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An Updated State-by-State Look at Where Marijuana Is Legal

By Sean Williams - Jun 27, 2021 at 6:36AM

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The legality of cannabis differs greatly in the U.S., depending on where you live.

America is seeing green -- and I'm not just talking about the huge gains in investors' portfolios. We're witnessing a cannabis revolution in the U.S. that's picking up steam at an extraordinary pace, which could very well allow marijuana to be one of the fastest-growing industries of the 2020s.

This revolution starts with Americans across the country. According to national pollster Gallup, an all-time record 68% of respondents wanted to see cannabis legalized nationally in its 2020 survey. That's up from 66% in the previous two years, and it effectively doubles the support for legalization witnessed two decades earlier. 

However, whether you can buy cannabis products or not depends on where you live, or where you're shopping. Here's an all-encompassing rundown of where each of the 50 states currently stands on marijuana. 

A black silhouette outline of the U.S., filled in by cannabis baggies, rolled joints, and a scale.

Image source: Getty Images.

These states have legalized the consumption and sale of adult-use weed, along with medical pot

There are currently 18 states whose residents have voted to legalize adult-use cannabis, or whose legislature passed a bill to green-light its consumption and/or sale. But as of June 23, 2020, only 11 of those 18 recreationally legalized states had operational dispensaries selling adult-use cannabis. These 11 states are (in alphabetical order):

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington

Most of these 11 states are long-established markets, with Washington and Colorado commencing adult-use sales in 2014, followed by Oregon in 2015, Alaska in 2016, Nevada in 2017, and California and Massachusetts in 2018.

California is the largest cannabis market in the world by annual sales, with $4.4 billion in weed revenue in 2020. This comprised about 27% of legal cannabis sales in the U.S. last year. 

Clear jars on a dispensary countertop that have been packed with unique dried cannabis buds.

Image source: Getty Images.

These states have OK'd recreational and medical pot, but adult-use sales haven't yet begun

While the aforementioned 11 states are raking in the recreational cannabis revenue, seven states are waiting in the wings for their chance to begin ringing the register. These states are (again, in alphabetical order):

  • Connecticut
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • Virginia

Since the November election, we've witnessed a rash of legalizations. New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Virginia, and Connecticut have all signed legislation to make recreational marijuana legal over the past four months.

However, it could still be a while before sales commence in these states. For Montanans, Jan. 1, 2022, is the day they'll be given a green-light to purchase recreational weed. Meanwhile, Virginians look like they'll be waiting until Jan. 1, 2024 to buy adult-use cannabis products. Still, the wait is even longer for Vermonters. Even though consumption was legalized back in July 2018, retail sales aren't expected to begin until October 2022, at the earliest. 

A cannabis bud lying atop a doctor's prescription pad.

Image source: Getty Images.

Adult-use pot is illegal in these states, but medical marijuana has a green light

In addition to the 18 states that have OK'd recreational marijuana, there are another 18 states that allow physicians to prescribe cannabis to patients. Keep in mind that the qualifications for medical cannabis approval can vary by legalized state. Though recreational pot is a no-go, medical access to marijuana is ongoing in these states (listed in alphabetical order):

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

Arguably the biggest surprise on this list might be South Dakota. Even though residents voted to legalize medical and recreational weed in the November election (via two separate measures), the state's Supreme Court struck down the adult-use weed amendment. Likewise, you'll note that Mississippi no longer appears in this section as a result of its Supreme Court overturning the voter-approved Initiative 65, which legalized access to medical cannabis for select patients. 

Even though the customer pool for medical weed is smaller than adult-use cannabis, some states can still be huge moneymakers. By 2024, Florida is projected to bring in the third-highest annual pot sales in the U.S.

A drug free zone street sign in a quiet neighborhood.

Image source: Getty Images.

Recreational and medical marijuana are entirely illegal in these states

Finally, there are 14 remaining states that have neither legalized recreational cannabis nor medical marijuana. In alphabetical order, these states are:

  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

These 14 states typically have two things in common. To begin with, they're often headed by Republican lawmakers. According to Gallup's 2020 poll, just 48% of self-identified Republicans favored the idea of legalizing cannabis nationally. That compares to 83% of self-identified Democrats.

The other commonality is that many of these states lack the initiative and referendum process. In simpler terms, it means that residents have to rely on their state's legislature to initiate change on the cannabis front. With Republicans in control in many of these states, the impetus to incite cannabis reform just isn't there.

A handful of dried cannabis buds set atop a messy pile of cash.

Image source: Getty Images.

Cannabis stocks are going to see green

With nearly three-quarters of the country now legalized in some capacity, we've hit the point where federal cannabis reform is no longer necessary for marijuana stocks to thrive. As long as the federal government allows states to establish their own laws and regulate their own pot industry, multistate operators (MSO) have a very good chance of cashing in on the cannabis boom.

The easiest way for investors to get rich from cannabis is to focus on MSOs that are at or near recurring profitability, as well as those that have clearly defined or unique growth strategies.

For example, Trulieve Cannabis (TCNNF 1.23%) checks all the appropriate boxes. It's delivered 13 consecutive profitable quarters and offers one of the most unique growth strategies. Of Trulieve's 91 operating dispensaries, as of June 23, 2021, 85 of them were located in Florida. By saturating the Sunshine State, Trulieve has been able to effectively build up its brand without breaking the bank with marketing costs. 

Planet 13 Holdings (PLNH.F 1.06%) is another MSO that should check all applicable boxes. While not profitable yet, Planet 13 rapidly rising sales have it on the cusp of recurring profitability. The crazy thing is it has only one operating dispensary at the moment, albeit it's a doozy. The SuperStore in Las Vegas, Nevada spans 112,000 square feet and features an events center, consumer-facing processing center, a café, and abundant selling space. In other words, Planet 13 has become a go-to destination for cannabis tourists. By later this year, it'll have a second large store open in Santa Ana, California.

The point is this: The arrow for pot stocks is pointing higher with every new state-level legalization in the U.S.

Sean Williams has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Planet 13 Holdings Inc. and Trulieve Cannabis Corp. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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