The United States has an interesting relationship with cannabis. Its citizens have repeatedly expressed a desire for more research and access to the plant. On the federal level, those outcries have fallen largely on the tone-deaf ears of national policymakers. State legislators have been taking action to meet the demands of their constituents.
Since California voters successfully petitioned for legal access to medical marijuana in 1996, 28 additional states have implemented policies to allow access to cannabis for medical patients — eight of which, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized the recreational use of the herb.
Until the federal government follows suit, cannabis will remain federally illegal in the United States — but that doesn’t mean you can’t still legally get your hands on it. Confused? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here is our overview of cannabis legality in the United States.
Recreational Cannabis Leaders
Colorado was the first state to fully embrace recreational marijuana use with the passage of Amendment 64 on Nov. 6, 2012. Residents and visitors alike can possess up to 1 ounce without penalty and can visit any of the state’s recreational dispensaries with valid proof of age. As with alcohol, recreational users must be 21 and over. Colorado officials decriminalized cannabis in 1975 and the state’s medical marijuana program launched with the 2000 passage of Amendment 20 by 56 percent. The state has collected more than $500 million in fees and taxes since recreational retail sales launched in 2014.
In the Pacific Northwest, Washington led the charge for recreational cannabis consumption in the region with the 2012 passage of Washington Initiative 502 — 14 years after Initiative 692 passed by 59%, allowing for medical cannabis consumption. Anyone over the age of 21 can legally carry an ounce of cannabis in the state and