Last updated: April 9, 2021
Only 23 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.
Two states have already legalized cannabis in 2021 via the legislative process — New York and Virginia. In a third state, New Mexico, a legalization bill was approved and will be signed by the governor any day. As many as three more states could follow suit this year — Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island, and dozens of other cannabis policy reform bills have been proposed. Click on the state names below to learn more about efforts in your state and to take action in support of marijuana policy reform.
The crises our country is grappling with underscore the urgent need to end cannabis prohibition. 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, in times of this pandemic, it is all the more apparent that finite government resources shouldn’t be wasted on cannabis prohibition. In these challenging times, states desperately need the good jobs, small businesses, and hundreds of millions in tax revenue that come with marijuana legalization.
States where 2021 bills were proposed to legalize marijuana for adults: 29, including two that are now law
In addition, in Pennsylvania, a bipartisan legalization bill was announced but has not yet been introduced.
Seventeen states have already passed laws to legalize and regulate cannabis (two of which did so this year): Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. All but four — Illinois, New York, Vermont, and Virginia — were by ballot initiative.
States with decriminalization bills: 10
Thirty-one states and Washington, D.C. have decriminalized or legalized marijuana possession.
States with bills to create comprehensive medical cannabis programs: 13
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.
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.