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Bluebird’s Conversations About Cannabis: Progress to Legality in All 50 States

Cannabis Legality in U.S.

Throughout Hemp History Week this week, we’ve shared information about the long global history of hemp, why cannabis was made illegal, and how hemp compares to commonly used goods today like tree paper and cotton. Now, we’re going to take a deep dive into the current legal status of cannabis throughout all 50 states.

Back in the 1700s in America, cannabis was the hottest crop around. It had played a crucial role in the discovery and colonization of the New World, and early American settlers depended on it for nearly everything. It was so essential, in fact, that settlers in many of the first colonies were mandated to sow hemp as a crop. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper, Betsy Ross’s first American flag was made of hemp canvas…it was quite literally everywhere.

Then came the 1900s and cannabis prohibition. The U.S. government, influenced by lobbyists from the synthetic textiles industry and threatened by the influx of Mexican immigrants, slowly began restricting access to cannabis by imposing harsh taxes through the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

These restrictions culminated with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, which classified all forms of cannabis (even industrial hemp) as a Schedule 1 substance alongside cocaine, heroine, LSD, and others.

Since then, cannabis has faced an interesting and wild legal battle. The fight for legalization of hemp has been one thing. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp and its derivatives from the Controlled Substances Act, making it legal for the first time in over 40 years.

At the federal level, though, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the Controlled Substances Act. However, many states have fought to legalize different types of cannabis use. Currently, 11 states have fully legalized cannabis, 34 have implemented medical cannabis programs, and 15 states have decriminalized it.

In terms of CBD products, federal law trumps state law which means that CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC are federally legal. However, with the growing popularity of CBD and lack of comprehensive regulation, many states have implemented their own regulations concerning hemp and CBD.

Here’s a breakdown of the current legal state of cannabis in each of the 50 states as of June 7, 2019 (this list does not include U.S. territories).

States with Legal Recreational & Medical Cannabis

The following states have fully legalized both medical and recreational cannabis:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois – Recreational cannabis is expected to be fully legalized on January 1, 2020.
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • District of Columbia

States with Decriminalized Cannabis

Decriminalized generally means that possession of cannabis is not considered a criminal offense. Depending on the state, users in possession of cannabis may have to pay some sort of fine if caught, but typically it does not result in any jail time or criminal record. The following states have decriminalized cannabis:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island

States with Legal Medical Cannabis Only

Medical cannabis programs are built to allow consumption of high-THC cannabis for approved patients as treatment of a specific medical condition. Comprehensive medical programs typically include protection from criminal penalties for using cannabis for a medical purpose, access to marijuana through home cultivation or dispensaries, and access to a variety of strains and products that can either be smoked or vaporized. The following states have legalized and implemented comprehensive medical cannabis programs:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

Cannabis Laws State-by-State

Alabama – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. Cultivation of cannabis is also illegal. A first-time offense of possession of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $6,000.

Alaska – Recreational and medical cannabis are fully legal. Adults over the age of 21 can possess up to one ounce of recreational cannabis and may cultivate up to six plants. Households with two or more adults can grow up to 12 plants.

Arizona – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is illegal. Possession of any amount of recreational cannabis is considered a felony and may result in a fine of up to $750; however, it is prohibited in the state to incarcerate nonviolent offenders on a first and second offense.

Arkansas – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is  illegal. Possession of up to four ounces of recreational cannabis is considered a misdemeanor and may result in a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year in prison.

California – Recreational and medical cannabis are fully legal. Adults over the age of 21 may possess up to one ounce of recreational cannabis and cultivate up to six plants.

Colorado – Recreational and medical cannabis are fully legal. Adults over the age of 21 may possess up to one ounce of recreational cannabis and cultivate up to six plants.

Connecticut – Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational cannabis is decriminalized. Cultivation and transportation of both medical and recreational cannabis are considered felonies.

Delaware – Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational cannabis is decriminalized. Cultivation and transportation are permitted for medical use only.

Florida – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is  illegal. Cultivation and transportation are permitted for medical use only. Possession of 20 grams or less of recreational marijuana is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Georgia – Recreational cannabis is illegal at the state level but has been decriminalized in the cities of Atlanta, Clarkston, Forest Park, Savannah, South Fulton, Statesboro, and Fulton County. Medical cannabis is also illegal; the only legal cannabis products are CBD oil with less than 5% of THC. Possession of up to one ounce of cannabis outside of the specified cities is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Hawaii – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is  illegal. Possession of less than one ounce of recreational cannabis is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. Cultivation is permitted for medical use only, and transportation of both medical and recreational cannabis is illegal.

Idaho – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. Possession of up to three ounces of recreational cannabis is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Cultivation and transportation of medical and recreational marijuana are illegal and classified as felonies.

Illinois – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis has been decriminalized and is expected to become fully legal on January 1, 2020.

Indiana – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. Possession of any amount of recreational cannabis is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Iowa – Medical and recreational cannabis are illegal. Possession of any amount of recreational cannabis is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. CBD oil with up to 3% THC is permitted.

Kansas – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. Possession of any amount of recreational cannabis is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Kentucky – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. Possession of up to eight ounces of recreational cannabis is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to 45 days in prison and a fine of up to $250.

Louisiana – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is illegal. Cultivation of both medical and recreational cannabis is illegal. Possession of up to 14 grams of recreational cannabis may result in up to 15 days in prison and a fine of up to $300.

Maine – Recreational and medical cannabis are fully legal. Adults over the age of 21 may possess up to 2.5 ounces.

Maryland – Medical cannabis is legal, and possession of 10 grams or less of recreational cannabis has been decriminalized. Cultivation of both recreational and medical cannabis is illegal.

Massachusetts – Recreational and medical cannabis are fully legal. Adults over the age of 21 may possess up to one ounce of cannabis outside of the home and 10 ounces inside the home. Adults may also cultivate up to six plants per household.

Michigan – Recreational and medical cannabis are fully legal. Adults over the age of 21 may possess up 2.5 ounces outside of the home and 10 ounces inside the home. Adults can also cultivate up to 12 plants per household.

Minnesota – Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational cannabis has been decriminalized.

Mississippi – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. However, possession of 30 grams or less of cannabis has been decriminalized for first-time offenders.

Missouri – Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational cannabis has been decriminalized.

Montana – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is  illegal, and possession of 60 grams or less may result in up to 6 months in prison and a fine of up to $500.

Nebraska – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. However, possession of recreational cannabis has been decriminalized for first offense only. After the first offense, possession of up to one ounce may result in a fine of up to $300 and mandatory drug education.

Nevada – Recreational and medical cannabis are legal. Adults over the age of 21 may possess up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to six plants.

New Hampshire – Medical cannabis is legal, and possession of up to 0.75 of an ounce of recreational cannabis has been decriminalized. Possession of more than 0.75 of an ounce is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $350.

New Jersey – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is illegal, and possession of up to 50 grams may result in up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

New Mexico – Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational cannabis has been decriminalized.

New York – Medical cannabis is legal, and recreational cannabis has been decriminalized unless used in public.

North Carolina – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. However, possession of up to half an ounce of cannabis has been decriminalized. Possession of more than half an ounce is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to 45 days in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Cultivation of both recreational and medical cannabis is  illegal.

North Dakota – Medical cannabis is legal, and possession of up to half an ounce of recreational cannabis has been decriminalized. Possession of more than half an ounce of recreational cannabis is considered a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in prison and a fine of up to $1,500.

Ohio – Medical cannabis is legal, and possession of recreational cannabis has been decriminalized and reclassified as a civil infraction. Cultivation is legal for medical use only.

Oklahoma – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is  illegal, and possession of any amount is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Oregon – Both medical and recreational cannabis are legal. Adults over the age of 21 may possess up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants.

Pennsylvania – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is  illegal. Possession of 30 grams or less of recreational cannabis may result in up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Rhode Island – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis has been decriminalized and reclassified as a civil violation. Possession of up to one ounce may result in up to a $150 fine.

South Carolina – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. Possession of up to one ounce of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in prison and a fine of $200 on the first offense. CBD oil with up to 0.9% THC is legal for qualified patients with a physician’s recommendation.

South Dakota – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. Possession of up to two ounces of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor and may result in up to one year in prison and a $2,000 fine.

Tennessee – Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal. Possession of less than half an ounce of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor for first or second offense only. First-time possession may result in one year of supervised probation as opposed to the standard one year in prison.

Texas – Medical and recreational cannabis are illegal. Possession of up to two ounces of marijuana may result in up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

Utah – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is illegal. Possession of up to an ounce of recreational cannabis may result in up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Vermont – Recreational and medical cannabis are legal. Adults over the age of 21 may possess up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to two mature plants or four immature plants.

Virginia – Recreational and medical cannabis are  illegal. Possession of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor and may result in up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine on the first offense.

Washington – Recreational and medical cannabis are legal. Adults over the age of 21 may possess up to one ounce of cannabis; however, personal cultivation is only permitted for registered medical patients.

West Virginia – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is  illegal. Possession of recreational cannabis is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of $1,000.

Wisconsin – Medical cannabis is legal. Recreational cannabis is  illegal. Possession of recreational marijuana is considered a misdemeanor on the first offense, and is considered a felony on subsequent offenses.

Wyoming – Recreational and medical cannabis are  illegal. Possession of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor and may result in up to 90 days in prison and a fine of up to $100.

Additional Resources

Cannabis Industry Resources

State and federal legislation around cannabis will undoubtedly continue to shift. It’s important to stay up to date with the different cannabis laws in each state. Here are some excellent resources to stay current with cannabis laws and regulations:

  • NORML is an organization dedicated to promoting the legalization of cannabis and advocating for responsible use among adults. They have a variety of helpful tools including an interactive map of cannabis laws state-by-state.
  • Policy Surveillance – Program Recreational Marijuana Laws is another great online interactive map detailing marijuana laws state-by-state with additional information regarding governing bodies in each state and details about specific regulations.
  • Marijuana Policy Project is another lobbying organization dedicated to legalizing cannabis at the federal level. Their website is full of resources about issues surrounding cannabis including decriminalization, economics, medical marijuana, and more.
  • Hoban Law Group is one of the nation’s premier cannabis business law firms. They frequently share news updates, statements, and articles about legal issues surrounding recreational cannabis and hemp in the U.S.
  • U.S. Hemp Roundtable is our go-to for updates about hemp legislation. They’ve got everything related to hemp news – history, state-by-state hemp laws, legislative updates, an interactive portal to contact your state representative… you name it!

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