Cannabis Legality by State

Cannabis Legalization

The legality of cannabis for medical and recreational use varies by country and by state, in terms of its sale, possession, cultivation, distribution, how it can be consumed, and what medical conditions it can be used for. While these factors differ by country and by state, one thing remains constant: cannabis legalization is spreading. As of June 2020, 11 states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational cannabis and 33 states have legalized medical cannabis. At the federal level, cannabis remains a prohibited substance. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. In December 2014, however, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was signed into law. This amendment prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws. The United States still has a long way to go before cannabis is federally legalized, but progress has been made over the past 20 years. The global cannabis market is also progressing. Countries all over the world are decriminalizing and regulating the commercial sale of cannabis. Legalization varies state by state and country by country. It’s important to understand the cannabis laws of each state and country to know what the limits are and to avoid any illegal activity.


Recreational States



In early 2015, the northernmost US state made it legal for residents to consume, possess, and transport cannabis for recreational purposes. Adults 21 and older can possess up to an ounce of cannabis and can grow up to six plants per household, but no more than three can be mature and flowering at a time. In 2017 alone, the state reported more than $1.7 million in tax revenue from cannabis.


California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis back in 1996. California passed Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized recreational cannabis use. Adults 21 and older can possess up to an ounce of cannabis and can grow up to six cannabis plants per household. While California is the cannabis capital of the world due to its massive market, the state’s high cannabis taxes and onerous regulations have caused the black market to thrive.


Colorado joined Washington in becoming the first two states to fully legalize cannabis in 2012. Fast forward to today, Colorado now has more cannabis dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonalds locations combined. Adults 21 and older can possess up to one ounce of cannabis and can grow up to six plants per household, but no more than three can be mature at a time.


In June 2019, Illinois lawmakers passed a bill that legalized the possession and commercial sale of cannabis. Illinois is the first state to legalize cannabis through the state legislature rather than a ballot initiative. Illinois’ cannabis market is still nascent but citizens can expect more stores to open up within the next year. Illinois residents 21 and over can legally possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, while non-Illinois residents 21 and over can only possess 15 grams. You must be a registered medical cannabis patient to grow at home.


Mainers passed a ballot initiative in 2016 that gave them the right to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, more than double the limit in most other states. Locals can also have up to three flowering plants and 12 immature plants growing per household. Only some of Maine’s cities and towns have opted in to be able to sell cannabis. More cities are expected to opt in in the near future.


Massachusetts legalized recreational cannabis in 2016 and sales started in 2018. Adults 21 and over can possess up to one ounce of cannabis outside the home and up to 10 ounces of cannabis inside the home. It’s also legal for adults 21 and over to grow up to six plants per household.


Michigan voters passed Proposition 1 in 2018, making it the first state in the Midwest to legalize the possession and sale of cannabis for adults 21 and over. The bill allows adults to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis outside the home, and up to 10 ounces of cannabis inside the home. It is also legal for adults to grow up to 12 plants per household. Michigan’s recreational cannabis market is poised to make a good amount of tax revenue for the state.


Residents and tourists who are 21 and over can buy and possess an ounce of cannabis. Nevada residents must live 25 miles outside the nearest dispensary in order to be eligible for a grower’s license. Residents can grow up to six plants per household.


Oregonians have enjoyed the right to possess an ounce of cannabis outside the home, possess up to eight ounces inside the home, and grow up to four plants per household since 2015. Cannabis sales in Oregon are expected to top $1 billion by 2020.


Vermont’s cannabis bill allows adults 21 and over to carry up to an ounce of cannabis and grow six plants per household, only two plants of which can be mature. But the bill is limited in scope. It doesn’t establish a legal market for the production and sale of cannabis. Only medical cannabis is available for sale.


Dispensaries in Washington have raked in over $1 billion in recreational cannabis sales since the drug was legalized in 2012. It is legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of cannabis. Residents must possess a medical card in order to be eligible to grow cannabis at home.

Medical States

Medical States

In addition to the 11 states, plus Washington D.C., with legalized recreational cannabis and legalized medical cannabis, 22 states have legalized just medical cannabis. These states are Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and West Virginia. A few of these states have recreational cannabis initiatives on their ballots for the 2020 elections. With numerous states voting on recreational, the tides could be shifting for cannabis in America.

Recreational & Medical Countries

Cannabis is gaining acceptance around the globe. Countries that have legalized recreational cannabis include Canada, Georgia, South Africa, and Uruguay. Countries that have legalized medical cannabis include (but are not limited to) Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Greeze, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Zambia. Though the use of medical cannabis has become the norm in many regions, legalizing it for recreational use may take a bit more time. But with countries like Uruguay and Canada regulating its use with very few problems to show for it, other countries are bound to follow suit. It’s only a matter of time before more countries around the world legalize the medical and recreational use of cannabis.