While there remain many states where weed is not legal to use or sell for recreational use, U.S. is one of many countries where marijuana is partially legal. Even though marijuana is illegal under U.S. federal law, of the 50 states, marijuana is legal in some form in 46 of them. (Only Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas are the current holdouts).
As of January 1, 2020, Illinois will become the latest state to legally possess and sell marijuana. That makes the total number of states that have legal weed to 11, plus Washington, D.C. While 33 states have legalized medical marijuana. Additional states have decriminalized, or reduced penalties, of non-medical marijuana.
Beginning in 2012, Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize marijuana for adults and regulate it like alcohol. Since then, other states have followed, including Oregon and Alaska (2014); California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts (2016); Vermont and Michigan (2018); and Illinois (2019).
|Legal for Recreational Use ||Legal for Medicinal Use Only |
Contributing to the recent rush of marijuana legalization is the switch in attitudes toward weed itself. In 1990, only 16% of Americans supported legalization of marijuana. By 2018, that number had increased to 62%, nearly doubling in less than a decade. In younger demographics, that number is even higher. Around 74% of Millennials say weed should be legal, versus 54% of Baby Boomers, for example.
Studies have shown that the change in public opinion has likely been heavily influenced by a change in how the news media covers marijuana. Over the last 15 years, a shift to mentioning marijuana's medical uses -- instead of framing it as drug or crime topic -- has helped remove the stigma from its use.
The U.S. is not the only country where marijuana legalization is gaining traction. Upon passing its historic Cannabis Act in 2018, Canada became the largest country in the world where consumption and sales of marijuana fully legal. Across the globe, however, laws are far from consistent or clear.