Select your state

Criminal charges


Marijuana—also known as marihuana or cannabis—is classified as a controlled substance under federal law, and its possession, use, and distribution is illegal. See 21 U.S.C. §812.

But many states have recently passed laws that generally legalize marijuana in some form. For example, Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have enacted laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

The District of Columbia allows all citizens over the age of 21 to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, to use and grow marijuana on private property, and to exchange marijuana between persons as long as no money, goods, or services are exchanged.

And some states that do not allow recreational use of marijuana do allow limited use of marijuana to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions—known as medical marijuana. States that allow limited use of medical marijuana include Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia. The medical marijuana laws in some of these states are broader than others, with some states only allowing use of cannabis-infused products such as oils and pills. Federal law prohibits health care practitioners from writing a prescription for medical marijuana, so practitioners in medical marijuana states write a recommendation for medical marijuana.

Other states have not legalized marijuana, but have decriminalized it—meaning possession of small amounts of marijuana is not punishable by jail or prison time, but may be punished with a fine. States that have decriminalized possession of marijuana under limited circumstances include Connecticut, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Marijuana laws are generally located in a state’s statutes—often in the penal or criminal code, or in the health and safety code.

In Texas, marijuana is classified as a controlled substance and its possession, use, and distribution remain illegal under both federal and state law. Texas has not legalized marijuana for recreational use, unlike states such as California, Colorado, and Washington. However, Texas has enacted a limited medical marijuana program under the Compassionate Use Act, which allows patients with certain qualifying conditions to obtain low-THC cannabis (not exceeding 0.5% THC) for medical purposes. This program is much more restrictive compared to other states' medical marijuana programs and does not allow the use of higher-THC marijuana. Additionally, Texas has taken steps toward decriminalization in some jurisdictions, where possession of small amounts of marijuana may result in a fine rather than jail time, but this is not consistent across the state and does not equate to statewide decriminalization. It's important to note that despite any state laws, federal law continues to prohibit marijuana use and possession.

Legal articles related to this topic

Navigating the Green Maze: A Look at the Patchwork of Cannabis Laws in the US
From its complete prohibition in the early 20th century to a recent wave of legalizations across many states, cannabis law has become a complex patchwork of regulations that vary dramatically from one jurisdiction to the next.