As of today, recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states in the United States of America. The legalization of this recreational drug is a huge win for the weed community. The battle for its legalization has been going on for years, starting with Colorado’s move to kickstart the process in 2012 and there is still a long way to go. 

Brief History Of Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana possession and usage is illegal in the United States under federal law and in accordance with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This act states that cannabis is a Schedule I substance which means that it poses a high risk of becoming addictive and abused. This extends to the medicinal application of marijuana. However, a lot of states do not agree with federal law. 

As such, 36 states allow the use of medical marijuana for as long as it is prescribed by a physician. Recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states. These recreational marijuana states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. 

Cannabis is still illegal based on federal law but some of its derivative compounds have been approved by the FDA for medicinal purposes


The state of Alaska approved marijuana legalization in 2015. Individuals who are at least 21 years old are allowed to use marijuana and carry up to an ounce of the substance. The first marijuana dispensary in Alaska opened in 2016. The state took advantage of the momentum and transformed its recreational-pot stores into tourist destinations. 


Arizona legalized marijuana in 2020 for individuals over the age of 21. The legalization was supported by 60% of the voters who were backed by the cannabis giants in the state. These include Curaleaf, Harvest Enterprises, and Cresco.


The state of California is one of the earliest states to legalize marijuana. Marijuana has already been legal since 1996. By 2016, the state allowed marijuana possession of up to an ounce. As of today, anyone over the age of 21 can purchase up to 8 grams of concentrates. It is also allowed to grow up to 6 marijuana plants in each household.


Colorado is very supportive of marijuana legalization, so much so that they have more dispensaries compared to McDonald’s and Starbucks chains combined. The state completely legalized marijuana in 2012. Anyone over the age of 21 can purchase up to 8 grams of concentrate or an ounce of buds.


Connecticut is one of the most recent states to legalize marijuana. The bill was officially passed on June 18, 2021. Individuals over the age of 21 can purchase up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana.


The lawmakers of Illinois passed the marijuana legalization bill in June 2019. The bill was signed by Governor J. B. Pritzker and this was actually the highlight of his campaign before he was elected.


The state of Maine passed the bill for marijuana legalization in 2016. The unique thing about its bill is that the residents of Maine are allowed to possess and purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. That is almost double the amount that is allowed in other states.


Massachusetts legalized marijuana in 2016. By November 2018, dispensaries and other marijuana-related businesses opened up to the market. Individuals can buy up to an ounce of marijuana for as long as they are adults over the age of 21. However, public consumption is strictly prohibited.


Michigan is the first state in the Midwest to pass the bill for marijuana legalization. This took place in 2018 and residents are allowed to purchase up to 2.5 ounces. Each household is also allowed to grow up to 12 marijuana plants. This state is definitely more permissive compared to the other states.


Montana passed the bill in 2020 and it took effect on the first of January, 2021. The state will begin accepting applications for dispensaries by 2022.


Nevada residents are allowed to purchase and possess up to an ounce of marijuana and one-eighth of an ounce of concentrates. However, they have strict rules about growing your own plant. You need to reside at least 25 miles away from a dispensary before you can be granted your grower’s license.

New Jersey

New Jersey voted for marijuana legalization in 2020. Governor Phil Murphy signed the legislation after countless talks to finalize the details about its sale and licensing framework. 

New Mexico

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham approved the bill in April this year. It took effect in June 29 so individuals can now possess and consume marijuana. However, recreational sales aren’t allowed until April 2022.

New York

New York previously encountered two failed attempts at marijuana legalization. They finally passed the bill last March 31, 2021. Economic analysts from Cantor Fitzgerald and Stifel speculate that there could be a $5-billion cannabis market in New York by 2025.


Oregon officially legalized marijuana in 2015. Recreational sales began in the same year. 

South Dakota

This state legalized recreational and medical marijuana in 2020. South Dakota is the first state to approve both types of cannabis simultaneously. Marijuana businesses and dispensaries are expected to be open by 2022


Vermont legalized marijuana in January 2018. Vermont residents are allowed to purchase and consume up to an ounce of marijuana. A maximum of two marijuana plants is permitted per household. Dispensaries are expected to be fully operational by 2022.


The state of Virginia approved the possession, consumption, and cultivation of marijuana in July 2021. However, official sales aren’t legal until 2024.


The state of Washington legalized marijuana in 2012. Individuals are allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. However, only medical marijuana users are eligible for a marijuana grower’s license.

These states spearheaded the movement for complete marijuana legalization. As of today, there are talks and speculations that say Delaware, Rhode Island, and other states might be next. 

If you reside in Northern California, then weed consumption is completely legal. Try MonthLeaf’s monthly subscription boxes for a reliable and effortless transaction. We deliver a cannabis package that is tailor-fit to your needs and preferences.