Marijuana use and approval are quickly spreading across the United States of America.

More and more people are beginning to accept the fact that this natural plant has many medicinal properties to offer us.

In regard to those who use cannabis for recreational purposes, it has been identified to be one of the least harmful drugs that people use. Despite the bad wrap that pot has gotten over the years, it is actually very useful in our society.

Because there are so many different laws regarding pot use in America, it can be hard to develop a firm grasp on the legal status of marijuana.

In this article, you are going to learn more about medical and recreational marijuana laws in the United States of America.


Federal Marijuana Laws

As far as the federal government is concerned, marijuana is still highly illegal. Under the Controlled Substance Act, marijuana is classified as a schedule 1 drug.

Schedule 1 drugs including heroin and ecstasy are said to have no medicinal value and have a high potential for abuse.

As most people now know, marijuana is not physically addicting and it has tons of medicinal value.

With that being said, why is it still classified as a schedule 1 drug? Pot officially became a schedule 1 drug in the 1970s when President Nixon established his new anti-drug organization known as the DEA and placed cannabis on the top of the list.

Of course, there was very little scientific data backing up the negative claims made against cannabis.

Yet, it was clear that Nixon was very against pot use and wanted to make it as illegal as he possibly could.

The reason that marijuana is still likened to heroin and other hard drugs is not that the government still thinks it is highly dangerous, but because the laws are very difficult to change.


State Marijuana Laws

Thankfully, our government is run in a way that states are allowed to create and enforce their own laws.

After years of pushing the legality of the pot, some states were lucky enough to legalize it either partly or as a whole.

While each state has its own individual set of laws regarding pot use, there are generally two different types of legalization which are medical and recreational.

Medical marijuana means that only patients suffering from certain diseases or illnesses can have access to pot and use it without consequence.

Recreational legality allows everyone 21 and over to consume pot as they wish and it is treated similarly to alcohol.

Some states have both, some have one, and some have not legalized either. Moving on, let’s discuss a little bit more about medical and recreational legalization.


Medical Marijuana

As you now know, medical marijuana refers to a legal pot for people suffering from serious debilitating illnesses.

Some common illnesses that earn people the right to medical marijuana are cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, AIDS, and Alzheimer’s.

Some states are more strict than others and make it harder for patients to have legal access to this medicine.

For specific state qualifications on getting medical pot, see

Currently, there are 30 along with Washington, DC that allows medicinal marijuana. They are:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia


Oklahoma is the most recent state to pass a set of laws regarding medical marijuana. According to, voters said yes to medical marijuana by a 57% to 43% margin back in June, making them the 30th state to pass such laws.

State elections will continue to take place, opening more and more people to the world of medical pot.


Recreational Marijuana

Recreational marijuana is different from medical marijuana in the sense that anyone can use it for fun as long as they are of age.

States that have legalized recreational marijuana have seen the potential to earn tax dollars and possibly decrease the number of people who use harder drugs.

With that being said, there are currently 9 states along with Washington, DC who have legalized pot for everyone aged 21 and over. Those states are:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Most of these states allow for up to an ounce of marijuana in possession at one time. However, each state has its own individual set of rules regarding recreational weed and some are very different.

For more information regarding recreational weed laws in each state in the U.S., click here.