Medical Marijuana

Andrew Finzen
Research Analyst

Natalie Nelson
Principal Research Analyst


Medical marijuana use is legal under state law in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Recreational use of marijuana is legal under state law in 18 states and the District of Columbia. [Note: Marijuana use of any kind is illegal under federal law.]

In recent years, several bills were introduced to legalize medical or recreational marijuana use in Kansas. Legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in Kansas received a floor vote for the first time in 2021, as House Sub. for SB 158 passed out of the Kansas House.

Marijuana laws by state

Marijuana Legalization in Other States

Medical Use. Laws in the 36 states, and the District of Columbia, that legalize medical marijuana and cannabis programs provide the following criteria: protection from criminal penalties for using marijuana for a medical purpose; access to marijuana through home cultivation, dispensaries, or some other system that is likely to be implemented; allowance for a variety of strains; and allowance for either smoking or vaporization of marijuana products, plant material, or extract.

Another 11 states allow the use of low-THC, high-cannabidiol products for specific medical conditions, or provide a legal defense for their possession. The following six states have recently enacted comprehensive medical marijuana laws after previously legalizing low- THC products: Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia.

Recreational Use. As of June 2021, the following 18 states, and the District of Columbia, have legalized the recreational use of marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Of those, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Vermont, and Virginia legalized recreational use of marijuana through the legislative process, while the remaining states used a ballot initiative. A South Dakota ballot initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana was ruled unconstitutional by a Circuit Judge and is pending appeal.

Medical Marijuana Licenses and Fees

While fee structures vary by state, fees and licensure can be required of distributors, dispensaries, patients, caregivers, laboratories, and processors. Marijuana application and licensing fees can vary by state, and are set by statute or regulation, often including caps or guidance in the statutes. For a regional review of medical marijuana licenses and fees in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma, see the following table.

Marijuana licenses and fees by state