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One minute, you're in Colorado legally smoking weed and growing six marijuana plants in your backroom. The next minute, you've crossed into Kansas where a single joint in your pocket could earn you six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Marijuana law is one of the most rapidly evolving areas of law in the country, and rules vary widely from state to state. While some states have decided it's high time to legalize medicinal and/or recreational use, others have merely reduced the penalties for certain cannabis-related offenses (a process called "decriminalization"). Still, other states have retained their marijuana bans altogether. In medicinal marijuana states, patients usually have to have a prescription from a physician to treat certain approved medical conditions. Recreational use is usually limited to private use for people over 21.
Even among states that have legalized medicinal and/or recreational marijuana, the particular rules about allowable quantities, whether you can grow your own, how old you have to be, and where you can use it are different from state to state. And although the federal government currently doesn't enforce many of its laws in marijuana-legal states, the herb is still technically illegal under federal law, and you cannot transport it across state lines.
It's important to know the marijuana laws of the state you're in to avoid heavy fines and possible jail time. The following guide provides a summary of each state's current marijuana laws:
Alabama: Most use and possession of marijuana is still illegal in Alabama. However, a law signed in 2016 decriminalized the possession and use of marijuana oil for debilitating medical conditions.
Alaska: Alaskan voters legalized medical marijuana in 1998, while recreational use was legalized by ballot initiative in 2014.
Arizona: In 2010, voters legalized medical marijuana, but declined to legalize recreational use in 2016.
Arkansas: Voters approved a medical marijuana amendment to the state constitution in 2016. The state has not legalized recreational use.
California: In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Twenty years later, in 2016, voters approved the legalization of recreational use.
Colorado: In 2012, Colorado became the first state (along with Washington) to legalize recreational use. The state had previously legalized medical cannabis in 2000.
Connecticut: While recreational use is still prohibited in Connecticut, the governor signed medical marijuana into law in 2012.
Delaware: Delaware has not legalized recreational marijuana use, but the state decriminalized some marijuana-related activity and legalized medicinal use in 2011.
District of Columbia: Despite being the seat of the federal government (which still outlaws all marijuana use), D.C. legalized medicinal marijuana in 2010 and recreational use in 2015.
Florida: While recreational use is still illegal in Florida, voters approved medical marijuana in 2016.
Georgia: Most marijuana use and possession is still illegal under Georgia law. However, the state did approve limited possession of cannabis oil for certain medical conditions in 2015.
Hawaii: Medicinal marijuana has been legal in Hawaii since 2000, while recreational use and possession are still punishable offenses.
Idaho: Marijuana possession and sale, even for medicinal use, remains illegal in Idaho.
Illinois: In Illinois, medical marijuana was signed into law in 2013 as a four-year pilot program. In 2016 the governor signed a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug.
Indiana: Indiana is another state where marijuana -- including medical use -- is still illegal. Even being in the presence of someone else's drug activity can get you arrested.
Iowa: Iowa currently prohibits both recreational use and general medicinal use.
Kansas: Despite efforts to legalize the drug, marijuana remains prohibited in Kansas, and possession of any amount is punishable by jail time and/or fines.
Kentucky: Like a few other states, Kentucky still prohibits medicinal and recreational marijuana, except for the narrow exception of medicinal cannabidiol.
Louisiana: Although the legislature legalized medicinal marijuana in 1991, there was no system in place for legally dispensing the drug until the governor signed a bill expanding the program in 2016.
Maine: Maine has legalized medical marijuana (1999) and recreational use (2016), and has lessened the penalties for lower possession violations.
Maryland: Recreational marijuana remains illegal in Maryland, but the state has reduced penalties for cannabis-related offenses so that first-time possession of less than 10 grams is merely a $100 fine. Also, if you're charged with possession and you show proof of medical necessity, you probably won't face any penalty.
Massachusetts: Massachusetts began decriminalizing cannabis in 2008 and legalized medical marijuana in 2012. Voters decided to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016.
Michigan: In 2008, Michigan began allowing for the possession and cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Recreational use remains prohibited, with possession of any non-medicinal amount punishable as a misdemeanor.
Minnesota: In 2014 medical marijuana was signed into law. Although recreational use is still illegal, the state has decriminalized some low level marijuana offenses.
Mississippi: Although medical and recreational marijuana are still prohibited in Mississippi, the state has lessened its penalties for lower possession offenses. A first offense for possession of less than 30 grams would most likely result in a fine of between $100 and $250.
Missouri: Despite the fact that Missouri still prohibits medicinal and recreational cannabis use, the state has reduced marijuana possession penalties (effective January 2017).
Montana: Battles between Montana voters and lawmakers have kept the state's marijuana laws in flux, but medicinal marijuana has been legal since 2004. However, possession for even a small amount of weed for personal use could earn you six months in prison.
Nebraska: Medicinal and recreational cannabis use and possession are still illegal under Nebraska laws, but the state has lessened its penalties for the possession of small amounts of the drug.
Nevada: Nevada voters legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and private, recreational use in 2016. The state also reduced its penalties for light possession offenses.
New Hampshire: Medical marijuana use was signed into law in 2013, but personal use and possession remains illegal and punishable by jail time for even a small amount.
New Jersey: Medical marijuana has been legal in New Jersey since 2010, but recreational use is still prohibited.
New Mexico: New Mexico legalized medical marijuana in 2007, while all other uses remain illegal.
New York: New York has decriminalized some marijuana laws, with a first-time possession offense punishable by no more than $100. The state also legalized medicinal marijuana in 2014.
North Carolina: Most marijuana use and possession remains illegal in North Carolina, though some penalties have been reduced and the state allows for some use of hemp extract to treat epilepsy.
North Dakota: Medical marijuana did not become legal in North Dakota until 2016, by ballot initiative, and recreational use is still illegal, with a simple possession offense punishable by 30 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Ohio: Ohio's marijuana laws allow for medical marijuana (signed into law in 2016) and reduced penalties for low-level marijuana offenses.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma still has relatively harsh penalties for marijuana-related offenses. The state has not legalized medicinal or recreational use, and possession of even a little weed could earn you a year in prison.
Oregon: As the first state to begin decriminalizing marijuana-related offenses, Oregon has some of the weed-friendliest laws in the country. The state legalized medicinal marijuana in 1998, and recreational in 2014.
Pennsylvania: All marijuana possession and use was illegal in Pennsylvania until 2016 when the state legalized medicinal marijuana.
Rhode Island: Recreational marijuana is still illegal in Rhode Island, but the state did legalize medical cannabis in 2006.
South Carolina: One of the more restrictive states regarding marijuana, South Carolina has not legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana. A first-time possession charge could land you in jail for up to 30 days, plus a $200 fine.
South Dakota: South Dakota is another state with strict marijuana laws -- it's still illegal, and possession of less than two ounces could result in a year in prison and a $2,000 fine.
Tennessee: Choosing to hold firm against the wave of states relaxing their cannabis laws, Tennessee has kept its marijuana laws the same. Medicinal and recreational use are still illegal, with a first-time offense for possessing less than 1/2 of an ounce could earn you a year in jail and a $250 fine.
Texas: Except for the legalization of low-potency cannabis for epilepsy patients, Texas still prohibits marijuana, whether medicinal or recreational.
Utah: Like a few other states, marijuana possession and sale are illegal in Utah. However, the state does allow for the use of cannabidiol to treat certain epileptic disorders.
Vermont: Vermont legalized medicinal marijuana in 2004, and has reduced the penalties for some weed-related crimes (even multiple offenses for possession of less than one ounce are only civil violations with no jail time).
Virginia: Medical and recreational marijuana are prohibited in Virginia, and a first-time offender - guilty of possessing less than half an ounce of weed - could get 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Washington: Washington and Colorado were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, and medicinal cannabis has been legal since 1998.
West Virginia: Marijuana use and possession are still illegal in West Virginia, so you could spend six months in jail and pay a $1,000 fine for a very minor offense.
Wisconsin: While medicinal and recreational marijuana are still illegal under Wisconsin law, the state does allow for the use of cannabidiol to treat seizure disorders in children.
Wyoming: Wyoming lawmakers have tried and failed to legalize medicinal marijuana, and possession of just three ounces or less can land you in jail for up to a year, with a $1,000 fine on top of that.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified medical marijuana lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local medical marijuana attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.