What States Decriminalized Weed? Cannabis Laws Are Changing Across The US

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In a move that's becoming increasingly common across the country, New Mexico officially decriminalized marijuana this April. In light of this news, many Americans are probably wondering what states have decriminalized weed. As it turns out, 24 states nationwide have reduced criminal penalties for cannabis possession to some extent.

According to Business Insider, 10 states and Washington, D.C. have fully legalized marijuana, which means it's both decriminalized as well as legal to use recreationally. The places in which marijuana use is fully legal in the United States include:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington

A host of other states, including New Mexico, have also significantly reduced penalties for recreational weed use, but have not moved to full legalization. Instead, these states have decriminalized the possession of certain amounts of marijuana. Notably, as the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) described, in many of these states, individuals are fined and charged with a civil infraction if they are found in possession of a small amount of marijuana for the first time, but aren't arrested. The list of states that have some marijuana decriminalization laws in place is as follows:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico (beginning in July 2019)
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island

Of course, in addition to these states, there are also others in which residents can legally obtain marijuana for medicinal purposes, but not possess it for any other reason, the National Cannabis Industry Association noted. And then, in a host of other states, marijuana possession is completely illegal, regardless of its purpose, the organization indicated.

According to the MPP, states choose to decriminalize marijuana for a variety of reasons, including diminishing the amount of state resources used to pursue marijuana arrests and convictions. "Decriminalization laws avoid imposing harsh punishments for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol, while freeing up law enforcement to focus on serious crimes," the MPP wrote on its website.

Moreover, as Vox described, marijuana legalization and decriminalization vastly reduces the number of people who will spend time in prison for marijuana-related charges. As the outlet indicated, thousands of people are arrested in the United States for weed charges every year, and those arrested are disproportionately African American, despite the fact that white and black people use marijuana at roughly the same rate. So, as Vox explained, legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana can help reduce racially-driven arrests for marijuana usage.

Finally, for states that move to full legalization, marijuana can also be incredibly profitable. As Forbes noted, many states plan to use revenue from cannabis taxes to fund infrastructure projects, including road renovations and school construction. Additionally, states are hopeful that a growing cannabis industry could create more jobs and economic opportunity within their borders, the outlet reported. For example, Nick Kovacevich of Forbes noted that the University of Illinois found that "the [hypothetical] taxation and regulation of cannabis [in Illinois] could create nearly 24,000 new jobs and generate over $500 million in new revenue for that state."

As New Mexico's recent move toward decriminalization indicates, it's clear that many states are taking serious steps to change the way that they approach cannabis use. And as new marijuana laws continue to be implemented, it will be interesting to see whether more states follow suit and further loosen marijuana regulations around the country.