Updated cannabis state-by-state rankings guide – August 2021 | Thompson Coburn LLP



New Ranking: 1

Old Ranking: 1

Change: 0

California remains No. 1 as the largest cannabis market in the nation. California has legalized both adult-use and medical marijuana, making it one of the most relaxed states in the nation with regard to cannabis use top spot.


New Ranking: 2

Old Ranking: 2

Change: 0

Nevada legalized medical marijuana in 2001 and adult-use marijuana in 2017. Adult use marijuana restrictions are similar to restrictions on alcohol: users must be 21 years of age or older; marijuana may only be purchased from a business licensed in Nevada; selling or giving marijuana to individuals under 21 years of age is illegal; and driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal.


New Ranking: 3

Old Ranking: 3

Change: 0

Both medical and adult-use cannabis are legal in Colorado. Colorado’s constitution was amended on December 28, 2000 to legalize cannabis for medical purposes, and amended again on December 10, 2012 to legalize adult-use. In 2020, Colorado cannabis sales across the medical and adult-use sectors were over $2 billion, totalling $9.8 billion since state-licensed retail sales of adult-use cannabis began in January 2014.


New Ranking: 4

Old Ranking: 4

Change: 0

Commercial cannabis activity is regulated by the Cannabis Control Commission, but local municipalities can also regulate some activities. Although there is a cap on the number of licenses a licensee can obtain, cannabis businesses can operate as for-profit entities.


New Ranking: 5

Old Ranking: 6

Change: +1

Illinois legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2014. In July 2016, Public Act 99-0697 reduced penalties associated with the adult-use of cannabis. On June 25, 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed HB 1438, the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, into law. The bill legalized the adult-use and purchase of cannabis.


New Ranking: 6

Old Ranking: 5

Change: -1

Adult-use and medical marijuana are both legal in Oregon. Oregon legalized medical marijuana in 1998 with the passage of Measure 67, the Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA). Oregon then passed the Adult and Medical Use of Cannabis Act in 2014, which legalized the adult-use of marijuana.


New Ranking: 7

Old Ranking: 7

Change: 0

On November 6, 2018, Michigan voters legalized adult-use cannabis with the passage of Proposal 18-1, also known as the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (“MRTMA”). At the time of its enactment, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize recreational cannabis and the first to do so in the Midwest.


New Ranking: 8

Old Ranking: 30

Change: +22

Both medical and adult-use marijuana are legal in Arizona. Medical marijuana has been legal since 2010. On November 30, 2020, Arizona voters legalized the commercial sale and adult-use of recreational marijuana by voting in favor of Proposition 207, the Smart and Safe Act. The first state-licensed sale took place January 22, 2021, making Arizona the fastest state to go from voter approval to the state-licensed sale of marijuana.


New Ranking: 9

Old Ranking: 8

Change: +1

A bill signed by Gov. Janet Mills in June 2019 launched Maine recreational sales, beginning in March 2020. It maintained a strict barrier to entry in the retail market by requiring business to be run by individuals who have been residents of Maine for four years.


New Ranking: 10

Old Ranking: 10

Change: 0

Washington has a history of being ahead of the curve on marijuana legislation. The state legalized medical use in 1998. Sales began in July 2014, and while the first years of adult-use legalization led to double digit YOY increases, as of 2019 sales have slowed to single digit increases for the first time in the state’s short history.


New Ranking: 11

Old Ranking: 11

Change: 0

Vermont legalized adult use in 2018, and is slowly moving towards a regulated industry and retail sales, but not quite as quickly as other states who have embraced legalization more comprehensively. With the passage of SB 25, Vermont enacted a tax-and-regulate system, with retail sales set to begin in 2022. Further, SB 25 has a social equity provision that benefits small businesses and minority owned business.


New Ranking: 12

Old Ranking: 9

Change: -3

In 2014, Alaska legalized the adult-use of cannabis through a successful ballot measure, making it the third state in the nation (behind Colorado and Washington) to legalize adult-use. The state also permits businesses to possess, grow, process, transport, or transfer to another person 21 and over up to 6 marijuana plants.

New York

New Ranking: 13

Old Ranking: 17

Change: +4

New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014. As for adult-use, on March 31, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed 2021 NY S.B. 854, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). MRTA legalized and regulates adult-use of marijuana.

New Jersey

New Ranking: 14

Old Ranking: 16

Change: +2

On February 22, 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy signed three cannabis-related bills into law. The three bills—A21, A1897, and S3454—implemented a 2020 constitutional amendment that legalized recreational marijuana. The 2020 Marijuana Legalization Amendment legalizes possession of up to six ounces of marijuana or seventeen grams of hashish. Medical marijuana taxes are being phased out, with a goal of 0% tax after July 1, 2022.


New Ranking: 15

Old Ranking: 19

Change: +4

On June 22, 2021, Governor Lamont signed An Act Concerning the Equitable and Responsible Regulation of Cannabis. The Act legalized the possession of adult-use marijuana as of July 1. Though possession of adult-use marijuana is legal, its sale is not expected to begin until mid to late 2022.

District of Columbia

New Ranking: 16

Old Ranking: 14

Change: -2

The future of cannabis law in D.C. is dependent on the U.S. Congress. Even though D.C. voters approved the taxation and regulation of marijuana transactions for adult-use in 2014, Congress shot down the effort. In February 2021, Mayor Bowser introduced the Safe Cannabis Sales Act, which if passed by the end of 2021, could allow for the sale of adult-use cannabis by October 2022.


New Ranking: 17

Old Ranking: 41

Change: +24

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