Marijuana Statistics: Where the Law Stands in 2024

Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. Federal law imposes criminal penalties for marijuana cultivation, use, and possession. But, most state governments have legalized cannabis in some form. 

Only four states deny residents all forms of marijuana use (Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, and South Carolina). Other states allow for marijuana for medical or recreational use.

Marijuana use for medical purposes is legal in 38 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.). Marijuana use for recreational purposes is legal in 24 states and Washington, D.C. An additional seven states have decriminalized marijuana.

In states that allow it, the cannabis industry involves a range of legal topics, including criminal lawbusiness and tax law, state and federal law, FDA cannabis regulations, mental health, and more.

This article covers interesting statistics about both the recreational use of cannabis and medical cannabis in the United States. To stay on the legal side of marijuana use, always check your state and local laws and regulations regarding the sale and use of cannabis, cannabinoids (CBD), and edibles.

Criminal Law and Marijuana

States continue to debate the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana, along with the decriminalization of marijuana.

The following information was gathered from state laws, national consulting firms used by lawmakers, and the National Conference of State Legislatures:

Both recreational marijuana for personal use and medical marijuana are legal in the following states:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • D.C.
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

While we strive to provide the most current information available, state laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), and ballot initiatives. It's best to consult an attorney in your area if you have questions about marijuana laws in your state.

Federal Initiatives on Marijuana Use and Crimes

Does cannabis legalization in Washington, D.C., mean marijuana is legal on a federal level? Not necessarily. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. Currently, the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) makes marijuana a Schedule I drug and illegal to possess, distribute, or possess.

But, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevent and Control Act of 1970 reduced federal penalties for marijuana and decriminalization in the states. There is also a movement for the DEA to approve marijuana research facilities.

Marijuana as a Schedule I Drug

Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act, a federal law. This means the federal government does not approve any cannabis substance use, even medical use.

Under federal law, possession of a small amount of marijuana results in a misdemeanor. If it is a second offense, it can result in a felony. If caught selling under 50 kilograms of marijuana, you can face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 federal fine.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommended to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in August 2023 that cannabis be reclassified from Schedule I to Schedule III. A Schedule III substance is a substance that is “currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

If the DEA changes marijuana's classification, then possession, distribution, and use would be legal under federal law (the CSA). An in-depth look at the HHS' recommendation and effect on federal law can be found here.

Current Federal View on Marijuana

However, the federal government defers to each state to individually handle the penalties or fines for marijuana use. Absent legislation that could change at any time at the discretion of the Department of Justice.

One federal initiative does exist, called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), which would decriminalize marijuana and remove it as a Schedule I drug.

Pardon Initiative

In 2022, President Biden proclaimed states should not imprison individuals on simple marijuana charges alone. This was his view, but it did not mandate states to follow his proclamation. Remember, states are allowed to make their own marijuana laws and regulations.

That same year, President Biden proclaimed pardon availability for simple federal marijuana possession prior to October 2022. In December 2023, this proclamation was extended through 2026.

The pardon program also expanded to include potential pardons for charges before December 22, 2023, for:

  • Offenses under federal law for attempted possession of marijuana;
  • Additional offenses under the D.C. Code for simple marijuana possession; and
  • Violations of certain sections of the Code of Federal Regulations involving simple marijuana possession and use.

Individuals can apply for a certificate of pardon on a federal level using this form. The pardon does not apply to state-level offenses.

General Marijuana Use Statistics

Much debate surrounds the decriminalization of marijuana and the various methods employed by each state to protect minors from marijuana abuse. Some statistics around this issue are below.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) conducts annual surveys on drug use and can offer updated statistics on the use of marijuana.

Marijuana Sales and Economic Impact Statistics

The sale of marijuana or cannabis products continues to grow yearly. These statistics from Marijuana Business Daily help show the large impact the marijuana industry already has and where the economic trends might be heading:

  • Estimated $11.1 billion in medical marijuana sales in 2023
  • Estimated $22.5 billion in recreational marijuana sales in 2023
  • It is estimated there will be $36.8 billion in recreational marijuana sales by the end of 2026

California tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales reached over $1 billion in 2022.

Looking for Marijuana-Related Legal Help?

Marijuana legalization and the regulations surrounding it will continue to change and adapt. Knowing your state's specific laws and how to stay within the law helps you understand law enforcement and find legal dispensaries in your state.

When you need help, an attorney with a focus on marijuana-related crimes can be essential in protecting your right to use marijuana or reducing cannabis-related charges.

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DIY Forms for Cannabis Business

Restrictive federal laws and ever-changing state laws make the marijuana industry a dynamic environment for cannabis business owners. Before you open a cannabis business, make sure it is legal in your state, and follow your state laws. Once you decide on an LLC, S-corp, or C-corp business, you can register your business entity online using DIY business formation forms.

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