Grass Tacks: 10 States With The Safest Access To Medical and Recreational Weed
Attorney General Jeff Sessions may hold the most archaic stance on marijuana since Nixon, but he’ll have a tough time reigning in the nation’s already booming legal weed industry.
To date, eight states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana along with the nation's capital, Washington, DC. And while havens exist for habitual air-blessers (mostly on the west coast) the tear between state and federal jurisdiction on the sleepy, happy, hungry plant has created a mess for those that either need cannabis (or its copious derivative products) for medicinal purposes or are simply looking to bask in its hazy glow. Because, you know, it's 2017 and stoners are capable of great things despite the age-old reefer madness stigma.
So for a moment, let us celebrate the states that are getting legal weed right and blazing the evergreen trails of change. The states that have provided the clearest and safest path for responsible use of the most contentious plant in human history. Below you'll find a rundown of where legal weed is thriving. If you happen to live elsewhere, make sure you know your rights. Consult your local NORML chapters for reference.
Oregon really is the tale of two states. An early decriminalizer with nearly 20 years of legislative infrastructure in place to build out a full-bloom industry upon full legalization in 2016, the state leaves cannabis sale up to each individual county. This keeps the greenery out west to its historically progressive coastal counties, while good ole rural Oregonians in the east are left to their county's likely more conservative whim. Which is fine. With nearly 260 operational dispensaries on the other side of that line in the dirt, a flood of incoming residents, both from the state's east and just about anywhere else on this green-loving earth, is imminent.
Though it's an all-too-regular afterthought in statehood, Alaska was one of the first states to legalize the use and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes. Dispensaries have been up and running since 2015, but ran into a block last year when the state was unable to meet demand, clearing out inventories in just about every shop. This points towards a common symptom of the baby days of legal weed, where the infrastructure (growing, banking, security services) for a state-run operation lags behind the ambition. Colorado, Oregon, and Washington experienced similar outages in their first months of legal sale as well. Smokers should be warned that even with full legal sale and consumption, the state also holds some of the strictest boundary laws in the country; where just a little shake in your pocket within 500 ft. of a school or recreation center can land you in jail for up to 5 years and about $50,000 poorer. Keep the kush to yourself and (mostly) within the confines of your home.
No surprises here. Cali has been at the forefront of the legal weed debate since legalizing medical marijuana in 1996 (the first state to do so) and decriminalizing in 2000, standing, before any other states were in the game, as the far-left end of the spectrum to Oklahoma's virtual death sentence for a stem on the right. Shockingly, it was only in 2016 that the state passed an amendment that effectively legalized the recreational use. Technically, weed cannot be legally bought for recreational use. But if you're in California and haven't figured out a way around this yet, you're not even fucking trying, man.
One of the only states east of the Mississippi with a comprehensive medical marijuana law in place, Massachusets is ripe and ready for its upcoming transition into a full recreational state. Yes, legal tokers will have to wait until the end of 2017 or as late as next year for state-run dispensaries to begin operation. But this is a massive push in a state with surprisingly conservative leanings, and shouldn't be taken lightly. Currently, the state has 35 operational medical dispensaries and has afforded roughly two years to process and approve applications for recreational shops. A change soon come. And it's looking a little greener every day.
The PNW really loves their weed. No secret, they wear it on their sleeves and their ballots. In 2012, along with Colorado, Washington commenced the green rush with the full legalization of marijuana for recreational use and sale. The combined initiatives between the states is credited with encouraging the highest voter turnout (81%) in the nation. It may come as a surprise that the state has been running free of legal-pot-induced moral decay for the better part of five years, but it has had to rollback its lax-ness in recent years. 1,500 of the state's former medical dispensaries are being forced to reapply for recreational licenses, though that certainly won't curb anyone's enthusiasm. Washington, along with its bredren in progressive weed legislation (Colorado,) is one of the few places on the planet you can light up without fear of legal or social repercussions.
The Prairie State could have had fields of herb filling its lush countryside as early as 1978. Thanks to the failure of two state departments whose action was required to flip that switch, it wasn't until 2013 that Illinois became the 20th state to establish a medical marijuana program. Now with nearly 50 dispensaries in place (and no shortage of pastures to set up shop in) the state seems ready for its next phase: full legalization. Just last month, lawmakers proposed legislation that would effectively liberate the recreational weed industry by legalizing use and sale, estimating between $500 million and $1 billion dollars in added state revenue. The green rush has levels and if there's any real magic behind this day we'll soon see its fruits.
The land of golden beaches and Maui Wowie has been a longstanding ally in the fight for safe access. Though its medical marijuana program went into effect in 2015, Hawaiians with state-approved conditions have been able to grow their own since 2000. Last year, a comprehensive state-run system designated each of the state's eight islands its own dispensary. So no matter where you may lay your head, rest assured a bud isn't more than a sandy stroll away.
On January 1st of 2017, Nevada changed its tune and legalized for recreation after more than a decade of legislative challenges. The bill was a little sloppy, as it failed to establish a system for processing recreational dispensaries, but it seems to be getting its act together in a hurry, with an eye on recreational shops being up and running as soon as July of this year. Currently, the state has a fully operational medical marijuana program, though it's unclear how they'll be absorbed into the new system. Either way, your next Sin City sojourn is looking a little less devilish and a little more chill come summertime.
This one's mostly for the scenery. While it doesn't enjoy the same legal status as most on this list, Montana has been home to a thriving medical marijuana program since 2004, with several legalizing legislative proposals making rounds within the last year. 31 dispensaries sprawl out across one of the country's most geographically diverse (and stunning) states, making Montana an ideal destination for those looking to light up under Big Sky, not a soul to smell you for miles.
Tucked away in the most northeast of the American northeast, Maine has quietly abided by its northern neighbor's ways. Little progressive whispers from over the border led the state to decriminalize all the way back in 1976. In 1999, they moved forward with a state medical program and just last year, fully legalized marijuana for recreational sale and use. With nearly 20 dispensaries split between Portland and the Canadian border, Maine is a fine smoker's destination with a ton of promise. But they'll need to make sense of a spotty piece of legislation that failed to establish a system for approving and processing applicants for sale licenses. You'll probably want to stick to Portland. Recreational weed has been enjoyed on the island city since 2013. Bless their little progressive hearts.