Special Report

The Next States to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

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11. North Dakota
> 18 and over population: 585,356
> Annual marijuana use — 18 and older: 12.5% — 8th lowest
> State and local tax collections per capita, 2018: $7,611 — 2nd highest

North Dakota allows medical marijuana for qualifying conditions and has decriminalized small amounts of cannabis. Possession of less than 0.5 ounces results in no jail time and a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense. Ingesting marijuana is considered a Class B misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,500 and incarceration of up to 30 days.

A bill passed in 2021 in the state House of Representatives would have permitted adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to 1 ounce of cannabis for personal use, but home cultivation would be prohibited. The bill failed in the State Senate. Proponents are now attempting to get an amendment to legalize recreational marijuana use on the ballot in 2022, although a similar push was rejected by voters in 2018.

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12. Ohio
> 18 and over population: 9,114,253
> Annual marijuana use — 18 and older: 15.9% — 23rd highest
> State and local tax collections per capita, 2018: $4,640 — 17th lowest

Medical marijana was legalized in Ohio in 2016. Yet a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis use is currently winding its way through the legislative process in the state. In August, the state’s attorney general approved the language in a petition to legalize marijuana use and sales in Ohio. It would make it legal for adults age 21 or older to buy and possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana or grow up to six plants in their homes.

The petition will be reviewed by the Ohio Ballot Board. If approved by the board, the measure must get 133,000 valid signatures before it’s submitted to the Legislature to act on the proposed law. The proposal could also be placed on a ballot initiative if the Legislature doesn’t act.

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13. Rhode Island
> 18 and over population: 855,786
> Annual marijuana use — 18 and older: 23.4% — 8th highest
> State and local tax collections per capita, 2018: $5,789 — 12th highest

Rhode Island approved cannabis for medical purposes in 2006. The State Speaker of the House Joe Shekarchi (D) has told Public’s Radio legislators are coming with “workable” solutions to possibly legalize cannabis that could be debated during a special session. Recently, lawmakers from both the Senate and the House unveiled a bill that would legalize marijuana and create licensed businesses that would produce and sell cannabis to adults 21 and older. They can possess no more than an ounce.

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14. South Dakota
> 18 and over population: 669,390
> Annual marijuana use — 18 and older: 10.9% — the lowest
> State and local tax collections per capita, 2018: $4,327 — 4th lowest

In 2020 voters approved a legislation legalizing cannabis, but the reform was struck down by the state Supreme Court after Gov. Kristi Noem challenged the recreational use amendment. Most recently, the South Dakota House rejected a bill to legalize marijuana. The House also rejected legislation to gut existing protections for patients using medical marijuana.

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15. Virginia
> 18 and over population: 6,677,914
> Annual marijuana use — 18 and older: 12.1% — 4th lowest
> State and local tax collections per capita, 2018: $4,994 — 20th lowest

Although Virginians 21 and older can legally possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis, the state currently has no retail outlets for purchase. As of now, residents would need a prescription for medical use and obtain cannabis from a medical dispensary. Advocates want to speed up the launch of retail sales before the scheduled 2024 start date.

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