States With Legal Recreational Marijuana Home to 155 Million People

As of November 2022, there are now 21 states with legal adult use marijuana, as well as Washington D.C. and Guam. That doesn’t mean states with legal recreational marijuana have markets that are open and running, as it typically takes months or even years before states can get the framework into place and grant licenses to cannabis businesses.

However, about 155 million Americans, just under half of the U.S. population, now life in states where marijuana is legal and available for purchase (or will be in the near future). Approval has come through either voter referendums (that’s the case in most states) or action taken by state lawmakers.

Remarking on the situation after the November 2022 election, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said that the votes mirror the many polls and surveys that have found a majority of the American people support legalization.

“This support is a testament to the fact that most Americans are now well aware of the failures of marijuana prohibition and the damages it continues to cause, and that the growing number of states which have enacted legalization are doing so in a safe and effective manner that is in accordance with voters’ wishes and expectations,” he said.

What Are the States With Legal Recreational Marijuana?

Recreational marijuana, as opposed to medical marijuana, allows adults over the age of 21 to purchase an amount of weed set by the state for their personal use, rather than just for medical reasons. Recreational marijuana is sometimes called adult-use marijuana.

Voters initially drove the movement, approving all the legalized markets through ballot referendums in their states. Starting with Vermont in 2018, an increasing number of states have legalized cannabis through state lawmakers passing a bill. They include Illinois, New York, Virginia, New Mexico, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The following are the states where recreational marijuana is legal, as well as the year it became legal (in some cases, this is not the same year voters or lawmakers approved recreational marijuana).

  • Colorado (2012)
  • Washington (2012)
  • Alaska (2015)
  • Oregon (2015)
  • California (2016)
  • Massachusetts (2016)
  • Maine (2017)
  • Nevada (2017)
  • Michigan (2018)
  • Vermont (2018)
  • Illinois (2020)
  • Arizona (2020)
  • Montana (2021)
  • New Jersey (2021)
  • New York (2021)
  • Virginia (2021)
  • New Mexico (2021)
  • Connecticut (2021)
  • Rhode Island (2022)
  • Maryland (2022)
  • Missouri (2023)

Which States May Legalize Cannabis Next?

In addition to the legalization successes on the November 2022 ballots in Missouri and Maryland, marijuana legalization advocates also suffered setbacks in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota where voters rejected legalization proposals.

The next vote on legalization will happen in Oklahoma, where Gov. Kevin Stitt called for a March 2023 election on the issue. A delay in counting the ballot signatures kept the proposal off the November 2022 ballot. Cannabis has proven popular in Oklahoma, with almost 10 percent of the state’s residents – about 380,000 people – enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program.

Ohio could come next. Supporters there hope to have a special ballot referendum on the issue in 2023, according to ABC News. Lawmakers in Minnesota and Hawaii are also considering moving forward on legalization through the state legislature rather than voters. Citizen-led initiatives are also ongoing in Florida, Wyoming, Nebraska and Idaho.

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