- Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and Washington, DC.
- California, Arizona, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington were some of the first states to legalize medical marijuana.
- Utah and Missouri voted to legalize medical marijuana in the 2018 midterm elections.
- The federal government doesn’t recognize marijuana for its medicinal purposes and it’s still illegal under federal law.
Medical marijuana is one of today’s most pressing social issues.
Although recreational cannabis has been legalized in just 10 states and Washington, DC, patients can use marijuana medicinally in 33 states and Washington, DC. And that number is only expected to rise.
Here’s how medical marijuana laws vary across the US.
Marijuana has technically been legal in Alaska since 1975.
The Alaska Supreme Court ruled in the 1975 case Ravin v. State that the state constitution’s right to privacy protected the ability to use and possess a small amount (defined as less than four ounces, according to law professor Jason Brandeis) of marijuana at home for personal use.
Although there has been opposition to the law, the Washington Post reported in 2014 that courts in the Frontier State have generally upheld the idea that constitutional privacy protects those in Alaska who personally possess, use, or cultivate pot.
In 2015, Alaska officially decriminalized marijuana with the approval of Ballot Measure 2, which allows anyone in the state who is 21 and older "to possess, use, show, buy, transport, or grow set amounts" of it. However, the law bans people from using it in public.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Arizona since 2010.
Although Arizona first tried to legalize medical marijuana in 2002 with Proposition 203, legalization didn't pass until 2010, when a revised version of the measure was approved. The law grants qualifying patients 18 and older and their caregivers access to cannabis.
PotGuide.com reported that a special ID card enables patients and caregivers to legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of pot every 14 days. They can also grow upwards of 12 plants.
The Arizona Department of Health Services oversees the regulation of medical marijuana in the state.
Arkansas approved a state medical marijuana amendment in 2016.
In 2016, Arkansas voters approved Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. The law gives patients 18 and older with certain qualifying conditions (such as fibromyalgia and Crohn's disease) the ability to obtain and consume medical marijuana with a doctor's permission. In addition, Issue 6 creates licenses for the state to operate cultivation facilities and dispensaries.
No dispensaries have opened yet, with the first ones slated to launch at the beginning of 2019, according to Weedmaps. They will be overseen by the Arkansas Department of Health's Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.
California was the first state to decriminalize marijuana for medical use.
In California, medical marijuana was decriminalized in 1996 through Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act. It allowed patients and defined caregivers to possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment with a doctor's approval.
With the approval of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, in 2016, adults 21 and older can legally buy and consume marijuana for recreational purposes. In fact, California has an entire bureau dedicated to regulating recreational pot.
Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000.
Patients and recreational users alike can purchase marijuana from any state-licensed facility.
Medical marijuana has officially been legal in Connecticut since 2012.
In 2011, Connection's governor, Dannel Malloy, signed a measure designed to decriminalize the possession of up to 0.5 ounces (14.2 grams) of cannabis. A year later, medical marijuana was officially legalized through bill HB539.
Patients 18 and up, as well as their caregivers, can purchase marijuana from a licensed dispensary. According to Weedmaps, individuals can only possess a maximum of 2.5 ounces (56.7 grams) of cannabis a month.
Delaware passed its first medical marijuana law in 2011.
When Governor Jack Markell signed the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act in 2011, the state decriminalized cannabis for certain patients and their caregivers. A few years later, the Delaware General Assembly passed a bill that enforced decriminalization across the state.
Delaware almost legalized recreational marijuana in 2018, but the bill didn't pass in the Statehouse.
In Washington, District of Columbia, voters wanted medical marijuana in 1998.
Voters approved medical marijuana in Washington, DC, in 1998. But Congress immediately blocked the initiative and didn't lift the ban until 2009.
When Initiative 71 passed in 2014, recreational cannabis was legalized in the district. The measure allows adults 21 and up to possess a small amount of marijuana for personal use.
Florida has a medical marijuana law named for a strain of cannabis.
After the State Legislature passed the so-called "Charlotte's Web" Act in 2014 (named for a strain of cannabis low in THC), patients with serious conditions such as epilepsy or cancer could use marijuana with low levels of THC. 2015's Florida Right to Try Act broadened medical usage of cannabis in the Sunshine State.
Additionally, the Florida Medical Marijuana Initiative, approved by voters in 2016, expanded the number of conditions that qualify for treatment via cannabis.
Hawaii passed legislation to licensed dispensaries in 2015.
By passing Act 242 in 2015, Hawaii implemented a system for licensing dispensaries. The legislation also prevented counties from creating zoning regulations that would discriminate against dispensaries.
The same year, the government established a statewide cannabis dispensary program.
Illinois has had a pilot program for medical marijuana since 2013.
People in Illinois who are 18 years and have a qualifying medical condition can purchase cannabis from a dispensary.
Louisiana passed its medical marijuana act in 2015.
In 2015, Louisiana passed an act allowing physicians to prescribe medical marijuana as a treatment option.
Maine legalized medical marijuana in 1999.
With doctor recommendations, Maine residents could possess small amounts of medical marijuana since 1999. A 2009 initiative made it legal to possess up to 2.5 ounces (70.87 grams) of cannabis.
As of 2016, recreational use has been legal for adults 21 and up though the State has yet to develop rules and regulations to govern dispensing.
In 2014, Maryland decriminalized medical marijuana.
Massachusetts created a medical marijuana program in 2012.
Michigan's medical marijuana law dates to 2008.
Approved in 2008, the Michigan Compassionate Care Initiative decriminalized marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions.
Recreational cannabis use was legalized in 2018, but there are currently no licensed dispensaries in business.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Minnesota since 2014.
Patients need to be 18 or older and have a qualifying condition.
Missouri legalized medical marijuana in 2018.
Missouri voters approved the Medical Marijuana and Veteran Healthcare Services Initiative in 2018. This measure would allow medical cannabis to treat any physician-approved condition.
Montana decriminalized medical marijuana in 2004.
Medical marijuana was initially decriminalized in Montana in 2004 with The Montana Medical Marijuana Act (MMA).
Subsequent legislation enforced restrictions such as the amount of space each cannabis grower is allocated and how the industry is taxed, however, ensued.
Nevada's first dispensary opened in 2015.
As of 2017, adults 21 and older can use cannabis for recreational purposes.
New Hampshire made marijuana legal in 2013.
New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana in 2013, with the first dispensaries opening in 2016.
In 2017, the state decriminalized recreational cannabis. Those found in possession of three-fourths of an ounce must pay a $100 fine rather going to jail.
In New Jersey, medical marijuana was legalized in 2010.
In New Jersey, medical marijuana has been legal since 2010. Normally, patients need to be 18 and up, but Governor Chris Christie approved the use of edible forms of cannabis by younger patients in 2013.
The law was reformed once more in 2018 by Governor Phil Murphy to cover an expanded list of medical conditions such as anxiety, migraines, and Tourette's syndrome.
New Mexico made medical marijuana legal in 2007.
Since 2007, New Mexicans could use marijuana for medical purposes.
Recreational use was decriminalized in Albuquerque, the state's largest city, in 2018.
New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014.
Recreational decriminalization could soon be a reality, too. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said it's one of his legislative priorities for 2019.
Medical marijuana has been legal in North Dakota since 2017.
Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016.
Oklahoma made medical marijuana legal in 2018.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Oregon since 1998.
Oregon approved medical marijuana use in 1998, with recreational cannabis becoming legal in 2014.
Pennsylvania made pot legal for patients in 2016.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Pennsylvania since 2016.
In Rhode Island, medical marijuana was legalized in 2006.
Utah made medical marijuana legal in 2018.
Previous legislation allowed patients with epilepsy to possess and consume CBD oil containing low levels of THC.
Vermont legalized medical marijuana in 2004.
Medical marijuana has been legal in parts of Washington State since 1998.
Under 1998's Medical Use of Marijuana Act, some patients could access cannabis in Washington State. A 2015 bill created statewide regulations.
Recreational cannabis has been legal in the Evergreen State since 2012.
Patients in West Virginia can obtain medical marijuana starting in 2019.
Senate Bill 386 was signed into law in 2017 allowing cannabis to be used for certified medical use by qualifying patients. Beginning in 2019, patients in West Virginia can obtain marijuana through the Medical Cannabis Act.