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

United Stoners of America.

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:



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.


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.




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.


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? 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.




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? 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.


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.



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.


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.




New Hampshire

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

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

New York

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

North Dakota




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.


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

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


South Dakota




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.



West Virginia



Skip to footer