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A Brooklyn federal judge said he will no longer re-imprison people for smoking marijuana. Photo: Shutterstock2/9
A Brooklyn federal judge said he will no longer re-imprison people for smoking marijuana. Photo: Shutterstock
Once upon a time it seemed like a pipe dream that marijuana would be recreationally legal in the United States. Colorado and Washington voters were the first, making it legal to get high without a prescription in 2012. Following the 2014 and 2016 elections, cannabis reached a new high, becoming legal in six more states — Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Oregon — and Washington, D.C.
For the most part, these states are enjoying more tax revenue and a new tourism stream, but before you take a pot holiday, we've got a rundown for you on how each state differs in its laws.
The very first state to sell legal recreational marijuana (on Jan. 1, 2014) accumulated more than $70 million in tax revenue in its first year — and already expanded its laws. So not only can anyone in Colorado buy pot; as of last November, voters approved a measure letting businesses create cannabis “consumption areas.” The new law means locals and tourists will be allowed smoke in designated areas once the state sorts out some of the legal stipulations. For now, tourists over the age of 21 can buy up to a quarter-ounce of weed (residents can buy a full ounce) and smoke in private areas such as homes, social clubs, “420-friendly” hotels or by riding in a cannabis tour bus.
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Since July 2014, the Evergreen State has allowed recreational cannabis sales up to an ounce to locals and tourists alike (aged 21 and up). For non-smokable forms, you can buy up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles or 72 ounces of beverages. It’s only legal to smoke in private areas, and you could face a small fine if you’re caught smoking on the street. There aren’t as many dispensaries in Washington due to its permitting system, but that hasn’t kept the state from raking in more than $1 billion in non-medical pot sales since the law went into effect.
Alaskans and tourists have legally lit up since February 2015, though its first retail dispensary, Herbal Outfitters in Valdez, only opened its doors last October. Now adults 21 and up can buy as much as an ounce for recreational use. And not that it would matter much to a tourist, but unlike Washington and Oregon, in Alaska and most other fully green states, you can cultivate pot plants even if it’s not for medical use.
The first state to legalize medical marijuana back in 1996 didn’t join the recreational-use party until the 2016 election. And tourists there will have to wait until after January 1, 2018 to actually buy it, when the government begins issuing the first retail licenses. Until then, only Californians with medical-use permits can legally acquire cannabis to smoke, eat, or drink—but they can “gift” it, as long as it’s not more than an ounce. Like in all states, smoking is only permitted in private areas, and driving under the influence comes with steep penalties.
When voters approved recreational cannabis in 2016, Maine legislators seemed to have been caught somewhat off-guard. Not surprising, since the measure eked in with just over 50 percent of the vote (though medical pot has been legal since 1999). The new recreational law allows individual possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, which is more than double the limit in most states. While possession and consumption by adults is legal, licensed dispensaries likely won’t open doors until well into 2018. So New England tourists seeking a greener vacation in the Pine Tree State may prefer to wait until local officials iron out its regulatory fine print.
For the rest of the guide to getting high in America, including the newest addition, Nevada, visitFodor's.