Last updated: June 17, 2021
Only 21 states allow citizen-initiated ballot initiatives, meaning in most states the only way to reform marijuana laws is via the legislature. With polls showing that 68% of Americans support making marijuana use legal and around 90% support allowing medical marijuana, lawmakers are finally starting to get the message that constituents want them to act on sensible and humane marijuana policies.
Three states have already legalized cannabis in 2021 via the legislative process — New York, Virginia, and New Mexico. In a fourth state, Connecticut, lawmakers sent Gov. Ned Lamont a legalization bill that he plans to sign. Legalization could also still get past the finish line in Rhode Island and Delaware.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s legislature and governor legalized medical cannabis this year, and Louisiana decriminalized possession of up to 14 grams. Click on the state names below (under the categories of reform) to learn more about efforts in your state and to take action in support of marijuana policy reform.
As part of our national reckoning with racism and violent policing, it is essential that we end the war on cannabis, which includes hundreds of thousands of arrests each year and even more traumatizing searches based on the real or alleged smell of cannabis. Despite nearly identical use rates, Black Americans are 3.6 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis as whites.
In addition, as we recover from the pandemic, it is all the more apparent that finite government resources shouldn’t be wasted on cannabis prohibition. Legalization helps grow economies with new small businesses, good jobs, and hundreds of millions in tax revenue.
States where 2021 bills were proposed to legalize marijuana for adults: 31, including three that are now law and a fourth that is heading to the governor's desk
Eighteen states have already passed laws to legalize and regulate cannabis (three of which did so this year): Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. All but five — Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Vermont, and Virginia — were by ballot initiative. Connecticut will become the 19th legalization state — and the sixth to legalize legislatively — when Gov. Lamont signs S.B. 1201 into law.
States with decriminalization bills: 12, one of which was enacted
Thirty-two states and Washington, D.C. have decriminalized or legalized marijuana possession.
States with bills to create comprehensive medical cannabis programs: 13, one of which is now law
Thirty-six states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have effective medical marijuana 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. Gov. Tate Reeves said he may call a special session to enact a replacement law.
If you live in a state that still prohibits marijuana 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 marijuana policies. Take a few moments to email them in support of medical marijuana, decriminalization, or legalizing and regulating marijuana.