More US states are regulating marijuana. See where it’s legal across the country


Marijuana may remain illegal federally, but in most states, it’s accessible for adult medical or recreational use.

In 37 states and Washington, D.C., there are comprehensive medical programs allowing for access. In late March, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed a law legalizing medical use in his state, but it won’t go into effect until 2025.

In 21 states and Washington D.C., adults may buy or possess marijuana recreationally. Maryland will likely become the 22nd state with legal recreational use when its law legalizing it goes into effect in July.

Legalization policies, both medical and recreational, exist in a legal gray area, with variation between states in regulation and taxation. For example, in Washington D.C., Congress stepped in to stop legal sales, so possession is allowed, but sales are technically not. A few other states that do not have comprehensive medical programs do allow for small amounts for medicinal use, under very strict circumstances.

The movement to legalize has accelerated since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. In 2012, Washington and Colorado were the first states to approve legal recreational use.

Since then, Americans have increasingly supported legal cannabis, and legislatures have taken up the issue more often in recent years. In 2022, President Joe Biden pardoned individuals convicted for simple possession under federal law and ordered a review of marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug. Under federal law, Schedule I drugs have no legitimate medical use.

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