The State-by-State Guide to Weed in America
Are there dispensaries on every block – or could smoking a joint land you in jail?
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Photo-illustration by Liz Barclay for RollingStone.com
A toke might make things feel a little simpler, but there’s no denying that marijuana laws are downright complicated. While marijuana is legal for recreational use in nine states and the District of Columbia, that could mean anything from dispensaries on every block to a complicated system of “gifting” pot. And medical marijuana? In some states that means anyone with a sore foot can legally buy a bag of green, while in others it means that only severely ill patients – those who suffer from diseases like cancer, AIDS, or multiple sclerosis – have access to oils and tinctures. Even in states where it’s still entirely illegal, sometimes getting caught with pot can mean the cost of a parking ticket, while other times it can mean a year behind bars.
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Confused? We were, too. With that in mind, here’s a brief state-by-state guide to weed across America.
In Alaska, adults 21 and over can possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants, but no more than three mature plants for non-commercial purposes. You’re not allowed to smoke in public.
Patients registered with the state’s a medical marijuana program can use weed to treat a host of serious conditions from cachexia (wasting disease), nausea and chronic pain to cancer, HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis. There are an estimated 1,178 registered patients in Alaska.
Due to weather conditions, marijuana is grown indoors most of the year, raising concerns about the energy impact of increased indoor lighting as the industry grows.
Click here for our full user’s guide to legal marijuana in Alaska.
Pot is illegal in Arizona – possession of any amount is a felony. However, the state has a thriving medical marijuana industry, with operational 130 dispensaries. Patients suffering from severe conditions like cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C and agitation from alzheimer’s disease to have two and a half ounces of pot. Of the 152,979 estimated registered patients, a large majority are chronic pain sufferers.
Arizona’s medical marijuana law does not require testing for contaminants, an oversight that leaves users vulnerable to marijuana polluted by molds and pesticides.
Pot is illegal in Alabama – a single joint can lead to a year in prison – and the state does not have a medical marijuana program, although the use of CBD is permitted for epilepsy or allowed in clinical trials.
Pot is illegal in Arkansas, with stiff penalties for people caught with even less than 4 ounces – even first-time offenders can get up to a year in prison for possession. A medical marijuana program is in the works, but a court order has temporarily halted licensing to growers. Eventually, a wide range of conditions, including PTSD, will qualify patients for medical pot and they’ll be able to purchase 2.5 ounces from a dispensary every 14 days.
The recreational use of marijuana is legal in California. Adults 21 and over can possess up to one ounce, although the sale of any amount of pot remains a misdemeanor punishable with up to 6 months. Adults can also cultivate up to 6 plants.
The legalization of marijuana in the state was preceded by a medical marijuana program. Any debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been “deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician” qualified patients for the use of medical pot and patients could get as much pot as they need. State law doesn’t limit the amount that can be grown for personal medical use.
Commercial growers are required to store water during the wet winter season. However, unless regulators monitor growers consistently, they might be tempted to divert water from streams, endangering salmon in the area. Meanwhile, illegal grow operations continue to pose an environmental threat in California’s forests. Just last year, a team of researchers found traces of dangerous pesticides and human waste at illegal grow sites near waterways.
Click here for our full user’s guide to legal marijuana in California.
In Colorado, adults 21 and over can have up to an ounce of marijuana and are allowed to share their weed. They can also grow up to 6 plants.
The state’s medical cannabis law restricts use to two ounces and patients can register for wide-ranging conditions, from cachexia and cancer to PTSD. There are state-licensed dispensaries operational and 93,372 registered patients.
Critics say the state missed a critical opportunity to create an environmentally friendly industry with the passage of Amendment 64. Several years after legalization, energy demand in Denver increased, as did water use in the drought-ridden state.
The city of Denver recently released a best practices working paper, including instructions for water recycling (water recapture and reuse) and organic waste management, like composting and Bokashi fermentation, a method of pickling waste.
Click here for our full user’s guide to legal marijuana in Colorado.
Pot is against the law in Connecticut, but the possession of small amounts has been decriminalized. First and second offenses of less than a half-ounce yield a civil penalty of $150 and $200 to $500 respectively.
The state has a legal medical marijuana program, with 25,565 people currently enrolled and a long list of qualifying conditions, from cancer to PTSD. (In February, the board of physicians denied albinism as a qualifying condition.)
There are nine dispensaries in the state, and 861 physicians registered in the program. Four producers are legally registered with the state.
Although recreational use in Delaware is against the law, marijuana is decriminalized, so a person caught with up to one ounce gets a fine of $100 instead of jail time. Yet minors smoking weed in public or a moving vehicle can face criminal charges.
The state’s medical marijuana program is growing quickly, with a 231 percent uptick in registration cards issued in fiscal year 2017 than in 2016. Qualifying conditions include: cancer, PTSD and autism. The three most common conditions are severe pain, muscle spasms and cancer.
Delaware asks that dispensaries test their cannabis products but doesn’t explicitly deny the use of pesticides.
Marijuana is illegal in Florida, with 20 grams or less punishable with up to a year in prison.
The state’s medical marijuana program is limited, with patients suffering cancer, muscle spasms and seizures, allowed cannabis strains containing ten percent or more of CBD and no more than eight-tenths of one percent of THC. Terminally ill patients can get strains higher in THC. There are approximately 26,968 registered patients.
Critics argue that expanding Florida’s medical marijuana law would increase the state’s carbon footprint due to added energy consumption. They also fear that larger-scale cultivation will threaten the state’s 29 major water holes, particularly the Everglades.
Marijuana remains very illegal in Georgia. However, first time offenders might be eligible for probation over incarceration (the probation might include mandatory drug treatment). Although that indicates a positive step towards decriminalization, it must be noted that in many cases the terms of probation might be even more onerous than incarceration, due to court dates, fees, and other conditions.
The state has a very limited medical marijuana program: 20 ounces of infused cannabis oils with no more than 5 percent THC. Some of the qualifying conditions are AIDS, seizures and Tourette’s syndrome. Advocates are pushing for PTSD and chronic pain to be included in the list of qualifying conditions.
Hawaii allows for conditional release or diversion for first time offenders. If a person finishes probation successfully, their record is purged.
The state’s medical marijuana law allows patients to possess four ounces of usable marijuana, not including seeds, stalks or the root. Patients are allowed to grow no more than seven plants. As of March 2018, there were 20,869 valid patients.
A Hawaii-based cannabis advocacy group advises people who grow weed to use lower-energy lights and no-till, organic gardening.
The state of Idaho has some of the strictest pot laws in the country. People caught with less than 3 ounces of weed face up to a year in prison. Possession of more than 3 ounces can result in 5 years in prison. In 2016, more than 4,000 people were arrested for pot in the state.
Idaho doesn’t have a medical marijuana program, though advocates are currently pushing to legalize CBD oils.
Illinois has started to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Ten grams or less constitutes a civil violation, carrying a fine of $200 and no jail time.
The state’s legal marijuana program allows for a wide range of qualifying conditions, including Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury and Fibromyalgia. In 2017, there were 21,800 registered patients. There are 54 state-licensed dispensaries.
Illinois requires growers to properly train their employees in the use of pesticides, as well as provide a plan for water flow and the disposal of waste materials.
The possession of even a small amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable with up to 180 days in jail. The state allows people with severe epilepsy to use CBD oil.
Even first offense possession of a small amount of pot is a misdemeanor punishable with up to six months in prison, although diversion sentencing is an option.
Limited amounts of CBD oil are permitted for people suffering serious conditions such as intractable epilepsy, terminal illness, or untreatable pain. There are no state-licensed dispensaries currently operational, but the state has begun to consider applications.
Possession of any amount of pot is punishable with 6 months in prison. A medical marijuana program was narrowly rejected by the Kansas House of Representatives in March 2018.
Less than 8 ounces of weed is a misdemeanor punishable with 45 days in jail, but diversion sentencing is possible. If you’re caught with 8 ounces or more, it’s automatically considered trafficking, and can result in a one-year sentence for first-time offenders, or a one- to five-year stint for a subsequent arrest. Legislators are debating instituting a medical marijuana program.
Pot is illegal, and first offenders caught with less than 14 grams face 15 days in prison.
In April, the Louisiana Pharmacy board began awarding permits for medical pot dispensaries. Louisiana law still forbids smokable pot. Southern University and Louisiana State University are the sole agricultural centers that can grow medicinal marijuana.
In Maine, adults over the age of 21 can possess 2.5 ounces of weed and grow up to six mature plants. The state also has a thriving medical marijuana program for a long list of ailments, including PTSD. The first retail marijuana stores are likely to pop up in the spring of 2019, although Governor Paul LePage has vowed to veto legislation paving the way for a regulated marijuana market.
Click here for our full user’s guide to legal marijuana in Maine.
Recreational pot is illegal in Maryland, although possession of small amounts (less than 10 grams) has been decriminalized.
Four years after greenlighting a medical marijuana law, Maryland recently instituted a medical marijuana program. Currently, 34 state-approved dispensaries are open to patients suffering from a wide range of debilitating conditions, like anorexia, severe nausea and seizures.
In Massachusetts, adults over 21 can legally possess an ounce or less and cultivate up to six plants (12 per household). Retail marijuana is set to open July 2018 (MPP)
The state’s medical marijuana program allows patients suffering from serious conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS and other conditions as determined by a physician. Limited amount of home cultivation are allowed, and there are 46,294 registered patients. The state has operational licensed dispensaries.
The state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has called on the Cannabis Control Commission to impose stricter environmental standards so that the burgeoning weed industry doesn’t drastically increase the state’s carbon footprint, calling for a mere 36 watts per square foot of cultivation space.
Click here for our full user’s guide to legal marijuana in Massachusetts.
Getting caught with any amount of pot is, at a minimum, a misdemeanor that can carry a one-year sentence, although diversion is an option.
Medical marijuana patients – suffering from conditions like Alzheimer’s, cancer and PTSD – are allowed to possess two and a half ounces of usable marijuana. Home cultivation of no more than 12 marijuana plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility, is allowed. More than 218,000 patients are registered.
However it seems full legalization isn’t far off for Michigan. A voter referendum for recreational marijuana will be on the ballot this November, and it’s expected to pass. Read more about that legislation here.
Possession of 4.5 grams or less is a misdemeanor, but carries no jail time. Cancer, HIV and AIDS, as well as PTSD and intractable pain are some of the conditions covered by the state’s medical marijuana program. There are 8,075 estimated registered patients.
The possession of small amounts of pot has been decriminalized in Mississippi – 30 grams or less does not carry a criminal penalty. The state’s medical marijuana program is limited to CBD oil for intractable epilepsy.
A first offense possession charge of 10 grams or less is a misdemeanor, which does not usually carry jail time. The state’s medical marijuana program is limited to CBD oil for intractable epilepsy.
Sixty grams or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable with up to six months in prison. The state has a medical marijuana program for conditions like cancer, chronic pain and Crohn’s disease. More than 21,000 people are registered.
Pot in Nebraska has been partially decriminalized: a first offense for possession of one ounce or less is an infraction which is not punishable with jail time. The state does not have a medical marijuana program. In a February poll, 77 percent of respondents said they would vote yes on a medical marijuana program.
Marijuana has been legalized in Nevada, and adults 21 and over can have up to one ounce of weed. They can also share their pot with others, but selling more than one ounce is still a felony. Adults can also grow 6 marijuana plants if they live more than 25 miles away from a retailer. There are 62 dispensaries statewide and 205 cultivation and production facilities.
Nevada’s medical marijuana program has about 21,700 registered patients, who use the drug to treat a range of symptoms, from AIDS to PTSD. They’re permitted to cultivate 12 plants.
The city of Las Vegas favors applicants who plan to use green buildings. For years, medical marijuana facilities have had to provide the city’s environmental officer with a detailed environmental plan that includes how they’ll manage hazardous materials and wastes.
Pot has been partially decriminalized in New Hampshire. Possession of three-quarters of an ounce is a civil violation that carries no criminal penalty. New Hampshire lawmakers are studying legalization, but a recent bill stalled in the state’s House.
The state’s medical marijuana program allows people suffering from serious conditions like AIDS, cancer and PTSD to access two ounces of legal pot. Home cultivation is not permitted. There are currently 3,493 registered patients in the program.
Although pot is still illegal in New Jersey, the state’s new governor, Phil Murphy, has signaled he wants legal marijuana. Currently, 50 grams or less carries a disorderly person charge, punishable with up to six months in jail.
In addition to the usual serious conditions that qualify patients for medical pot, the state includes medical marijuana as an addiction substitute therapy for opioid reduction. The state’s 18,574 registered patients can have two ounces of pot per month.
New Jersey has outlawed the use of pesticides in marijuana cultivation.
Pot is against the law in New Mexico, with first offense possession of one ounce or less carrying a penalty of 15 days in jail. A second offense can result in a one-year sentence.
The state allows patients with a wide variety of conditions – from cancer to Parkinson’s to PTSD – to have access to medicinal marijuana. Patients can have eight ounces over 90 days and home cultivation is allowed, up to 16 plants. So far, 50,954 patients are enrolled. The most common qualifying condition is PTSD, followed by cancer and chronic pain.
In New York state, the possession of small amounts of weed has been decriminalized. First offense for 25 grams or less carries a $100 fine, and a second offense can cost $200.
New York state’s medical marijuana law limits patients to non-smokable products. Home cultivation is not allowed. The qualifying conditions include ALS, cancer, chronic pain and PTSD.
Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has declared her support for legalization – pushing current Governor Andrew Cuomo, a longtime anti-pot pol, to conduct an official study into how legalization would affect New York.
Pot in North Carolina is illegal, although possession of small amounts has been decriminalized: a half-ounce or less can result in a maximum fine of $200. The state allows CBD oil to treat intractable epilepsy. Representatives introduced a medical marijuana bill in February.
In North Dakota, one ounce or less of pot can get users 30 days in jail, although diversion is a possibility.
A list of ailments qualify users for medical pot, including agitation from Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia, ALS, cancer, chronic or debilitating disease and PTSD. Home cultivation is not allowed. Patients can smoke pot, but only by special order of their physician. However there are currently no state-licensed dispensaries operational and no patients currently registered.
In Ohio, less than 100 grams of pot is a misdemeanor that doesn’t carry a criminal penalty, but a $150 fine.
The state’s medical marijuana program permits patients suffering from a long list of conditions, including AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and traumatic brain injury, to use marijuana medicinally. Home cultivation is not allowed and there are currently no state-licensed dispensaries operational. The first production facilities are slated to open this fall.
The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control program – the state agency tasked with the rollout of medical marijuana – has proposed that producers display labels such as organic on their products. They also call for the composting of marijuana waste.
Oklahoma has some of the harshest penalties for marijuana in the country. Even a first-time offender caught with any amount faces a year in prison. In 2017, Governor Mary Fallin commuted the sentence of a man serving life without parole for pot trafficking to life with parole.
The state allows pediatric epilepsy to be treated CBD oils.
Oregon has legalized pot for personal adult use. Legalization followed a long tradition of medical marijuana in the state, with a wide range of symptoms qualifying patients, including PTSD. Registered users can possess 24 ounces of usable cannabis and and grow six mature plants. There are an estimated 61,867 people participating in the program.
Like other states with large-scale legalization, critics are concerned that Oregon’s waterways might be threatened by the debris and other waste materials from large grow operations. A report presented to the Oregon legislature also warned that pot agriculture would use up far more water than, say, a wine grape.
Click here for our full user’s guide to legal marijuana in Oregon.
In Pennsylvania, 30 grams or less can get you thrown in jail for 30 days. The state’s medical pot program includes a range of conditions, including opioid dependency. Home cultivation is not allowed, but there are currently state-licensed dispensaries operating.
In Rhode Island, less than one ounce carries no criminal penalty, although pot is still illegal. Lawmakers might consider ending prohibition in the fall.
The state’s medical marijuana program permits two and a half ounces and the home cultivation of 12 plants stored indoors.
First offenders caught with one ounce or less can be sentenced to 30 days in jail, though diversion sentencing is a possibility. The state has a CBD law on the books for Dravet Syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and refractory epilepsy.
Marijuana is illegal, and triggers harsh penalties: two ounces or less can lead to a year in prison.
A medical marijuana bill is slated to be on the ballot this fall, though the conditions it would cover are relatively severe.
Pot is illegal in Tennessee and can land you in jail for a year – even first time offenders.The state allows CBD oil to treat seizures.
Possession of two ounces or less can put someone in jail for 180 days. The state technically has a CBD oil law on the books, but the program is severely limited by the fact that physicians are forced to write a prescription, putting them at risk of a crackdown by federal authorities.
Pot is illegal in Utah. Less than one ounce can result in six months in jail.
A medical marijuana initiative could be put on the ballot for voters this fall, though it’s unclear if there will be the support to pass it – currently the powerful Church of Latter-Day Saints opposes the measure, which could mean its defeat.
Vermont has legalized small amounts of pot for personal use. The state’s medical marijuana law allowed two ounces of usable marijuana for patients suffering a host of ailments, including PTSD. Up to nine marijuana plants can be grown at home.
Click here for our full user’s guide to legal marijuana in Vermont.
Weed is illegal in Virginia, though there’s momentum towards legalization. Right now, Virginia’s medical marijuana program is limited to restricted use of CBD and THC-A oils. In March, Gov. Ralph Northam expanded the criteria for qualifying condition to any diagnosed condition.
Washington has legalized small amounts of weed for personal use. The state’s medical marijuana law applies to a broad range of conditions, including PTSD. Home cultivation of medical pot is allowed if the patient enters a state database, though growing plants for recreational use is prohibited.
The state’s Department of Ecology has published guidelines on how to maintain environmentally friendly – things like to controlling odor in the air and treating any waste with a 10 percent THC content as dangerous, just like you would fluorescent bulbs or used batteries.
Click here for our full user’s guide to legal marijuana in Washington State.
In 2014, voters passed a ballot initiative that made recreational, adult-use marijuana legal in the nation’s capital. But since then, little has happened – Congress, which gets to appropriate how D.C. spends its money, decided that they couldn’t spend any of their budget implementing the new law, leaving legal pot in limbo. Residents have gotten around that problem by setting up “gifting” markets wherein trinkets are sold for about the price of weed – and the pot is added on as a bonus. While adults are allowed to possess up to two ounces or grow up to six plants, getting caught with more than that is a misdemeanor that could land you in jail for six months.
The district has a medial marijuana program, but it allows patients the same two ounces that are allowed under the recreational law.
Click here for our full user’s guide to legal marijuana in Washington, D.C.
Getting caught with any amount of pot can result in 90 days to six months in prison. The state has a medical marijuana program, but there are no currently operational state-licensed dispensaries.
Any amount of pot is punishable with six months in jail, including for first offenders. The state allows for the use of CBD oil.
In Wyoming, using marijuana or being “under the influence” is a misdemeanor, and can result in up to 6 months in jail. In fact, the legislature is considering instituting tougher penalties for pot – making possession of three grams of flower a felony. The state allows for the use of CBD oils to treat seizures, but has not facilitated accessibility for them.
This article is updated on a regular basis to stay current with marijuana laws. Thanks to NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project for their diligent updates.