A little more than a decade after Colorado and Washington made history in becoming the first two states in America to legalize recreational marijuana, nearly half the country has followed suit. This ongoing progress often leads to the question: Which states currently have legal weed, and what does the future hold?
Over the last 10 years, cannabis has gone from taboo to mainstream, as voters and policymakers alike have reconsidered draconian anti-pot laws and antiquated attitudes about marijuana’s harms.
Since those historic votes were cast in Colorado and Washington back in 2012, the list of “free states” has only swelled.
21 States with Legal Weed
Two more states, Maryland and Missouri, are set to join the club after voters in each approved proposals last year that legalize adult-use cannabis. Parts of those laws have taken effect, but the retail cannabis market has yet to open.
That is also the case in the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., where marijuana has been legal since 2015 but the sale of weed remains prohibited. That is because
On the Horizon
There are early indications that several more states could end the prohibition on pot 2023. In Minnesota, Democrats secured control over both chambers of the legislature in last year’s midterm election, while the state’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, was also re-elected.
Democratic lawmakers there have already introduced a legalization bill this month, and Walz has made it clear that he is eager to sign it whenever it lands on his desk.
“Minnesotans are ready to legalize adult-use cannabis and expunge cannabis convictions in our state — and I’m ready to sign it into law,”
Lawmakers in other states, including Oklahoma, Ohio and Pennsylvania, are likewise eyeing legislation that would end the prohibition on recreational pot use.
The changes to marijuana policy over the last decade have dovetailed with a shift in public opinion, as polls routinely show a majority of Americans are now in favor of legalization.
At an event this past fall commemorating the 10th anniversary of Colorado’s marijuana law, Sen. John Hickenlooper, who was the state’s governor when the measure passed in 2012, acknowledged that he was initially opposed to the proposal.
“We really did lead the way in marijuana legalization. I am a convert today. I was wrong ten years ago. You can do this right. You can do it responsibly,”
The most anticipated marijuana-related policy is at the federal level. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have publicly stated their desire to end the nationwide prohibition on marijuana, while President Joe Biden has also signaled his intention to relax the longstanding ban.
In October, Biden
The president urged all governors to “do the same with regard to state offenses.”
“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in his announcement. “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”