Apr 15, 2016 8:15 AM

Medical and Recreational Weed States, Today and Tomorrow

Marijuana supporters are looking towards next November with great anticipation: the 2016 presidential election results stand a chance to make some big changes on the issue of cannabis legalization. The list of medical and recreational weed states could significantly expand.

The District of Columbia, as well as four states, have legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, many have decriminalized recreational weed, and several more have approved the use of medical marijuana. As legal retail sales began, the first marijuana markets in the United States started to open. According to the national polls, support for recreational use reached a record-high level of 58 percent. But all the advancement of 2015 were just a warm-up before 2016, which is expected to be the year to reform marijuana laws.

As of April 2016, there are 23 states that have already legalized some form of recreational and medical cannabis. The majority of them allow the use of cannabis only for medicinal purposes. However, recreational marijuana use is fully legal in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia. In addition, 14 states have decriminalized a certain amount of cannabis possession.


In November 2015, it became the first among three states to legalize recreational cannabis.

In Alaska, adults 21 and older can legally transport, possess, grow, and buy up to an ounce (28.3 grams) of cannabis and up to six plants. The second phase—creating a regulated and taxed cannabis market—will start next May. Until then, businesses will not be licensed, so it is still illegal to buy marijuana. The next phase is possible thanks to a voter initiative aimed at ending a 40-year period of conflicting court rulings and laws. However, the initiative is not ideal either. For example, a bizarre rule that marijuana extracts should have a limit of 76 percent of THC is explained by the fact that the requirement of the alcohol limit in the state is 76 percent. It is not quite clear why local lawmakers think that cannabis and alcohol are the same substance and should be regulated similarly. Another point of contention is the cannabinoid serving size of 5 mg for a recreational edible: depending on the need, a patient consumes between 25-2000 mg of THC per day, meaning that in order to be satisfied, they have to consume a bigger portion of an edible to get the dose that they need.

While possession is no longer a crime in the state, consuming weed in public can result in a $100 fine.


Colorado was the first state in the country to open recreational marijuana stores, but fortunately, not the only one.

The state began allowing the sale of recreational cannabis on Jan. 1, 2014, after 55 percent of voters said “yes” to legalizing. Anyone age 21 and older can buy marijuana like alcohol with the only difference that the purchase at a licensed store is limited to an ounce. People outside Colorado are able to buy a quarter of an ounce (7 grams).

A driver in Colorado can be ticketed for impaired driving if the amount of THC in their blood exceeds 5 nanograms. That means that non-regular users can feel free to get into the vehicle 3-4 hours after consuming weed.

Medical cannabis in Colorado still requires a physician's recommendation, and the dispensaries are separated outlets from the recreational weed retailers.

Amendment 64 does not permit the use of cannabis “openly and publicly,” although there are certain “private” cannabis clubs in Colorado where you can buy a daily membership and enjoy your pot inside.


Oregon's recreational cannabis industry hit a milestone on Jan. 4, 2016. The state accepted business license application called Measure 91.

Oregon does not plan to approve any of the retail store application until October. According to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), its priority so far is licensing outdoor growers. The state also plans to legalize labs, processors, and retailers.

While recreational marijuana shops are still closed, licensed dispensaries are selling recreational marijuana products, but they can do so until Jan. 1, 2017. After that, all recreational sales will take place at OLCC-licensed retail stores.

You can buy up to a quarter of an ounce of dried flowers and leaf, an unlimited number of seeds, and up to four immature plants. Under Oregon law, you do not need to be a resident of the state to buy recreational marijuana legally, it is enough just to prove your age.


The first legal recreational weed store opened for business in Washington, in July 2014, making the state the second one in the nation to allow cannabis for recreational purposes.

Like in other states, only those 21 and older are able to purchase an ounce of weed at the retail shops licensed by the state. Internet sales and delivery are not allowed. It is also illegal to consume marijuana in public places, and those caught will be given a $27 ticket.

District of Columbia

Since February 2015, residents of the District have been able to possess up to two ounces of pot, privately use, and grow at home up to six cannabis plants.

The partial legalization ballot measure known as Initiative 71 was approved in November 2014; it legalized possession and personal cultivation. At the same time, it did not allow recreational marijuana sales. Therefore, buying and selling cannabis remain illegal.

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