Are you a cannabis enthusiast who’s traveling through the U.S.? Do you want to learn the ropes of the marijuana industry? Is your goal to build a career in this budding sector?

If your objectives align with any of these questions, it’s essential that you learn about the nuances of using medical and recreational cannabis in different states of the country. This not only helps you make your travel plans as a marijuana consumer, but also lets you craft a career path that goes in line with your long-term goals. You may see more here to learn about these opportunities and what they bring to the table.

To help you obtain this information in a swift yet detailed manner, here’s a quick guide to different marijuana laws by state.

The Marijuana Laws by State Are Divided by Medical and Recreational Use


Before you learn about the legality of cannabis use in different states, it’s essential to keep in mind that it’s mainly divided into two categories. These segments include medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.

What You Need to Know About Medical Marijuana

In states where marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes only, you cannot obtain either the bud or its associated products for recreational use. In such regions, you need a physician’s recommendation to purchase cannabis. In certain areas, you may also need a medical marijuana card to access a cannabis dispensary.

A licensed physician can write the required recommendations for you. However, only patients with certain conditions can benefit from these policies. With that being said, these jurisdictions allow various cannabis-related organizations such as educational institutions to run their operations.

What You Need to Know About Recreational Marijuana

In states where recreational cannabis is legal, you don’t need any special permission from a physician or an authority to obtain marijuana. You can easily buy the flower and any other associated items such as edibles from a dispensary.

However, you do need to be at least 21 years of age. You also need to adhere to certain quantities of marijuana purchase and possession. Due to their marijuana-friendly laws, these states create a thriving environment for different types of cannabis businesses. This is especially true for dispensaries that are allowed to cater to a larger audience segment.

States That Allow Recreational Marijuana Also Permit Medical Marijuana

Another point to remember while learning about marijuana laws by state is how the jurisdictions that allow recreational marijuana also have medical marijuana programs. At the time of writing, this holds for all states with cannabis-friendly regulations.

Remembering this little distinction ensures that when referring to a state that permits the use of recreational marijuana, you can safely assume its stance towards medical cannabis use. This saves you from doing several back and forth checks while making general decisions regarding your travel plans or strategizing about your business.

Which States Have Legalized the Use of Marijuana?


At the time of writing, medical marijuana is legal in a total of 35 states and Washington D.C.

Out of this list, 20 states include those jurisdictions that only allow the usage of medical marijuana. However, this points out that recreational cannabis use could be well on its way for these states.

It’s because those states that currently allow recreational marijuana also started by only legalizing medical marijuana in their region.

California is a prime example in this regard. The Golden State holds the distinction of being the first state that legalized medical marijuana in the U.S. in 1996. It later followed up on that stance by allowing recreational marijuana use in 2016.

Until recently, other states also followed a similar pattern. But in 2024, South Dakota broke that norm by legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana at the same time.

States and Territories That Have Legalized Medical Marijuana


With that in mind, here’s a list of 20 states that offer a medical marijuana program to its residents without the legalization of recreational cannabis. Depending on the state in which you live, you’ll need to be registered as a medical patient. For those in Mississippi, Green Health Docs can help answer everything on how to get a medical MJ card in MS.

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

States and Territories That Have Legalized Recreational Marijuana


The following list comprises 15 states as well as Washington D.C. These jurisdictions allow the use of medical marijuana as well as recreational marijuana.

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Washington D.C.

In addition to allowing the purchase of recreational marijuana, some of these states also let you grow your cannabis plants without any special requirements. But the number of marijuana plants that you may grow by yourself varies upon each state. If you plan to grow your cannabis, it’s critical that you look into the specific permissions for your particular state.

It is also important to note that while many states allow you to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside your home, a few jurisdictions either decrease or increase this limit. Knowing these marijuana laws by state lets you enjoy your recreational cannabis without any worries.

Marijuana Laws Go Beyond the Consumption of Cannabis


While the legalization of marijuana mainly applies to the consumption aspect, it is not limited to the buying and selling of cannabis.

Marijuana-friendly states tend to attract new businesses and innovators who want to advance further in the sector. On the other hand, states that aren’t too keen on cannabis don’t hold the same level of interest for commercial entities or marijuana enthusiasts.

States such as California, Colorado, and even Florida are great examples of marijuana-friendly jurisdictions. Even though Florida only allows the use of medical marijuana, the Sunshine State’s marijuana-friendly policies allow medical dispensaries, researchers, and even educational institutions to operate freely on its lands.

Keeping this in mind, make sure that you look into the state’s specific rules and laws where you want to move or pursue your career opportunities. This lets you make an informed decision regarding your future plans, no matter if they pertain to business or leisure.