More States Are Legalizing Marijuana

32 states and Washington, DC have legalized marijuana in some capacity. It is illegal through federal law, but many states are individually legalizing marijuana.

Often progressive in many aspects, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana all the way back in 1996. It would be many years until legalization caught on, but today many states are following suit. Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize the drug for recreational use in 2012. Today, 32 states and Washington, DC have embraced legalization either recreationally or medically. An interactive map shows a complete list of states that have legalized marijuana and what type of use is legal. At the national level, only Uruguay and Canada have fully legalized the drug which remains illegal under federal law.

As the majority of states are beginning to legalize at least in some capacity, stores are beginning to pop up, selling the product in various different forms. There is even a site that has coupons for these stores. In addition to stores selling the drug, an entire industry is beginning to bloom thanks to the new laws in many states. On the stock market, the stock of cannabis companies is also rising and projected to continue to rise as more states legalize the drug. One projection predicts the cannabis industry to be a $500 billion industry in the near future.

Because recreational use remains illegal through federal law, only private owned businesses have been able to sell it so far. The fact that marijuana is still illegal federally also means that some areas in the United States are off limits when it comes to marijuana use and possession, even if these areas are located in a state that has legalized the drug. These areas include federally owned land such as military bases and national parks.

Although it is easy to categorize states into illegal, medically legal, and recreationally legal categories, the actual distinction between what each state allows isn’t always that clear. Different states have set different limits for how much one person can buy and possess. Some states have jumped into legality slowly by allowing growth and possession, but not sale of marijuana. Further, some states have decriminalized the drug, but have not completely legalized its use.

The most recent states to legalize include Michigan, Missouri, and Utah. Of the three, Michigan was the only state to legalize recreational use, and it is the first state in the Midwest to do so. All three of these legalizations came from the November 2018 elections.

In Michigan, it was legalized with over 2,000,000 votes. This took effect on December 6, 2018, and sales of marijuana in Michigan will begin within the year. In the election in Missouri, residents voted to legalize medical marijuana with a 66% margin. There will be no restrictions on conditions doctors can prescribe medical marijuana for in the state. Utah’s results came in with a tighter margin, with 53% voting to legalize medical marijuana. A unique part of Utah’s new law is that patients who don’t live near a dispensary will be allowed to grow their own marijuana. Utah’s results are also noteworthy because it is a traditionally conservative state.

There was one other state that had the legalization of marijuana on its ballot in the 2018 election: North Dakota. While medical marijuana is already legal in the state, voters did not vote to allow recreational marijuana, with 41% voting no. One of the unique aspects of the proposal in North Dakota was that there would be no limit to the amount a person could possess or grow, had the initiative passed.

Earlier in 2018, Vermont legalized possession of marijuana, and what stands out about this state law is that it was the first and so far only legalization made directly from legislation and not from votes on a ballot. Washington, DC has also legalized possession but not sale of marijuana.

Legalization through legislature is the beginning of a trend other states might start following in the near future. There are talks of legalization through legislature for New Jersey, New York, and other states. With changes in the house and senate after the 2018 election, there may be quite a few states that seek to legalize marijuana in the coming year.

The legalization that took effect in Colorado and Washington in 2012 seemed very radical to many people at the time. The new laws that have swept the nation come largely in response to the war on drugs. There are clearly two sides to this issue, but the sheer number of states that are legalizing shows that even those who had once opposed the legalization of marijuana are seeing the benefits of legalization. President Trump has made it more difficult for states to legalize, yet many state are still doing so. The trend seems to be toward complete legalization, if not federally, at least in every state individually.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.