Although marijuana remains prohibited by federal law, an increasing number of states have legalized the drug for medical and recreational use in the past few years. In fact, some politicians are running in the 2018 midterm elections on explicitly pro-marijuana platforms.
This kind of mainstream support for legalization would’ve been practically unthinkable 20 years ago. While the exact regulations vary state-by-state, there are three main statewide stances on marijuana: legalized for recreational and medical use, legalized for only medical use, and completely prohibited in line with federal policy.
Legal Weed for Recreational and Medical Use
Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized weed for both medical and recreational use. Of this group, Vermont is the only state to have legalized marijuana for recreational use through its legislature (Vermont’s law goes into effect on July 1). The rest legalized weed through a voter referendum.
Some of the states have yet to set up a market for purchasing marijuana. In Washington D.C., for example, you can smoke, possess, and gift marijuana, but you can’t legally buy or sell it. In Washington and Colorado, on the other hand, marijuana is a booming industry that brings in a significant amount of tax dollars. Here are all the places where recreational weed is allowed:
- Washington D.C.
Legal Weed for Medical Use
There are 44 states that have legalized marijuana for medical use only. Among these states, about one-third only allow marijuana oils that are high in CBD, the therapeutic ingredient in weed, and low in THC, the psychoactive element. The rest allow the purchase of marijuana from a medical dispensary with a medical marijuana license. The requirements for, and difficulty of, procuring a license, vary by state. Here are all the states where only medical marijuana is allowed:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Marijuana Still Prohibited
Only four states don’t have any allowance for medical marijuana usage. Despite being a small minority, these states are the only ones complying with federal policy. If all of these states legalize medical marijuana in the coming years, we could be left in a peculiar legal situation where every state is in direct conflict with the federal government on marijuana. Here are the states where any medical or recreational marijuana use is illegal:
- South Dakota
Despite its classification as a Schedule 1 drug — meaning that it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” — popular support for marijuana has reached a fever pitch. A Pew Research poll in January found that 61 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal.