More than 61% of Americans live in states that MPP counts as having medical marijuana laws, decriminalization laws, or laws to legalize and regulate marijuana. Several other states have improved their marijuana policies — for example, by passing laws that recognize marijuana’s medical value, but that do not meet our definitions. Here is an explanation of what types of laws MPP counts for each category.

Effective Medical Marijuana Laws

More than a dozen states recognize the medical value of marijuana, but do not meet MPP’s definition of a “medical marijuana state.” In most cases, the laws are not operational and are not expected to become operational until federal law changes. In a few cases, the laws may become operational, but they will only include patients who use certain strains of marijuana that are very low in THC.

MPP defines a state as having an effective medical marijuana law if the state has enacted a law that meets the following four criteria:

1) patients are provided protection from criminal convictions for the medical use and possession of marijuana;

2) there is some realistic means of patients obtaining in-state access to marijuana that does not rely on federal cooperation, typically through home cultivation or private, state-regulated dispensaries;

3) the law allows for a variety of strains of marijuana, or extracts of marijuana, including both strains with higher and lower amounts of THC; and

4) the law allows patients to either smoke or vaporize marijuana or marijuana oils, or both.

Decriminalization Laws

MPP defines a state as having a “decriminalization” law if the state has enacted a law that imposes penalties other than jail time for possession of marijuana, at a minimum, for a first offense.

Some of the states MPP considers “decriminalization” states continue to classify marijuana possession as a crime, but they punish possession with penalties other than jail. In addition, a state may impose jail for subsequent offenses and still be counted as a “decriminalization” state by MPP. MPP’s model decriminalization bill imposes a civil fine for possession, with drug education and community service for minors.

Legalization Laws

MPP considers a state to have “legalized marijuana” if it makes it legal for adults who are 21 and older to use marijuana and if it allows for the legal sales and purchase of marijuana.