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Since California first legalized medical marijuana in 1996, other states began to follow suit. Today, the majority of states in the US have legalized cannabis in one way or another. The West Coast stayed ahead with Colorado and Washington being the first states to legalize recreational cannabis in November 2012. Though the West Coast led the way, many East Coast and Midwest states have now legalized weed too.

The most recent states to legalize recreational cannabis include New Mexico, Connecticut, and Virginia. With the latest to legalize medical marijuana being Alabama, South Dakota, and Mississippi.

Many of the states that haven’t legalized marijuana yet, or have only medically legalized it, are actively working towards reforming policies. And as all of these states continue to progress, the United States is getting closer and closer to federal legalization.

Some medical states actively working towards recreational legalization include Rhode Island, Maryland, Minnesota, and New York. States with no legalization that are working towards reform include Wyoming, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

8 US State’s Current Cannabis Legalization Status and Efforts Towards Reform in 2021

US State's Current Cannabis Legalization Status and Efforts Towards Reform in 2021
State cannabis legalization

States with Medical Cannabis Legalization Working Towards Recreational

New York

Amidst the good news that cannabis will be allowed at this year’s New York State Fair and that New York TSA is no longer seizing marijuana at the airport, comes bad news about the legalization of recreational cannabis in New York state.

In March 2021, then governor Cuomo signed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act. This allows for possession of up to 3 ounces for recreational purposes for those 21+, establishes overseeing agencies for sales and distribution, and more. Despite the progress, this kind of stuff takes more time than preferred. In fact, it’s likely recreational dispensaries won’t open until 2023 in NY.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s had a medical marijuana program well before most other states, with medical cannabis legalization in 2006. In 2012, the state decriminalized weed.

Earlier this summer, the Rhode Island Senate voted in favor of recreational marijuana. While it still has a ways to go, this is a step in the right direction. It only makes sense for Rhode Island to legalize recreational cannabis, as the tiny state is sandwiched between Connecticut and Massachusetts, both of which are recreational.

US State's Current Cannabis Legalization Status and Efforts Towards Reform in 2021
US State’s Current Cannabis Legalization Status and Efforts Towards Reform in 2021

Photo by Michael Denning on Unsplash

Maryland

Maryland has permitted legal medical marijuana since 2014. Meanwhile, its next door neighbor, Washington DC, legalized recreational cannabis already. It seems like Maryland is attempting to keep up with the Jones’ by pushing for the legalization of recreational cannabis in the state.

A 10-member group appointed by the House Speaker will be helping to craft plans and legislation for a regulated cannabis market in Maryland. This is in preparation for potential approval during the legalization referendum late next year. Nonetheless, this will also be a slow process; but it is hopeful.

Minnesota

Minnesota legalized medical marijuana in 2014. The medical program does not include flower, however. Compared to other medical programs, such as Florida’s, Minnesota has pretty tight restrictions and less of a variety of products.

Though the bill to legalize marijuana in the state just died in the Senate, there is still hope for recreational legalization. Over 56% of Minnesota citizens are in favor of adult-use cannabis in the state. There are many politicians, such as House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, who are in favor as well.

States Entering the Cannabis Market for the First Time

Wyoming

Marijuana in Wyoming is completely illegal. In fact, the state has some of the harshest punishments in the country. Being under the influence or in possession could mean a misdemeanor and time in jail. Higher levels of cannabis “crime” could even lead to a felony.

Despite the strict laws, there are many local activists pushing towards the legalization of cannabis in Wyoming. Said activists are actively collecting signatures for the 2022 ballot. The ballot is to legalize medical marijuana, as well as decriminalize possession. Visit this website to find where you can add your signature.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin is another state where cannabis is completely illegal and has harsh punishments. There is currently no medical marijuana program either in Wisconsin. Possession of marijuana can lead to a hefty $1,000 fine and jail time. Subsequent punishments can lead to longer jail time and a felony charge.

Earlier this summer Wisconsinites found a glimmer of hope in three wise men and one wise woman. Wisconsin Democrats Sen. Melissa Agard, Rep. David Bowen, and Rep. Mark Spreitzer travelled to Illinois to announce the filing of a new legislation to legalize weed in Wisconsin. They’re not just fighting for medical marijuana, either. They’re pushing for adult-use legalization while still implementing a medical program.

US State’s Current Cannabis Legalization Status and Efforts Towards Reform in 2021

North Carolina

While the south has been more reluctant to legalize marijuana than most other regions, we have still seen legalization in a few southern states. Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi legalized medical cannabis, but Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina are yet to follow suit.

North Carolina doesn’t have as harsh laws as states like Wisconsin and Wyoming, but nonetheless weed is illegal in the state. If you possess under half an ounce, you’ll be let off with a small fine. Anything more and your punishment could mean jail time and a hefty fine.

North Carolina is another state without even medical legalization. Veterans and others have been pushing for the legalization of cannabis in North Carolina, and the state government is hearing them out. A bill to legalize marijuana in NC has been approved, making the state one step closer to legalization.

Idaho

Being so close to the West Coast where the cannabis industry is booming, it is surprising to see that Idaho deems marijuana completely illegal in the state. Idaho has similar laws to its neighboring state Wyoming, as well as many of the other illegal states.

The northwestern state is off to a much slower start compared to others working towards legalization. But a local legalization initiative is actively gathering signatures to put marijuana measures on the 2022 ballot, including possession of marijuana to become legal for those 21+ on private property. This does not include home cultivation nor any legal and licensed system for sales of cannabis in Idaho, though.

US State’s Current Cannabis Legalization Status and Efforts Towards Reform in 2021

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