How Many States is Recreational Marijuana Legal in?

As of early 2020, 33 states plus D.C have legalized medicinal marijuana. Meanwhile, there are now 11 states (plus D.C.) where recreational weed is legal. In this article, we look at all 11 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have legalized recreational marijuana, and analyze the most likely states to follow suit in 2020 and beyond.


Marijuana was decriminalized in Alaska in 1975 but re-criminalized in 1990. After veering between criminalization and decriminalization in the early 2000s, Measure 2, a ballot initiative to make marijuana legal for recreational use, was successful in 2014. It came into effect on February 24, 2015.

It was the third state to allow recreational cannabis, and adults aged 21+ are allowed to possess up to one ounce. Alaskans are also permitted to grow six marijuana plants,but only three can be mature and flowering at one time. Possession of marijuana accessories is also legal.


In 1975, possession of an ounce or less was downgraded to a misdemeanor. The Golden State had the country’s first ballot initiative to legalize pot through Proposition 19 in 1972. Although it was unsuccessful, it paved the way for California to become the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 via Proposition 215.

It took a surprisingly long time for California to legalize recreational weed, but it finally did so through Proposition 64 in November 2016. However, recreational sales didn’t begin until January 2018. Today, adults aged 21+ can purchase, consume, and possess up to an ounce of weed either at home or in a specific establishment licensed for weed consumption. You are also allowed to possess up to eight grams of concentrate and cultivate a maximum of six plants in your home.


Medical marijuana became legal thanks to Amendment 20 in 2000, but residents of Colorado had to wait until the enactment of Amendment 64, in November 2012, before the herb became legal recreationally. As is the case with Alaska and California, you must be aged 21+ and can carry a maximum of one ounce of weed.

You are also only allowed to purchase a maximum of one ounce per transaction. Most stores play it safe and won’t sell to you again that day, even if you come back later. Recreational marijuana laws changed in October 2016 so that you could possess a maximum of eight grams of concentrate or 800 mg of edibles. Finally, you can grow up to six marijuana plants, but only three can be mature.


Illinois is the latest state to legalize recreational cannabis. Its governor is a Democrat, J. B. Pritzker, who is pro-marijuana and outlined his intention to make the herb legal in the state last year. The new bill was passed in June 2019, and from January 2020, residents aged over 21 can legally buy cannabis for recreational use.

Recent polls show that around two-thirds of Illinois residents want legal weed, so there is unlikely to be mass protest against the new cannabis laws in the Prairie State.


Weed was decriminalized in 1976 and became legal for medicinal use in 1999. In 2016, the state of Maine voted ‘Yes’ to Question 1, which resulted in statewide legalization of recreational marijuana. It was a close-run thing as the measure passed by less than one percentage point!

Residents of Maine had to wait to celebrate, however, as the state’s governor vetoed a bill to tax and regulate recreational marijuana sales in November 2017. His veto was finally overturned in May 2018, and the bill became law. The new law allows Maine residents aged 21+ to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana, and grow up to six flowering plants and 12 immature plants. Also, Maine employers are no longer permitted to test job applicants for cannabis.


After marijuana was decriminalized in 2008, the state of Massachusetts swiftly moved to have medical cannabis made available. This was made possible in 2012 when Question 3 passed with 60% of the vote.

Fast forward to 2016, and the state legalized recreational weed after Question 4 passed with 54% of the vote. Provisions for home cultivation were made in December 2016; Massachusetts adult residents are now allowed to possess one ounce and can grow up to six plants. If the residence has more than one adult, it is possible to grow 12 plants as long as they remain obscured from public view. Sale of recreational weed began in July 2018.


Medical marijuana was legalized in 2008 after 63% of voters said ‘Yes’ to Prop 1. Recreational use was not decriminalized until 2018, which made it mildly surprising that in November 2018, almost 56% of voters voted to legalize weed for recreational use via Proposal 1.

Michigan became the tenth, and most recent, state to allow recreational cannabis, and the first in the Midwest. According to the new law, residents of the state can grow up to 12 plants in their residences. A maximum of 10 ounces can be kept in residences, and amounts of more than 2.5 ounces must be kept in locked containers.


Nevada was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 2000, so it was no surprise when Question 2, an initiative to legalize recreational cannabis, passed with 54% of the vote in November 2016. The initiative became law in January 2017.

Residents and tourists can purchase up to an ounce of weed as long as they are aged 21+. You are also allowed to possess one-eighth of an ounce of concentrates, and ‘gift’ up to an ounce of flower or an eighth of concentrates to an adult friend. You can grow up to six plants per household; 12 plants if there is more than one adult, but you must either own the property or have received permission from the landlord to grow. Finally, you must live at least 25 miles from the nearest dispensary.


In 2014, Measure 91, which legalized recreational cultivation and use of marijuana, was approved. In 2015, Governor Kate Brown signed an emergency bill declaring that sale of recreational weed from dispensaries was legal from October 2015. By January 2017, dispensaries were only allowed to sell recreational marijuana if they had an Oregon Liquor Control Commission license.

In Oregon, you are allowed to possess a maximum of one ounce of marijuana. If you are a resident of the state, you can possess up to eight ounces in your home, and grow up to four plants. However, even residents are not allowed to possess more than an ounce in public.


In May 2004, Senate Bill 76 passed and legalized medical marijuana. In January 2018, HB 511 passed, which made recreational marijuana legal. It was a landmark moment because Vermont became the first state legislature to legalize recreational cannabis.

Overall, adult residents of Vermont are now allowed possession of an ounce of cannabis, but they can only cultivate two plants. At present, there are no sales or revenue provisions, although the state hopes to create a plan soon.


Washington was already one of the first states to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1998. Therefore, it wasn’t a shock when it was the first to legalize recreational cannabis on December 6, 2012, beating Colorado to the punch by four days!

According to Initiative 502, adults in Washington state are allowed to possess up to an ounce of usable marijuana, seven grams of concentrate, 72 ounces of liquid marijuana-infused product, and 16 ounces of solid marijuana-infused product.

Washington D.C.

In the District of Columbia, weed lovers have been forced to fight a major battle. For example, medical marijuana was approved through Initiative 59 in 1998 but was not brought into law until 2009 due to various Congressional blockages.

In 2014, D.C. voted to legalize recreational marijuana through Initiative 71. On this occasion, there were only 30 days of Congressional review before the law came into effect in February 2015.

Adults aged 21+ can possess up to two ounces of weed, but the law isn’t as simple as it is in other states. For example, possession is illegal on federal land which comprises almost 30% of D.C.’s area. Also, you don’t buy weed in the ‘traditional’ manner. Instead, you must purchase something else and then receive a ‘free’ marijuana product that is ‘donated’ or ‘gifted’ by the seller.

Which States Will Be Next to Legalize Recreational Marijuana?

recreational cannabis states

It is unlikely that marijuana will become federally legal any time soon. As a result, it is necessary to chip away at the ludicrous laws, state by state. The next election is in 2020, but there is an excellent chance that a handful of states won’t wait until then.

New Jersey is the most likely state to legalize cannabis because it also elected a pro-marijuana Democrat governor, Phil Murphy. Like Pritzker of Illinois, he has been vocal about his intentions, and it seems as if high ranking party members agree with him. There is every chance recreational cannabis happens for New Jersey in 2020.