An increasing number of states are legalizing cannabis, and voters are shifting to more positive attitudes towards the benefits of legalizing the third most commonly used drug in America, behind alcohol and tobacco. You may wonder how cannabis-friendly your state is, or maybe you’re considering travel plans and want to be sure that you’re targeting states that are friendly to your lifestyle. This article will break down the current state of cannabis in the United States, and categorize all 50 states from friendliest to unfriendliest.
State of the Nation
The laws surrounding cannabis in the United States change almost daily.
New cities, counties, and states are voting on and considering legislation that puts an end to costly prohibition enforcement and replaces black markets with legal, regulated cannabis businesses that pay taxes and create jobs. Currently, 41 states have some form of legal or decriminalized cannabis (8 of these states have reduced penalties and/or decriminalized cannabis and cannabinoids like CBD through specifically enacted legislation). Ten of these states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical and adult use (recreational) cannabis. Thirty-five states and D.C. have legalized cannabis for medical use. Below, we’ve grouped states based on an overall cannabis-friendly ranking from best to worst.
The Most Cannabis-Friendly States
States in this ranking have legalized cannabis for medical use as well as recreational/adult use, and have implemented or are currently implementing systems for allowing legal cannabis consumption. Some states, like California, have gone a step further in establishing a framework for legal cannabis sales at consumption venues and events.
The best states for cannabis:
The Least Cannabis-Friendly States
The following states are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to being cannabis-friendliness. Included in this list are states like Wyoming, which has the highest arrest rate per capita. They have no legal programs and have made no attempts to reduce penalties or decriminalize cannabis. Ideally, avoid these states if you’re affiliated with cannabis, as they are the most restrictive to cannabis culture.
The worst states for cannabis
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
States with Legal Recreational Cannabis:
States in this category have legal medical and recreation programs as well as legal frameworks in place that allow for legal sales of cannabis to medical patients and adult residents
States where recreational cannabis is legal:
Moderately Cannabis-Friendly States
Many states are working their way towards fully legal cannabis frameworks, and they have to start somewhere. The following states were ranked as cannabis-friendly for medical patients.
Some of these states may also have laws enacted that decriminalize non-medical, adult use and possession, but have not gone so far as to fully legalize recreational cannabis on a statewide level. Other states, such as New Jersey, compete with non-legal states such as Texas and Wyoming for most arrests for cannabis-related offenses. If you are a medical patient in these states, check to see what the reciprocity laws are; many states will honor medical cards and recommendations from other states with legal programs. If you are a recreational consumer, be forewarned that these states may not be as friendly to your activities as those listed above.
Moderate States for Cannabis
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
States with CBD-Only Laws
As the name suggests, this category is for states without legal medical or recreational programs of any kind. These states may have reduced penalties for cannabis possession or consumption, and may also have CBD-specific laws on the state level that allow or specify what qualifies as industrial hemp and its derivatives. Exercise caution as a medical or recreational consumer in these states.
- North Carolina
The Changing Legality of Cannabis
It’s important to note that these laws are changing every day and this article should be considered an at-a-glance guide, rather than legal advice. As of May 2019, the data and laws referenced are accurate. Be sure to double-check the laws in your state or states you may be visiting for the most up-to-date laws.
If you need help navigating the newly legal cannabis space, have questions about laws surrounding your use, or simply want to learn more about what a full-service cannabis company looks like in Massachusetts, complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.
To learn more about how cannabis interacts with the human body, be sure to read The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Science.
Update: COVID-19 has impacted nearly every American business. The content in this article discusses subject matter related to traveling, retail environments, events, and tourism, all of which have been impacted by COVID-19. As retail stores reopen, we recommend following the CDC’s recommendations for social distancing, sterilizing surfaces and equipment, and wearing cloth masks.