Marijuana Resource Center: State Laws Related to Marijuana

Since 1996, 20 states and Washington, DC have passed laws allowing smoked marijuana to be used for a variety of medical conditions. It is important to recognize that these state marijuana laws do not change the fact that using marijuana continues to be an offense under Federal law.  Nor do these state laws change the criteria or process for FDA approval of safe and effective medications.

Many of these state medical marijuana laws originated in order to create a legal defense to state criminal possession laws or to remove state criminal penalties for purported medical use of marijuana. Since then, many have evolved into state authorization for state-based production and distribution of marijuana for purported medical purposes. These state laws vary greatly in their criteria and implementation, and many states are experiencing vigorous internal debates about the safety, efficacy, and legality of their marijuana laws. Many local governments are even creating zoning and enforcement ordinances that prevent marijuana dispensaries from operating in their communities.

States with medical marijuana laws often have some form of patient registry, which may provide some protection against state arrest for possession up to a certain amount of marijuana for personal medical use. Medical marijuana growers or dispensaries are authorized in some of these states and may be limited to a certain number of plants or products per medical user. Regulation of marijuana for purported medical use may also exist at the county and city level, in addition to state laws.  

There are critical differences in marijuana laws from one state, county, or city to another. For more information, see the chart below, excerpted from information from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)

 

State Medical Marijuana Laws

State/Territory

Year Passed

Relevant Statutes/Initiatives

Alaska

1998

·   Measure 8 (1998)

·   SB 94 (1999)

·   Statute Title 17, Chapter 37

Arizona

2010

·   Proposition 203 (2010)

California

1996

·   Proposition 215 (1996)

·   SB 420 (2003)

Colorado

2000

·   Amendment 20 (2000)

Connecticut

2012

·   HB 5389

Delaware

2011

·   SB 17 (2011)

Hawaii

2000

·   SB 862 (2000)

Illinois

2013

·   HB 1 (2013, effective January 1, 2014)

Maine

1999

·   Question 2 (1999)

·   LD 611 (2002)

·   Question 5 (2009)

·   LD 1811 (2010)

·   LD 1296 (2011)

Maryland*

2003

·   HB 702 (2003)

·   SB 308 (2011)

·   HB 180/SB 580 (2013)

·   HB 1101Chapter 403 (2013)

Massachusetts

2012

·   Question 3 (2012)

·   Regulations (2013)

Michigan

2008

·   Proposal 1 (2008)

Montana

2004

·   Initiative 148 (2004)

·   SB 423 (2011)

·   IR-124 (2012)

Nevada

2000

·   Question 9 (2000)

·   NRS 453A

·   NAC 453A

New Hampshire

2013

·   HB 573 (2013)

New Jersey

2010

·   SB 119 (2009)

New Mexico

2007

·   SB 523 (2007) 

Oregon

1998

·   Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (1998)

·   SB 161 (2007) 

Rhode Island

2007

·   SB 791 (2007)

·   SB 185 (2009)

Vermont

2004

·   SB 76 (2004)

·   SB 7 (2007)

·   SB 17 (2011)

Washington

1998

·   Initiative 692 (1998)

·   SB 5798 (2010)

·   SB 5073 (2011)

Washington, DC

2010

·   Initiative 59 (1998)

·   LR 720 (2010)

 

* Maryland's law allows for medical marijuana use as a legal defense in court. Possession of more than one ounce of marijuana and public consumption for medical reasons is still illegal. 

In 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington state also passed initiatives legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older under state law. It is important to note that Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) is committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) consistent with these determinations. On August 29, 2013, DOJ issued guidance to Federal prosecutors concerning marijuana enforcement under the CSA.  The Department’s guidance is available on the DOJ Web site, and provides further detail.  

State Marijuana Legalization Laws

State/Territory

Year Passed

Relevant Initiatives

Colorado

2012

Washington

2012