A Dozen Quick Facts About US Legal Marijuana States

Legalized America

With the news that Maine’s repugnant governor has signed off on their legalization initiative, we now know that the Pine Tree State will have legal possession starting on January 30, 2017, making it the ninth jurisdiction to legalize adult possession of marijuana.

But which state was the first? Which state got the most votes? Where is medical marijuana legal? What about cannabidiol extracts? Let’s dig into the data and discover some quick facts about the legalization of marijuana in the United States.

1) Washington Was The First Legal State

Just like George Washington was our first president, Washington was our first legal state. It’s true that Colorado, being in the Mountain Time Zone, passed its legalization before Washington. But the effective date – the day it became legal – happened in Washington first.

2) One Fifth of The Population Lives Under Legalization

With the passage of Prop 64 in America’s most populous state, California, we now have over 68 million Americans living where possession of marijuana by adults is legal. That’s well over one-out-of-five people!

3) California’s Legalization Was Most Popular

California also holds the distinction of getting the biggest win for a state legalization initiative at over 57 percent. Oregon’s over 56 percent win holds the record for best mid-term election win for legalization. Neither of them come close to Washington D.C.’s 70 percent, however.

4) Only Three States Legalized on Their First Attempt

There have been 21 attempts to legalize marijuana at the state level, dating back to California’s original Prop 19 back in 1972. Only eleven states have ever had marijuana legalization on their ballot. Only Washington, Maine, and Massachusetts have succeeded on their first legalization attempt.

5) Three-Fifths of the Population Lives Under Medical Marijuana

With the recent additions of populous states like Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, we now have almost 200 million Americans living where they may qualify to use cannabis as medicine. That’s well over 60 percent of the US population!

6) Medical Marijuana Has Only Lost Four Elections

There are fifteen states that have voted eighteen times on statewide medical marijuana laws. Fourteen times the states have passed those laws, with only Arkansas (2012), Florida (2014), and South Dakota (2006, 2010) rejecting them.

7) Fifteen State Legislatures Have Passed Medical Marijuana Laws

The people didn’t have to vote on medical marijuana laws in fifteen states, as their state legislatures passed laws for them. However, legislatures pass more restrictive medical marijuana laws, with only three of the fifteen that allow all patients to cultivate cannabis and another three of fifteen that do not allow the possession of marijuana, only non-smokable cannabinoid preparations.

8) Eight Medical Marijuana States Recognize Out-of-State Cards

Of the 28 states and D.C. that have legalized medical marijuana, only eight of them will respect a medical marijuana card from out of state. Five offer complete reciprocity, while two (Arizona and Maine) do not allow out-of-state patients to shop at their dispensaries and one (Rhode Island) only respects cards for conditions found in its law.

9) Fifteen States Have Legalized CBD Extract

Fifteen state legislatures have passed laws allowing the use of cannabidiol (CBD) extract, so long as it is low in THC, for the treatment of childhood epilepsy and a few other seizure disorders. (Florida also has a CBD extract law, but is now a medical marijuana state, making that redundant.) Idaho is the only state where the legislature passed a CBD extract law, but the governor vetoed it.

10) Over 1-in-4 Americans Live Where Possession Is Decriminalized

Twenty-one states have passed laws that treat personal marijuana possession as a civil infraction with a fine or a minor misdemeanor with no arrest. Eight of those states have since legalized marijuana, rendering their possession fines moot. Of the thirteen non-legal states with decrim, nine treat it as a civil infraction and four treat it as a minor misdemeanor.

11) Two-Thirds of Americans Live Where Industrial Hemp is Legal

No state has ever voted on industrial hemp as a stand-alone ballot initiative. But 32 state legislatures have passed laws allowing for research on industrial hemp. Emboldened by the Farm Bill, which gave the federal go-ahead to states with hemp laws, five states have licensed hemp farmers and another four have embarked on research crops.

12) Only 4 States Have No Marijuana Law Reforms At All

Forty-six states and D.C. have some form of legalized cannabis for some people.

  • 8 states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for all adults;
  • 13 states that aren’t legalized have decriminalized marijuana for all adults;
  • 28 states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana for some conditions;
  • 15 states that aren’t medical have legalized CBD extracts for some conditions;
  • 32 states have some form of industrial hemp legalization.

That leaves just four states – Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, and South Dakota – where just over 10 million Americans are always facing threat of arrest for possession of any type of cannabis for any reason whatsoever.

Russ Belville
About Russ Belville 199 Articles

Russ Belville – or “Radical” Russ, as he is known on-air – hosts The Marijuana Agenda, a live news and talk radio program for the cannabis community, weekdays at 3pm Pacific on MJAgenda.com.  The show is based in Portland, Oregon, but “Radical” Russ has traveled over 300,000 air miles in the past five years, bringing his show to report live from hundreds of cannabis conferences, marijuana expos, hemp festivals, and legalization events in over 70 North American cities.