The Growing Popularity Of Legalized Marijuana

Approximately 1 in 3 Americans live in a state where recreational Marijuana is legal. There are roughly 109 million Americans living in areas where adults can use Cannabis legally. The popularity of Marijuana among American adults is gaining traction. According to recent surveys, more than 45% of adults in the United States have used weed at least once. A different survey discovered that 1 in 8 adults are avid Marijuana users. These numbers prove the prevalence of Cannabis use has doubled over the past few years. Just 10 years ago, Marijuana was illegal across the United States. Today the plant is legal for medicinal purposes in 36 states and completely legal in 19 and 3 US territories (including Washington, DC).

Where Marijuana Is Legal In The United States?

In 2021, New York, Virginia, New Mexico, and Connecticut were the newest states to fully legalize the use of Marijuana. Though they are the most recent states to join the Cannabis industry, there are other notable states and territories on the ever-growing list.

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Colorado (November 2012)

Colorado was the first state to legalize Marijuana in 2012. Since its legalization nearly a decade ago, the government has made over $12 billion in Cannabis sales.

Washington (November 2012)

Originally approved for medical use in 1998, it was another 20 years (in 2012) before Washington state would allow the plant to be used recreationally as well.

Alaska (November 2014)

Alaska was the second state to decriminalize cannabis in 1971. In 1998 the state legalized medical cannabis use for qualifying individuals, although there was no legal way of purchasing the plant. It wasn’t until 2014 that the government approved the regulation, production, and sale of cannabis, as well as recreational cannabis use. A year later, the Marijuana Control Board (MCB) was created to regulate and govern recreational cannabis use.

Oregon (November 2014)

In Oregon, medical Marijuana has been legal since 1998. Six years ago in 2014, the state made recreational adult-use (21 and older) Cannabis legal.

District of Columbia (November 2014)

The use of weed for medical and adult-use purposes is legal in Washington, DC, however, however, the consumption/use on federal property is against the law. To purchase medical Marijuana a patient must be registered and referred by a healthcare professional.

Massachusetts (November 2016)

Medical and recreational use of Marijuana is legal in Massachusetts. The Pilgrim State was 1 of 4 states (along with California, Maine, and Nevada) and the first state on the east coast to approve adult use of the plant for “fun” in November 2016.

California (November 2016)

California was the first state to pass the medical use of Marijuana in 1996. On November 8, 2016, adults 21 and older were legally allowed to consume weed for recreational purposes.

Maine (November 2016)

Four years ago, in 2016, citizens in Maine voted to approve the possession, consumption, and cultivation of Marijuana for personal use. However, the state was already allowing adults to consume weed for medical purposes since 1999.

Nevada (November 2016)

Recreational and medical use of Marijuana has been legal in Nevada since 2016.

Northern Mariana Islands (September 2018)

Both medical and recreational Marijuana possession and purchase is permitted in the US territory, the Northern Mariana Islands. The law was implemented within a year of being issued.

Michigan (November 2018)

Since 2018, the use of cannabis for adult or medical purposes has been approved by the state along with legislation that would allow low-level Marijuana convicts to have their record expunged. Michigan was the first midwestern state to fully legalize the use of the plant.

Vermont (January 2018)

Vermont approved the recreational use of Marijuana in 2018, though recreational dispensaries are not yet operational. Cannabis retailers are slated to open and begin selling later this fall in October 2022.

Guam (April 2019)

The medical and recreational use of Marijuana is legal in the US territory. Guam passed a law in 2019 which legalized the plant. Currently the sale and distribution of the substance is illegal, but residents are permitted to gift no more than an ounce to those who are of age.

Illinois (May 2019)

In the land of Lincoln, both adult and medical use is legal. Illinois passed the plant bill in 2019. Interestingly, while Illinois residents can possess up to 30 grams of weed, 5 grams of concentrated substances, and products containing up to 500mg of THC, visitors of Illinois are only allowed half of their resident counterparts.

New Jersey (November 2020)

One of 4 states during the election season of 2020 to initially approve Marijuana legislation, 67% of New Jersey adults voted to approve the widespread legalization. When the bill was signed, it also changed the policies around for underage possession of both Marijuana and alcohol.

Arizona (November 2020)

Along with New Jersey and Montana, Arizona finally legalized recreational Marijuana in 2020 after failing to do so in 2016. The bill also allowed those with Marijuana offenses to have their record expunged.

Montana (November 2020)

Montana legalized weed in the 2020 election and set the adult-use age to 21. Recreational sales only recently began in early 2022.

South Dakota (November 2020, Overturned November 2021)

Originally 1 of the 4 states to pass the bill in the 2020 election, South Dakota’s legislature overturned the decision roughly a year later in November 2021. While highly regulated, the sale and possession of Marijuana for medical purposes is legal and state officials recently began card application approvals in March of 2022.

New York (March 2021)

Roughly a year ago, New York became the 15th US state to legalize the sale and distribution of recreational Marijuana. It is the first state to allow users to smoke anywhere cigarettes are allowed and aiming to repair the communities most affected by the war on drugs, the bill addresses changes in the legal system and treatment of those with Marijuana-related offenses.

Virginia (April 2021)

As of July 2021, residents of Virginia who are 21 and older are permitted the use of Marijuana for recreational purposes.

New Mexico (April 2021)

While the bill was approved in April 2021, New Mexico’s state-operated dispensaries only recently opened to the public to begin selling for recreational purposes in April 2022.

Connecticut (June 2021)

The sale and distribution of recreational Cannabis was approved in the state of Connecticut in June 2021. Low-level Marijuana offenses are also expunged under this new law and dispensaries are slated to open this summer of 2022.

Rhode Island (May 2022)

As of May 25, 2022, Rhode Island is the newest state to be added to the list of those who have legalized the use and sale of Marijuana. Unlike many of its predecessors (besides New York), Cannabis will be allowed everywhere tobacco cigarettes are. Retail sales are expected to begin before the end of the year in December.

Will The Marijuana Popularity Trend Continue?

The ever-growing popularity of Marijuana is helping change the United States’ perception of the plant and is set to continue. The growing acceptance is slowly decriminalizing Cannabis as the industry works to shift the view and stigma from “dangerous risk” to “natural remedy.” There is still much scientists do not know about the long-term effects of the drug and how it impacts certain demographics like underage users, but as laws continue to change, so too will overarching attitudes. Hopefully, as time goes on and Marijuana gains traction and information is more accessible and less taboo, researchers will be presented with more opportunities to study both the good and the bad of this highly contested plant.

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Suzette Gomez

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  • Suzette Gomez earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida. Her desire to help others led her to a Pre-medical track with a focus on psychological and social development. After graduation, she pursued her passion for writing and began working as a Digital Content Writer. With her background in medicine, Suzette uses both science and the arts to serve the public through her writing.

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