Which States Legalized Marijuana in 2016? | Center on Addiction

Which States Legalized Marijuana in 2016?

Which States Legalized Marijuana in 2016?


2016 was a year of change for addiction policy in the U.S., and this was especially true for marijuana regulations. In this “tipping point” year, medical marijuana became legal in over half of the states. And, there are now a total of eight states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

This means that in certain states, adults aged 21 and older can purchase and consume marijuana solely for enjoyment purposes. This shift in policy and the increasing public  acceptance of marijuana use will likely increase the number of people who use marijuana and become addicted to it. As a result, the impact could be detrimental on America’s health care system and especially the health and development of young people. The health care system is not prepared to handle an increase in patient demand for treatment because it does not have the resources to treat everyone who currently needs care. And this is an especially serious concern because marijuana is the number one problem of adolescents in substance abuse treatment and there is a terrible shortage of effective treatment programs for youth.

No matter what regulations are put in place around minimal purchase age, the legalization of marijuana will increase access to and use among adolescents. Many people are unaware that marijuana is an addictive drug that can interfere with brain development and exacerbate mental health conditions. The drug is especially harmful to the developing brain.

We have summarized the legislative details for states that have now legalized recreational marijuana. If you live in one of these states and are concerned about the impact on your children – here is a resource that can help you talk to your kids about the drug.


  • Alaska passed Measure 2, which established a way to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
  • Adults aged 21 and older can possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six cannabis plants for personal use.


  • California passed Proposition 64, which legalized the sale and distribution of marijuana by individuals and commercial businesses. However, licenses are not likely to be issued for cultivation and business establishment until 2018. Currently, it is now legal for adults aged 21 and older to possess marijuana and grow it at home.
  • California was the first state to approve medical marijuana in 1996 and has among the most liberal policies, leading many to consider the state as having de facto approved recreational use for many years.


  • The first state to legalize marijuana under Amendment 64 was Colorado. On November 6, 2012, the state legalized the sale and possession of marijuana for recreational use. The law also allows business owners to open a medical or retail marijuana dispensary.


  • Voters in Maine passed a referendum to legalize marijuana for people aged 21 and older, allowing adults to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana.
  • Eventually, it will also be legal to buy and sell marijuana in the state, but lawmakers must first create a regulatory system.


  • Although the residents of Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana use, Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed a bill aimed at delaying the opening of marijuana shops until mid-2018. The bill signed by the governor does not change the ballot initiative, which allows adults aged 21 and older to possess and use limited amounts of marijuana and grow as many as a dozen marijuana plants in their homes. However, it will most likely push back the timetable for the opening of retail marijuana stores.


  • Effective January 1, 2017, Nevada made provisions for the sale of marijuana to adults aged 21 and older by retail stores, product manufacturers, cultivators, testing facilities, and distributors.


  • Under the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, marijuana dispensaries, retail stores, cultivators, and manufacturing businesses can operate legally within the state for sale to adults aged 21 and older


  • Marijuana was legalized by Washington Initiative 502, requiring state licenses for all sellers, distributors, cultivators, and producers of marijuana sale of marijuana to adults aged 21 and older.

You can learn more about Center on Addiction’s position on marijuana legalization in our position statement



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