Recreational Marijuana

Landmark legalization is passed

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states in the US to legalize the adult use of marijuana. This landmark event in marijuana prohibition marked a new era in the views and use of the prohibited substance in America.  The law permitted adults over 21 years of age to legally purchase and consume marijuana in those states.

Three other states and Washington D.C. have since legalized marijuana for recreational use. In Alaska, adults 21 and older can now transport, buy or possess up to an ounce of marijuana and six plants. Oregon voters approved a similar measure allowing adults to posses up to an ounce of marijuana and 8 ounces in their homes, set to take effect July 1 of 2015.

The prohibitionists often extreme views of the degenerative effects that marijuana legalization would have on society fell dramatically short of coming true. As of 2015, negative data from the “marijuana experiment” in Colorado have been few and far between. While there have been an increased number of emergency room visits due to marijuana over consumption, there have been far more positive data points to report, with some data perhaps unexpected benefits of legalization:

– The first ten months of legal marijuana sales resulted in nearly $40 million in tax revenue.  
– The city of Denver saw a decrease in violent crime rates in the first 11 months of 2014, following a similar trend in 2013.
– Statewide traffic fatalities continue to decline, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
– Upwards of $8 million has been allocated to fund youth education and drug prevention efforts. 
– The state is enjoying economic growth and the lowest unemployment rate in years.

Summary of Recreational Marijuana laws by state

**12/9/18 Update: Additional states that have approved recreational marijuana laws:

  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Vermont

Colorado Recreational Marijuana Law

Who can buy: Adults who are at least 21. Those with a Colorado ID can buy up to an ounce at a licensed store and can give an ounce away as a gift. Those from other states can buy a quarter-ounce but cannot transport it over state lines.
Who can grow: Adults who are at least 21 can grow six plants, but only three can be mature and flowering.
Who can sell: Stores must be licensed. They can have medical dispensaries and recreational sales, but the areas must be separated because doses and amounts purchased can be higher for medical needs.
Where you can’t partake: Smoking pot in public or in a licensed store is not allowed. Smoking is allowed on private property with permission of the owner.
Penalties: Those driving under the influence of pot can be ticketed in much the same way as if they were driving under the influence of alcohol. Tests must show more than 5 nanograms of THC (pot’s psychoactive ingredient) for a person to be cited.
For illegal possession and distribution, penalties range from a petty offense to a felony. Possession of more than 2 ounces can mean jail time. Smoking in public can be a $100 fine or up to 15 days in jail. Sale of 5 pounds can be punishable by a sentence of two to six years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

Washington Recreational Marijuana Law

Who can buy: People 21 and older. Non-Washington residents may also purchase pot from a licensed store but must consume it in the state. People can possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana in solid form or 72 ounces in liquid form.
Who can grow: Individual growing is not allowed.
Who can sell: Sales have not started, but stores must be licensed.
Where you can’t partake: No public use or smoking in retail stores is allowed.
Penalties: Drivers can be ticketed. As in Colorado, tests must show at least 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood for a driver to be cited. Public consumption of an ounce, $100 fine; more than 40 grams, five years incarceration and $10,000 fine.

Oregon Recreational Marijuana Law

When does the law take effect?: Possession and home cultivation by adults 21 and older becomes legal on July 1, 2015.
Who can buy
: Adults 21 and older can possess up to eight ounces of marijuana. Each adult can possess up to an ounce in public. Individuals 21 and older may also gift — but not sell – up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana products in solid form, or 72 ounces of marijuana products in liquid form to other adults. The purchase limit will be one ounce, or the amount set by the liquor commission, whichever is lower.
Who can grow: Adults 21 and older can grow no more than four marijuana plants in their households. Those amounts are total limits for the household.
Who can sell: Four types of marijuana businesses will be allowed and regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. “Marijuana producers” will cultivate marijuana for wholesale. “Marijuana processors” will produce marijuana extracts and products. “Marijuana wholesalers” may purchase marijuana and marijuana products to sell to marijuana retailers and other non-consumers. Lastly, “marijuana retailers” are allowed to sell marijuana and related items to individuals 21 and older.
Where you can’t partake: Marijuana must not be consumed in public or while driving.

Alaska Recreational Marijuana Law

The State of Alaska and the Municipality of Anchorage are currently developing laws and regulations on the production, sale, and use of marijuana.

When did the law take effect?: on February 24, 2015 recreational use of Marijuana became legal in the State of Alaska.
Who can buy
: Adults 21 and older.
Who can grow: Adults 21 and older can grow up to six plants (three or fewer being mature, flowering plants) on their private premises.
Who can sell: It is still illegal to buy or sell marijuana in the Municipality of Anchorage. Laws and regulations on the production, sale, and use of marijuana are currently under development.
Where you can’t partake: The consumption of marijuana in a public place is prohibited.

Washington D.C. Recreational Marijuana Law

When did the law take effect?: November 2014
Who can buy
: Adults 21 and older.
Who can grow: Adults 21 and older can cultivate up to six marijuana plants, but have no more than three mature plants, in their primary home.
Who can sell: After voters approved Initiative 71, Congress forbade the District from enacting any regulatory framework for the sale or taxation of pot. Marijuana cannot currently be sold or taxed due to lack of regulatory framework.
Where you can’t partake: The consumption of marijuana in a public place is prohibited.