push to get a measure to legalize recreational marijuana on the 2016 ballot.

New Hampshire

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

What is legal? Medical marijuana was legalized last year in New Hampshire but will take another year to be fully implemented.

What's next? If recreational marijuana is legalized in New Hampshire, it would be the first state to do it through a legislative body rather than a vote. In January, the state House passed a legalize bill, but later reversed its decision and killed the bill.

New Jersey

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
AP Photo/Mel Evans

What is legal? Medical use was legalized in 2010, but implementation has been slow with only three dispensaries currently in operation.

What's next? Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill on March 25 to legalize recreational marijuana and treat it like liquor. Although it will be a hard sell, as Gov. Chris Christie has firmly stated he opposes marijuana.

New Mexico


What is legal? Medical marijuana was legalized in New Mexico in 2007.

What's next? In 2013, multiple bills were introduced to decriminalize marijuana in the state, although none of them made it through the state Assembly. Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino introduced legislation in January 2014 to legalize recreational marijuana, which if it makes it through the full legislature, could get on the ballot as early as November 2014.

New York

AP Photo/Mike Groll, File
AP Photo/Richard Drew

What is allowed? Marijuana is decriminalized here, although some have criticized the law for its many loopholes, especially since New York has the second-highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the U.S.

What's next? On Jan. 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined his plan to allow a medical marijuana program to operate through New York hospitals based on a 1980 law. Although some are skeptical of this approach, since it's unclear how the hospitals will legally acquire and distribute the marijuana. Several bills are also currently being considered by the legislature.

North Carolina


What is legal? Possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana is punishable in North Carolina with a maximum fine of $200.

What's next? In 2013, Rep. Kelly Alexander introduced legislation to create a medical marijuana program, but it was shelved. He has also introduced bills to research medical benefits and to lessen punishment for possession.

North Dakota

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

What is legal? Nothing. The state punishes possession of even small amounts of marijuana with up to a year in prison and up to a $2,000 fine.

What's next? North Dakota's legislature did not discuss marijuana last year, and there will not be regular session for the North Dakota legislature in 2014.



What is legal? Marijuana possession is decriminalized in the state.

What's next? The state Assembly is currently considering a constitutional amendment for medical marijuana that may make it on the ballot in November 2014. A poll in February found Ohio voters overwhelmingly support medical marijuana, with 87% in favor.


AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

What is legal? Nothing. In Oklahoma possession of marijuana is punishable with up to one year in jail and has a mandatory sentence of two years for second offenses.

What's next? Oklahoma authorities have noted more marijuana will likely end up in the state because of Colorado's new law. Sen. Constance Johnson introduced a bill in January 2014 to legalize marijuana in Oklahoma for adults over 21 and place marijuana regulation under the control of the state. In 2013, Johnson also sponsored medical marijuana legislation, which would have reduced penalties for possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana.


AP Photo/Jeff Barnard

What is legal? In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize marijuana. Medical use was established in 1998.

What's next? Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a medical marijuana bill in August 2013 that will allow pot dispensaries to open for medical patients in late 2014. In addition, the governor added PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. Oregon's attempt at recreational marijuana legalization failed to pass in November 2012 by only a thin margin, and advocacy groups in the state hope to get a legalization initiative on the ballot this November.


Rick Wilking/Reuters

What is legal? Nothing as of now.

What's next? The legislature is currently considering the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, but Gov. Tom Corbett has said that he would not sign a bill to make medical marijuana legal. Meanwhile Sen. Daylin Leach, a co-sponsor of the medical bill, has launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #MeetThePAKids that highlights the children who could benefit from medical marijuana.

Rhode Island

Rick Wilking/Reuters

What is legal? Medical marijuana was legalized in 2006, with dispensaries approved in 2009. Marijuana was decriminalized last year.

What's next? The state has made major advances in marijuana reform, but Gov. Lincoln Chafee told The Associated Press in January that 2014 is "too soon" to consider legalization in Rhode Island.

South Carolina


What is legal? Nothing. Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable with a 30 day sentence and a fine of $200.

What's next? House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford proposed legislation in 2013 and again in January 2014 that would fund an act passed in 1980 and allow doctor's to prescribe medical marijuana. On March 6, Rutherford took it one step further and introduced a new medical marijuana bill, called "Put Patients First Act," which would allow patients to have up to six marijuana plants and two ounces for medical use. A House subcommittee advanced a bill the same day introduced by Rep. Jenny Horne that would allow the use of cannabidiol for epilepsy treatment. On March 25, a Senate committee approved the bill, but added that the oil must first be approved by the Food and Drug Administration and be part of clinical trials. The measure will be considered next by the full Senate.



What is legal? Nothing, and the state actually has fairly harsh laws with possession of as little as one gram punishable with a year in jail.

What's next? In January, Rep. Sherry Jones introduced the Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis act, named for a family that moved from Tennessee to Colorado to treat their daughter's seizures with medical marijuana. Jones has sponsored a medical marijuana bill for six years now and continues to fight an uphill battle. On March 25, the bill was voted down by 6-2 by the House Health Subcommittee after more than a month of testimony.

South Dakota


What is legal? Nothing. People caught with a small amount of weed can be punished with up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

What's next? In 2013, two marijuana policy reform bills were introduced — one offered a medical marijuana defense for possession and the other reduced the penalty. The legislature session began mid-January this year, but no marijuana bills have been introduced yet.


AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Cody Duty

What is legal? Nothing.

What's next? In January 2014, a bill was introduced that would allow medical marijuana patients to use a "medical necessity" defense before a judge. On Jan. 23, Gov. Rick Perry said he is for decriminalizing marijuana, although he does not support legalizing it.



What is legal? Nothing. Possession of an ounce or less of weed is punishable with a six-month jail sentence.

What's next? A poll conducted in 2013 said 61% of Utah voters support medical marijuana legislation. On March 25, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law a medical marijuana measure that allows families meeting certain restrictions to obtain a cannabinoid oil from other states to treat epilepsy. The extract would need to be obtained from nearby Colorado, and since it is still illegal under federal law, access to the cannabis-derived product may still prove difficult.


AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
AP Photo/Andy Duback

What is legal? Medical marijuana was legalized in 2004 and marijuana is decriminalized.

What's next? There is strong support for legalization from locals, who recently elected Gov. Peter Shumlin, an advocate for marijuana reform. Vermont does not have a citizen-initiated ballot process, so legislation must be pushed by lawmakers. Sen. David Zuckerman has already introduced a bill this year to legalize weed, although it is not clear if it will be taken up this session.



What is legal? Nothing. Possession of small amounts of marijuana is punishable with up to 30 days of jail-time along with a $500 fine.

What's next? Unfortunately, the only bill introduced this year is to repeal Virginia’s medical marijuana provisions. The move is purely symbolic, as the state's medical marijuana law is ineffective anyways since it only allows doctors to "prescribe" weed. Doctors cannot legally “prescribe” marijuana under federal law, so they must “recommend” it, which is how all functional medical marijuana programs work in the U.S.


AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

What is legal? The state legalized medical marijuana in 1998 and then recreational marijuana in 2012, which is still being implemented. On March 4, the state granted its first license for legally growing recreational marijuana to an outlet in Spokane. The state has said it expects pot shops to begin opening in June.

What's next? Definitely legal weed, but the rest is still to be seen.

West Virginia


What is legal? Nothing weed-related is legal here.

What's next? In January, a bill was introduced to the legislature that would legalize medical marijuana and set up dispensaries as well as grow facilities. Cancer patients and people with other serious health problems would be allowed up to 6 ounces of weed and 12 plants under the law.



What is legal? Nothing as of now. In Wisconsin, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana faces a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

What's next? Three bills have been introduced to the State Assembly this year: A medical bill that allows for cannabidiol, a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts, and a broader bill that allows patients over 21 access to medical marijuana. In 2009, a medical marijuana bill was also introduced to the legislature, although it was not considered before the end of the session. Republican Gov. Walker said in March he would veto any marijuana bills that make it to his desk.



What is legal? Nothing, and possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is punishable with a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

What's next? Rep. James Byrd introduced a bill in January that would decriminalize marijuana in the state, making possession of less than an ounce punishable with only a $100 fine. The state Representative said he believes there are too many people in prison for possession of small amounts of marijuana and he worries Wyomingites will be arrested for possession because of it’s proximity to Colorado, where young people will go to party.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.