The use, sale, possession, cultivation or transportation of cannabis in the United States is illegal at the federal level. And with new regulations and laws going into place, states and their approval of the drug continues to change over time.
However, the Government has announced that the states may at their level legislate on the decriminalization of marijuana, for recreational or medical use, and if a regulatory system is put in place. Cannabis continues to be classified nationally as a Schedule 1 drug, a drug with high abuse potential and no known medical use.
States Where Cannabis is Legalized
Alaska: Possession was legalized on November 4, 2014. Alaskans can carry up to 28 grams of weed and can grow up to 6 feet personally, or professionally with a license. Therapeutic use is of course permitted. Recently Alaska legalized cannabis lounges, so far it is the only state to have done so.
California: California legalized cannabis on November 8, 2016 through Proposition 64. The legalization took effect on January 1, 2018. It allows the possession of 28 grams of herb or 8 grams of concentrate, the cultivation of 6 feet of cannabis indoors, and the cultivation of 6 feet of cannabis indoors. Prior to this, cannabis was only allowed in therapeutic settings. Without a medical prescription, possession of less than 28 grams of weed did not result in jail but a $100 fine. With a prescription, California patients can possess up to 224 grams (8 ounces), grow 6 feet in bloom and 12 growing plants. California was the first state to legalize therapeutic marijuana on November 5, 1996 under Proposition 215, while the first law reducing penalties for marijuana possession was passed in July 1975 (when it was changed from a felony to a misdemeanor).
Colorado: as of January 1, 2014, Colorado residents can legally purchase up to 28 grams (7 for tourists), to be used exclusively at home. They can also grow up to 6 feet at home. Amendment 64 [EN] (the name of the amendment regarding the legalization of cannabis in Colorado) was voted on November 6, 2012.
District of Columbia: Possession is legal up to 57 grams as of February 26, 2015, but sale is restricted to therapeutic patients. Therapeutic use has been authorized since 2009. Cultivation for recreational purposes is allowed up to 6 plants, but only with 3 plants in bloom at the same time. Initiative 71 was voted on November 4, 2014.
Washington State: Since June 2014, adults in Washington State can buy up to 28 grams of marijuana. Only therapeutic users can grow it at home. Marijuana sellers, distributors and growers must all be licensed by the state. The 502 initiative was passed in November 2012.
Illinois: As of 2016, possession of less than 10 grams was a simple offence punishable by a $100-200 fine. However, possession of more than 10 to 30 grams was punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of several thousand dollars. Since January 1, 2020, cannabis has been legal in Illinois for adults over the age of 21, at the initiative of the state government and not of a citizen referendum.
Maine: Maine legalized cannabis on November 8, 2016, with legal sales beginning on August 1, 2017. Medical marijuana has been legal there since November 2, 1999. Its possession of up to 75 grams was decriminalized on May 1, 2009. The cities of Portland and South Portland legalized possession of less than 75 grams on November 5, 2013.
Massachusetts: Recreational cannabis was legalized there on November 8, 2016 by 53.5% of voters. It authorizes the personal cultivation of 6 plants and the possession of 280g of cannabis. Possession of less than 28 grams was decriminalized on November 4, 2008 (punishable by a fine of up to $100 at the time). Medical marijuana was legalized on November 6, 2012, by referendum with 60% Yes.
Michigan: The state legalized recreational cannabis in the 2018 mid-term elections. The measure, submitted to the popular vote, was approved at 56.8% against 43.2%. Individuals are allowed to possess 283 grams of cannabis at home but (only) 70 grams in public places. They can also grow 12 plants. Legal sales have not yet started.
Nevada: Cannabis has been legalized in the vote of November 8, 2016, with permission for personal cultivation of 6 feet of cannabis. Possession of cannabis was already decriminalized for adults. Medical use has been legal since November 7, 2000.
Oregon: Possession of 28 grams of weed was legalized on July 1, 2015. Residents over the age of 21 may, as of January 1, 2016, possess up to 224 grams of cannabis and grow up to 4 feet of cannabis per household. However, it is illegal to carry more than 28 grams in public. Measure 91 was passed on November 4, 2014.
Vermont : As of July 1, 2018 cannabis for recreational use will be legalized. Adults over the age of 21 will be allowed to possess up to 28 grams of cannabis as well as four young and two mature plants. Cannabis sales remained illegal until October 2020, when the governor gave his approval. Vermont proceeded by passing a law instead of the traditional popular consultation.
Cannabis Use Decriminalized
North Carolina: Possession of less than 14g does not result in jail time and a maximum fine of $200. Beyond that, consumers risk 45 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Possession of more than 4.5kg is considered intent to sell and is punishable by 18 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. In March 2015, a proposal for the legalization of therapeutic cannabis was blocked by the State House of Representatives, with a blocking period of 2 years.
Connecticut: the use of cannabis is only allowed in a therapeutic setting. Personal and recreational possession is decriminalized, but can be accompanied by fines for minors and loss of license for adults.
North Dakota: The state has decriminalized the possession of less than 14 grams of cannabis from a misdemeanor to a fine. It also downgraded possession offences over 14 grams from felonies to misdemeanors.
Delaware: decriminalized as of June 19, 2015. Recreational consumers can be fined up to $100 for possession of less than 28 grams. Medical consumption is allowed.
New York State: Possession is decriminalized, but smoking cannabis is still prohibited. Consumption of consumables, oil, pills or vaporizers is restricted to therapeutic patients, as of January 7, 2016, the date of the opening of the medical cannabis program in New York. The sale of less than 25 grams remains a crime. The governor promised a legalization of recreational cannabis, but it is slow in coming.
Maryland: Possession of less than 10 grams was decriminalized on October 1, 2014 (laws passed on April 14, 2014). The first offence of possession is punishable by a $100 fine, the second by $250, the third by $200 and a duty of care. Therapeutic use is legal and regulated by commissions that issue permits for growers, dispensaries, doctors and patients. Voted in 2013, it came into action in 2017.
Mississippi: Possession of 30 grams or less for a first offence carries a fine of only $250.
Missouri: In 2014, the state began a review of the criminal code regarding cannabis offences. Under 10 grams and for a first offense, cannabis users will only incur a $500 penalty. That said, the state still considers cannabis possession a misdemeanor.
Minnesota: Possession of 42.5 grams or less is punishable by up to $200 for personal use. Smoking weed is still prohibited. It is only allowed in a medical setting and in the form of oil, pills or vapor.
Nebraska: Possession of less than one ounce of cannabis (about 28 grams) as a first offense is punishable by a fine of up to $300 and drug prevention sessions. The second offence will result in a fine of up to $500 and 5 days in jail. The third offence can result in a fine of $500 and a week in jail.
New Hampshire: As of 2017, possession of small amounts of cannabis has been changed from a misdemeanour to a ticket. Users arrested for possession of less than 21 grams of cannabis are subject to a fine of only $100. This amount increases to $300 for a third repeat offence over a three-year period. At the end of the fourth recidivism within the same period, law enforcement can initiate criminal proceedings.
New Mexico: Since April 2019, cannabis users under 14 grams are only liable to a $50 fine. Possession of small amounts of cannabis has been changed from a misdemeanour to a fine.
Ohio: Possession of cannabis is still considered an offense, but under 100 grams it does not result in incarceration, only a fine. At the same time, 18 cities, including two of the state’s most populous cities (Toledo and Dayton), have completely decriminalized cannabis possession.
Rhode Island: Possession of 28 grams or less is punishable by a $150 fine. 3 violations in 18 months would result in higher fines and possible jail time. Therapeutic use has been allowed since January 3, 2006, for cancer, HIV or hepatitis patients. They can possess up to 70 grams of weed and have been provided in compassionate centers since 2009.
Authorization for Therapeutic Use
Arkansas: legal since November 8, 2016. The distribution of therapeutic cannabis is done through a limited network of 40 dispensaries that will open in spring 2017. The use of medical marijuana was put to a referendum in November 2012, but only 48% of the voters answered Yes. Possession of less than 112 grams is still punishable by a $2,500 fine and one year imprisonment.
Arizona: Medical cannabis was legalized there in November 2010 by popular vote.
Connecticut: Medical cannabis was legalized in 2012. The medical cannabis program has since been expanded and the state has about 20 dispensaries.
North Dakota: Medical cannabis authorized since November 8, 2016, for a list of specific disorders (glaucoma, cancer, HIV, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, …). Patients will be able to get it from a dispensary, or to grow it at home if there is no dispensary within 65km.
Delaware: the therapeutic use of cannabis is legal there since 2011. Since then changes have been made.
Florida: authorized in smokable form since November 8, 2016. Personal cultivation remains prohibited. Terminally ill patients have unlimited access to the drug with no dose or potency limits. Possession of less than 20 grams remains an offence and may result in a one-year licence suspension. Possession of more than 20 grams is a crime.
Georgia: Only allowed in the form of CBD oil for medical purposes. Since 2019, the production and sale of oil is allowed. Before that, patients had to obtain it on the black market or outside the state.
Hawaii: only therapeutic use is authorized, since June 15, 2000.
Illinois: Therapeutic use legalized since January 1, 2014 (decree signed on August 1, 2013). Since August 2016, Illinois has also decriminalized the possession of cannabis for recreational use: possession of less than 10 grams is now classified as a civil offence and the fine is up to $200.
Louisiana: Therapeutic use only. Since June 30, 2015, the penalties have been significantly reduced, but remain heavy. The first offense of possession is punishable by a $300 fine and 15 days in prison, the second by a $1000 fine and 6 months in prison, the third by a $2,500 fine and 2 years in prison, the fourth and subsequent ones by a $5,000 fine and 8 years in prison. Prohibition to grow and consumption of cannabis must not be done in smokable form.
Maryland: Therapeutic use of medical cannabis was legalized in 2014 but implementation of the medical cannabis program has been very slow. The first dispensaries did not open until 2017.
Minnesota: The state legalized medical cannabis in 2014 for nine conditions. Since then, activists have been trying to expand the medical cannabis program.
Missouri: Cannabis has been legal there since the November 2018 legislative elections, including self-cultivation.
Montana: Medical cannabis was legalized there in 2014 but possession for personal use of less than 60 grams is still punishable by 6 months in prison and a fine of $100 to $500. A second offense is punishable by 3 years in prison and a $1000 fine. Possession of more than 60 grams is a crime punishable by 5 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Possession for the purpose of resale is a crime punishable by 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $50,000.
New Hampshire: Medical marijuana is permitted as of July 23, 2013. Without a prescription, users risk 1 year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Since 2017, possession of less than 21 grams has been decriminalized, and the fine is now $100 or even $300 for repeat offences.
New Jersey: Therapeutic use has been authorized since January 18, 2010. Recreational use is in the process of being legalized. However, the vote has been postponed.
New Mexico: Therapeutic cannabis has been legal since April 2007.
Ohio: Cannabis is decriminalized and therapeutic use was legalized in June 2016, with enforcement on 8 September 2016.
Oklahoma: While Oklahoma was one of the toughest states regarding cannabis (possession of a grinder, space cake or hashish could result in life imprisonment), the state has just authorized the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Patients can possess up to 224 grams of cannabis, 6 flowering and 6 growing plants, as well as edibles and concentrates.
Pennsylvania: Possession of less than 30 grams is an offense punishable by 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. For more than 30 grams, one year in prison and a $5000 fine. Therapeutic cannabis was authorized in April 2016.
Rhodes Island: The legalization of the therapeutic use of cannabis was passed by the state in 2006. Self-cultivation is allowed.
Utah: Therapeutic cannabis use has been legal since the November 2018 legislative elections.
West Virginia: A law for the legalization of medical cannabis was passed in 2017 but for the moment no dispensaries are operational.
Alabama: Possession of cannabis for personal use is illegal and punishable by a $6,000 fine and one year in jail for a first offense. Intent to sell is punishable by a $15,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison. The actual sale is punishable by 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine, or $60,000 if the sale is to a minor.
South Carolina: The first offense of cannabis possession can carry a one-year probationary sentence.
South Dakota: Possession of less than 56 grams is punishable by one year in prison and a $2,000 fine.
Idaho: Possession of less than 85 grams (3 ounces) for personal use is an offense punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If more than 85 and less than 450 grams, it is a felony punishable by 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Indiana: Possession is punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine. The use of medical marijuana is prohibited.
Iowa: Possession of any amount is classified as an offense, for the first three offenses. After three offences, smokers can be sent to detoxification. Selling or growing is punishable by a $100,000 fine if a minor is involved or if there is a school within 300 metres.
Kansas: A bill was proposed on January 10, 2013. It would allow therapeutic patients to grow up to 12 plants and carry 180 grams of medical marijuana. The bill has been “stuck” in the bureaucracy since February 28, 2014. Possession of cannabis is therefore still punishable by one year in prison and a $1000 fine for a first offence. The second offence can lead to a fine of up to $100,000. The third offence can lead to a fine of up to $300,000.
Kentucky: Possession of less than 230 grams is a misdemeanor, as is the possession of 5 plants. Beyond that, it is a crime. Therapeutic use is not legalized.
Tennessee: Possession of less than 14 grams is still a crime punishable by one year’s probation, except when marijuana is used in the form of oil to treat seizures, with a prescription.
Texas: Cannabis oil has been legal since June 1, 2015. Possession of less than 56 grams can result in 6 months in jail and a $2,000 fine. Several influential politicians are currently calling for marijuana law reform.
Virginia: 30 days in jail, $500 fine and loss of driver’s license for first offense. Citizens can choose a program for first-time offenders, with community service, drug classes and loss of driver’s license for only 6 months.
Wisconsin: no legislation pending
Wyoming: Being under the influence of marijuana can result in 90 days in jail and a $100 fine. Possession of less than 85 grams can result in one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
It should be noted that certain Indian reserves have the right to produce and consume marijuana, while other uninhabited territories such as American Samoa still prohibit the use of cannabis.