Marijuana was illegal in all 50 states in the US as recently as eight years ago, but in 2012, Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize the substance.
At the federal level, marijuana use is considered illegal still. However, an overwhelming majority of American adults (65 percent) support full legalization of marijuana.
Which states are likely to follow the shifting public opinion and legalize?
Recreational marijuana use is legal in eleven of the fifty states in the US. The states where you can smoke legally are Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Illinois is the newest addition; it’s legal to use weed there as of January 1, 2020. Also, weed is legal in the District of Columbia.
Notably, Illinois governor JB Pritzker has issued over 11,000 pardons for minor marijuana convictions, addressing a common complaint that people have about legalization efforts. While marijuana is legal in many states, people with priors for possession without intent to sell are still behind bars. This is baffling when the crime they went to prison for is no longer illegal.
A number of states are expected to vote on legalization bills in 2020. Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring expressed a desire to see full decriminalization in the state, arguing that the current system is fundamentally broken.
As Virginia is in the hands of a Democratic House and Senate, decriminalization is likely to happen swiftly. New Jersey will vote on a legalization bill in November, 2020, which is expected to pass.
Florida, Minnesota and New York are all working towards legalization, but their efforts appear to have all hit significant snags in the process. Largely, Republican state officials tend to oppose legalization, often on grounds that marijuana isn’t understood well enough for it to be made legal in their states.
Similarly, it seems unlikely that weed will be made legal at the federal level any time soon. Since the US Government considers weed illegal still, banks can’t do business with legal dispensaries.
A Republican-controlled Senate and Presidency make the likelihood of federal decriminalization small as of early 2020. Perhaps the election in November will shift the balance of power.