Cannabis Legalization: What States Have Legal Recreational Marijuana?

With the Minnesota legislature approving legal cannabis in the summer of 2023, a total of 23 states have approved cannabis legalization. Once sales start in Minnesota, likely in 2025, more than 186 million Americans will live where adult-use cannabis is legal.

Legal recreational marijuana in the United States started in January 2014, when Colorado began allowing sales of cannabis to those 21 and older. Washington joined later that same year, followed by other states in the west over the next few years.

The pace of cannabis legalization picked up considerably in recent years. With almost half of the states in the country making cannabis legal for adult use, the issue of federal legalization is becoming a bigger issue. While that effort seems stalled at the moment, advocates continue to push for decriminalization and legalization at the national level.

Which U.S. States Have Legalized Cannabis?

The following is a list of all the U.S. states that have adopted cannabis legalization, setting up a government-regulated and managed system that allows selling marijuana to those 21 and older. In addition to these states, recreational cannabis is also legal in the District of Columbia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

After Colorado and Washington took the initial step to making cannabis sales legal, only five other states followed in the next five years. However, the pace of cannabis legalization has accelerated in recent years. In 2022 and 2023 alone, sales have started in 10 states.

The month and year listed with each state marks the time when legal sales began in the state.

  • Colorado (January 2014)
  • Washington (July 2014)
  • Oregon (October 2015)
  • Alaska (October 2016)
  • Nevada (July 2017)
  • California (January 2018)
  • Massachusetts (July 2018)
  • Michigan (December 2019)
  • Illinois (January 2020)
  • Maine (October 2020)
  • Arizona (January 2021)
  • Montana (January (2022)
  • New Mexico (April 2022)
  • New Jersey (April 2022)
  • Vermont (October 2022)
  • Rhode Island (December 2022)
  • New York (December 2022)
  • Connecticut (January 2023)
  • Missouri (February 2023)
  • Delaware (April 2023)
  • Maryland (July 2023)
  • Virginia (plans call for sales to begin in 2024)
  • Minnesota (plans call for sales to begin in 2025)

Who Will Legalize Cannabis Next?

Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania are all seen as likely candidates for legalization in the next couple of years. Even without those states, sales in the  21 states (and District of Columbia) that currently have a legal adult-use system in place are expected to reach $33.6 billion by the end of 2023, according to CNBC.

The second largest state in the country, Texas, is not expected to approve adult-use sales in the near future because current leadership in both the governor’s mansion and the state legislature is Republican. Over the past several years, Republicans have come out opposed to legalized marijuana in larger numbers, which is why cannabis legalization is also not expected anytime soon across many states in the South.

As Politico wrote, “Weed legalization advocates are running out of friendly territory.” How well they do as they push for legalization across the South, the most populous region of the country, will be something cannabis advocates watch closely in the coming years.

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