How Cannabis Laws Differ Across The United States

Gavel and marijuana. Concept about drug vs justice.

Cannabis laws differ greatly across the United States. Legislation governing marijuana has passed only on the state level. And with federal support unlikely under the Trump administration (which at best will remain hands off, and at worst will enforce negatively), these laws are unlikely to advance beyond the states.

This can confuse with all the differences. With that in mind, we have created a master list of state cannabis laws.

Legal Recreational Pot

Eight states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational pot. Here is a rundown of the laws (and voting) in each:

• Washington: 56% of voters approved Initiative 502, which permits adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis (and/or up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form) for their own personal use in private. The law took effect on December 6, 2012.

• Colorado: 55% percent of Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which legalizes the adult use of cannabis. Private possession of up to one ounce is no penalty. Private cultivation of up to six marijuana plants, with no more than three being mature, is no penalty. Transfer of one ounce or less for no remuneration is no penalty. The law took effect on December 10, 2012.

• Alaska: 52% of Alaska voters approved Ballot Measure 2 in February of 2015. Adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, as well as cultivation of up to six plants for personal consumption, will be legal and untaxed. (Since 1975, Alaskans have actually had personal privacy protections that allow the possession and cultivation of small quantities of cannabis.)

• Oregon: 56% of voters approved Measure 91, enacting it on July 1, 2015. Adults are allowed up to one ounce of cannabis, 16 ounces of infused solid product, 72 ounces of infused liquid, and 1 ounce of extract for their own personal use in private, along with 4 personal grow plants.

• Massachusetts: Legalization passed with the approval of Question 4 by 54% of voters on December 15, 2016. It allows adults who are not participating in the state’s medicinal program to grow up to six plants and possess up to one ounce and/or up to 5 grams of concentrate.

• Nevada: 55% of voters passed Question 2 in November 2016, allowing adults outside of the medicinal program to possess up to one ounce of cannabis plant and/or up to 3.5 grams of concentrate. Residents can grow up to six plants and possess the harvest from these, so long as they reside at least 25 miles away from an operating cannabis retailer.

• California: Proposition 64, The Adult Use Marijuana Act took effect Nov. 9, 2016, and allows adults over 21 who are not in the state’s medicinal program to possess up to one ounce of cannabis flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrates. This law also established commercial cannabis production and retail sales.

• Maine: Voting was the tightest in Maine, where “Yes” and “No” both earned 50% of the vote. But the Yay’s took it by a margin of only 4,073 votes. The passage of Question 1 in November of last year permits adults up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and/or the harvest of up to six mature plants, or up to 5 grams of marijuana concentrate.

• Washington D.C.: In our nation’s capital, adults aged 21 or older can possess up to two ounces of marijuana and grow no more than six plants — with three or fewer mature at any one time — in their place of residence. Transfer without payment of up to one ounce of marijuana to another legal-aged adult is also legal.

Medicinal Cannabis

A total of 33 states and Washington D.C. have legalized some form of medicinal cannabis. Some of these laws date back to the ‘90s. California passed the first measure in 1996, followed by Alaska, Oregon and Washington in 1998, and then Maine a year later.

States where medicinal marijuana is currently available in some form (even if only minor) are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Washington.

Washington, D.C. also permits medicinal programs.

What level of ailments patients require to receive cannabis differs from state to state. The majority permit the drug for cancer treatment, glaucoma patients and HIV/Aids.

All states require a medical necessity before allowing patients product. Many mandate state-run grow operations. A number run confidential patient registries (Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Colorado, Vermont). Typically, patients are permitted possession of up to one ounce of cannabis.

Texas only permits cannabis for epilepsy, and only allows CBD, not THC.

New York, for being among the more politically liberal states, allows only for certain patients to ingest cannabis via edibles, oils, pills, or vaping. Smoking marijuana remains entirely illegal.

Among the more conservative states, Oklahoma allows only cannabis oils for children epilepsy.

Joining the ranks of the medicinal states after the 2016 election cycle were Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas.

Medicinal CBD

We wrote last week about the medicinal qualities of CBD, which, unlike THC, is not psychotropic. For anyone who missed that article, here’s the upshot:

CBD has increased in medicinal use during the last decade as a treatment for some forms of epilepsy, including among children. This cannabinoid can reportedly reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures. However, the recency of this finding means that clinical trials remain ongoing and CBD is not a broadly recognized form of epilepsy treatment.

Still, the early positive results have led to changes in the law. The FDA has recently eased requirements for firms holding FDA-approved clinical trials on CBD.

Eleven states have legalized industrial hemp production: California, Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, North Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia and Tennessee. Others have authorizing the cultivation of industrial hemp for pilot projects or studies: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska and Utah.

Cannabis As A Crime

Cannabis remains largely illegal in 17 states: Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Several of these states (Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina) do permit non-psychoactive CBD oil for patients suffering from seizures. Wisconsin in 2014 legalized the broader use of CBD products for treating children with seizures.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Cannabis Regulator. Reach him