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Cannabis Laws in the USA: Which State Is the Most Progressive?

USA
Written by Joseph Mcqueen
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The USA is a complex place when it comes to cannabis legalization. It is both the most accepting and the least accepting, the most liberal and the least liberal, the most green and the least green. Due to the fact that each individual state in America has its own laws, cannabis legalization and prosecution are just miles apart from being radically different. And, to make it more confusing, there are 50 states. So that’s essentially 50 different laws on cannabis in one single country. However, some states in the US have shown themselves to be far more progressive than others. But, the question is, which state in America is the most progressive?

Cannabis laws in the USA can certainly be complicated, but we hope this article can help clear things up for you! For more stories like this one, and for exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other products, remember to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter. Also save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!


United States of America

The USA is made up of 50 states, and within 13 of them cannabis is completely illegal, 37 of them only medicinal cannabis is legal, and in 18 of them cannabis is fully legal (including for recreational use). Medical cannabis legalization always comes before recreational legalization as it is evident that cannabis has medical benefits for many people with mental and physical problems. However, recreational cannabis is harder to legalize due to the fact that it revolves around using a drug for fun. Using cannabis for fun is a hard reason to legalize a substance, especially when research into cannabis is limited. However, the fact that 18 states in America have legalized recreational cannabis proves that the tides are shifting. When searching for the most progressive state in America for cannabis laws, it undoubtedly will come from one of the 18. 

Where Cannabis is Illegal in the USA

Here is a list of all of the states in America where both medical and recreational cannabis is yet to be legalized. They, obviously, do not win the award for most progressive. But they still need to be mentioned. 

  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana 
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin 
  • Wyoming
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Where is Only Medical Cannabis Legal in the USA?

These are the states that have taken a step closer to cannabis legalization by allowing medical cannabis to be lawful. Whilst they aren’t the most progressive, they’ve shown an intent to be seen as cannabis-accepting states. This deserves recognition. 

  • Alabama 
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana 
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

The States in America Where Recreational Cannabis is Legal

These states are the ones who have decided to go against the grain and legalize recreational cannabis, as well as, of course, medical too. These states are, by far, the most progressive in the USA. But which is the most progressive? Let’s find out. 

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Alaska

Alaska legalized cannabis in 2014. It was the third state to fully legalize cannabis. Anyone over the age of 21 can possess cannabis and grow up to 6 plans. However, it is still illegal to consume the drug in public. 

Arizona

In 2020, Arizona passed a bill that legalized recreational cannabis for those over the age of 21, decriminalized it and banned it in public. It has a similar system to Arizona, but it took 6 extra years for it to do the same. There are currently 123 active weed dispensaries in the state of Arizona. 

California

California legalized medical cannabis in 1996 and recreational cannabis in 2016. This state is probably the most popular cannabis-accepting state in America due to its beach lifestyle and chilled out attitude. Plus, there are around 4000 cannabis dispensaries in California, which leads to a big tourist culture. However, public cannabis consumption is still illegal. 

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Colorado

Recreational cannabis was legalized in Colorado in 2012. The usual rules apply as with other states, and you cannot smoke cannabis in the streets. There are about 446 weed dispensaries in this state.

Connecticut

Connecticut legalized recreational cannabis in 2021. Now people are able to possess up to 1.5 grams of cannabis and 5 grams at home. Weed dispensaries are not yet open or flourishing, but they are expected to start in 2022. 

Illinois

In 2019, Illinois legalized recreational cannabis. Anyone over 21 can possess 30 grams of cannabis. Due to the fact that marijuana for personal use was only recently made legal, there are currently only 110 dispensaries in Illinois. 

Maine

Maine legalized recreational cannabis in 2016. You can possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis, and grow 6 plants at a time. Despite becoming legalized in 2016, there are limited amounts of dispensaries in Maine. 

Massachusetts

Massachusetts legalized recreational cannabis in 2016. They allow for one ounce of bud in total (including at home and on you). There are around 689 weed dispensaries in this state. 

Michigan

Michigian legalized recreational cannabis in 2018. This state allows for 12 plants and up to 2.5 ounces in possession. Michigan has around 260 recreational weed dispensaries. 

Montana

Montanga legalized recreational cannabis in 2021, and all effects will come into fruition in 2022. We won’t know how legalizing cannabis will affect that state until next year. 

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Nevada

Nevada legalized recreational cannabis in 2016. It is illegal to consume it in a car or in public. However, you can grow up to 6 plants, or even 12 plants per household. It is legal to have up to 1 ounce of cannabis for yourself. There are currently only 65 weed dispensaries in the state. 

New Jersey

New Jersey legalized recreational cannabis in 2020. Again, the amount of dispensaries are limited as cannabis legalization is still new in this state. The specific amounts and laws are unknown until we see how they work in practice in 2022.

New Mexico

New Mexico legalized cannabis in 2021. Another case of a US state with recent progressive laws towards cannabis acceptance. Bring on 2022! 

New York

New York legalized recreational cannabis in 2021. It is now legal to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis. Some say you can smoke cannabis outside in public easier in New York than any other state. Or, at least, almost as easy as a Californian beach. The amount of weed dispensaries in New York will become clearer in 2022. 

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Oregon

Oregon legalized recreational cannabis in 2015. You are allowed up to 1 ounce in public and 8 ounces at home. You can also grow up to 4 cannabis plants. There are more than 660 weed dispensaries in the state of Oregon. Oregon technically has the most weed dispensaries per 100,000 people in America.

Vermont

Vermont legalized recreational cannabis in 2018. Whilst it is legal to possess up to 1 ounce and grow up to 6 plants of cannabis, it is still illegal to sell or buy it. This is going to change in 2022 when weed dispensaries open. 

Virginia

Virginia legalized recreational cannabis in 2021. This new law will allow for anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis and grow 4 plants. The introduction of weed dispensaries will follow in 2022. 

Washington

Last but by no means least, we have Washington. Washing legalized recreational cannabis in 2012; a long time ago in the grand scheme of things. Users can possess 1 ounce of cannabis, but are not allowed to grow recreational plants at home. There are only 103 cannabis stores in this state. 

Which Is The Most Progressive?

Out of 50 states in America only 18 have taken the bold step to legalize both recreational and medical cannabis. Because of this, they should all be championed for their open cannabis policies. Because of them, hopefully, the rest of the states should follow suit in due course. However, there should also be acknowledgement of those states that legalized recreational cannabis earlier and took the first steps. These states created a watershed moment for the future of cannabis legalization. California has acted as a national, as well as international, advertisement for how cannabis legalization can be positive. In addition, Oregon, since 2015, has run with its new found cannabis-acceptance and opened up the most weed dispensaries (per capita) in the US. Both states deserve recognition as the most progressive states in America,

But what do you think? Which state do you believe to be the most progressive, in regards to cannabis legalization, in the USA?

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.

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