Three states – Arizona, Montana, New Jersey – passed legislation on Election Day 2020 to legalize recreational marijuana use by adults. That, plus New York, Virginia, New Mexico and Connecticut’s 2021 initiatives, brings the total number of states where recreational marijuana has been legalized to 18. The District of Columbia and Guam have also enacted legalization measures.
South Dakota also passed legalization through a ballot measure in 2020, but in late November 2021, the state Supreme Court nullified it, as reported by The Associated Press. The decision followed a lawsuit backed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.
According to 2020 U.S. Census Bureau apportionment numbers, more than 145 million Americans now live in a state that has legalized marijuana.
The wave of initiatives to legalize marijuana began in 2012, and has mostly been driven by coastal states. More states are likely to join their ranks in the coming years, as about two-thirds of American adults support marijuana legalization at both the federal and state level, according to an April 2022 survey by CBS News/YouGov.
States have been setting their own guidelines for the legality of marijuana use and the quantities they deem legal for a resident to possess. At the federal level, however, the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug, “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Here are the 18 states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, as of April 2021. States appear in chronological order for when their legalization measures were approved:
- New Jersey
- New York
- New Mexico