Last updated: January 14, 2022
Because less than half of U.S. states allow citizen-initiated ballot measures, in most states, the only way to reform cannabis laws is via the state’s legislature. With polls showing that 68% of Americans support making cannabis use legal and around 90% support allowing medical cannabis, lawmakers are finally starting to get the message that constituents want them to act on sensible and humane cannabis policies.
Yet, legislatures still lag far behind the public. Only 18 states have legalized cannabis for adults, and only six of those laws have been enacted by state legislatures (in a seventh state, New Jersey, the legislature itself referred the issue to voters). Meanwhile, 14 states are even further behind the times — lacking even a medical cannabis law. And 18 states continue to jail their residents for even simple possession of cannabis.
Several states’ 2022 legislative sessions have not even convened, but dozens of bills are already pending to advance sensible and compassionate state cannabis policies.
Here is a list of states where bills are already pending to legalize cannabis for adults, to decriminalize cannabis (i.e., by issuing a fine-only ticket for simple possession), or to legalize medical cannabis.
States with proposed bills to legalize cannabis for adults: 23
In addition, efforts are underway to put citizen initiatives to legalize cannabis for adults on the ballots in several states, including Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Eighteen states have already passed laws to legalize and regulate cannabis (four of which did so in 2021): Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
States with decriminalization bills: 8
Thirty-one states and Washington, D.C. have decriminalized or legalized cannabis possession.
States with bills to create comprehensive medical cannabis programs: 9
Thirty-six states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have effective medical cannabis laws. Three additional states — Georgia, Iowa, and Texas — have more limited laws that allow regulated access to low-THC medical cannabis preparations.
Mississippi would be the 37th medical cannabis state, but the state Supreme Court overturned a voter-enacted initiative based on a numerically impossible-to-comply-with signature requirement. The Senate has passed a replacement bill, which is headed to the House for consideration.
If you live in a state that still prohibits cannabis and no lawmakers have taken the lead to change that, send your state legislators a note to ask them to stand up for humane and sensible cannabis policies. Take a few moments to email them in support of medical cannabis, decriminalization, or legalizing and regulating cannabis.
If you live in a state that has already legalized and regulated cannabis for adults, check out the state’s page to find out what bills are pending to improve (or undermine) the law.