Medical marijuana legal for two-thirds of Americans, recreational marijuana legal for one quarter

Though the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, a majority of states have passed laws over the past 25 years legalizing marijuana usage for either medical or recreational purposes.

Americans in 33 states and the District of Columbia have access to medical marijuana. This represents 67.5 percent of the country (221,469,793 people). Seventeen of those states legalized medical marijuana via statewide initiatives, and the remaining 16 did so through their legislatures.

Medical marijuana is legal in 10 states with divided government, 14 states with Democratic trifectas, and nine states with Republican trifectas. Just one state with a Democratic trifecta has not legalized medical marijuana: Virginia, which became a Democratic trifecta following the 2019 elections.

Of the 33 states with medical marijuana, 11 states and the District of Columbia have also legalized recreational marijuana primarily through initiatives, representing 28.4 percent of the country (92,434,672 people). Of those eleven states, seven have Democratic trifectas and four have divided governments. No states with a Republican trifecta have legalized recreational marijuana.

So far in 2020, three states will have marijuana legalization initiatives of some kind on their ballots in November: Mississippi, New Jersey, and South Dakota.

Mississippi voters will decide the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Amendment, an indirect initiated constitutional amendment what would, if passed, establish a medical marijuana program for individuals with a debilitating medical condition.

South Dakota voters will decide Constitutional Amendment A and Initiated Measure 26. Constitutional Amendment A would legalize the recreational use of marijuana and require the South Dakota State Legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. Initiated Measure 26 would establish a medical marijuana program in South Dakota for individuals with a debilitating medical condition.

New Jersey voters will decide the Marijuana Legalization Amendment which would, if passed, legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons age 21 and older and legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana.

Eight other states currently have potential measures legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana that might appear on their respective statewide ballots this year.

For more details, analyses, and information, click here: Marijuana laws in the United States

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About the author

Douglas Kronaizl

Douglas Kronaizl is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at douglas.kronaizl@ballotpedia.org@ballotpedia.org.

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