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Alabama cannabis legalization


Prohibition (1931)

Cannabis was banned in Alabama in 1931.[2]

Carly’s Law for CBD trials (2014)

In April 2014, Governor Robert Bentley signed Carly’s Law, which permits the University of Alabama at Birmingham to provide non-psychoactive CBD oil to children with debilitating seizures as a clinical study.[3] The legislation provided an affirmative defense for individuals or their caregivers to possess CBD oil of up to 3% THC.[4]

Leni’s Law to expand CBD allowance (2016)

Leni’s Law was signed into law by Governor Bentley on May 4, 2016.[5] It expanded the affirmative defense allowed under Carly’s Law to include any individual who has a debilitating disease or condition involving seizures.[4] As with Carly’s Law, the THC content was not allowed to exceed 3%.[4]

Failed attempts to legalize medical marijuana

In 2012, Representative Koven Brown, a Republican representing the state’s 40th House District,[6][7] introduced model legislation as “The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act,” which would “authorize the medical use of marijuana only for certain qualifying patients who have been diagnosed by a physician as having a serious medical condition.”[8] In part, it enumerated 24 serious medical conditions, or any other “chronic or persistent medical symptom” that “substantially limits the ability of the person to conduct one or more major life activities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336)” which “if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the patient’s safety or physical or mental health.”[8][9] The bill died in committee. Three years later, it was reintroduced with minor changes in the State Senate as SB326 and sponsored by State Senator Bobby Singleton.[10][11]

In 2015 state Senator Bobby Singleton proposed the Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act, which would have allowed patients with 25 severe conditions to access medical cannabis. The bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with near-unanimous approval, but failed to reach the Senate floor.[12] Senator Jabo Waggoner, head of the Senate Rules Committee, blocked the bills further progress, stating: “It is bad legislation… We don’t need that in Alabama.” High Times described the proposed bill as “the most impressive piece of legislation the South has seen in regards to establishing a statewide medical marijuana program”.[13]

Attempts to reduce penalties for non-medical use

In 2019, a bill by Bobby Singleton to reduce cannabis penalties advanced in the state senate. It would have eliminated the felony charge for a second personal use possession offense, saying instead that a person commits first-degree possession when they have two ounces (57 g) or more, and that first-degree possession is not a felony until the third conviction. Also, second-degree possession would have been reduced from a misdemeanor to a violation.[14]

Also in 2019, a bill by Patricia Todd to reduce the penalty for possession was voted down in the House Judiciary Committee. Her bill would have made possession of 1 ounce (28 g) or less punishable only as a violation. A nearly identical bill by Dick Brewbaker advanced in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 6-4 vote and moved to the Senate floor.[15]

Medical use legalized (2021)

On May 17, 2021, Governor Kay Ivey signed into law Senate Bill 46, the Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act.[16][17] The bill allows the use of cannabis with a physician’s recommendation for treatment of approximately 15 qualifying conditions listed in the bill.[18] Patients can only use cannabis if a physician certifies that traditional medications have failed to improve the patient’s condition.[19] No sale of raw plant materials of food products such as cookies or candies are allowed.[18] A 9% tax on gross sales of medical cannabis products is also required.[18]

Senate Bill 46 passed the Senate on February 24, 2021, by a vote of 21–8,[20] then passed the House on May 6, 2021, by a vote of 68–34,[21] after Republican lawmakers staged a filibuster for nine hours on the House floor.[22] The Senate then voted 20–9 to approve changes that were made by the House.[23] The bill was sponsored by Tim Melson (R-Florence) in the Senate and Mike Ball (R-Madison) in the House.[16]

Gonzalez v. Raich amicus

Despite not allowing medical cannabis, on October 13, 2004, Alabama along with Mississippi and Louisiana filed an amicus brief protesting Gonzalez v. Raich, with Alabama stating: “The point is that, as a sovereign member of the federal union, California is entitled to make for itself the tough policy choices that affect its citizens.”[24]

Legal code

Under Alabama Code, first-time “personal use” offenders can be charged with Possession in the Second Degree, § 13A-12-214. That offense is classified as a misdemeanor, and the maximum penalty authorized is a 1-year jail term (although it can be suspended with probation ordered) and a $6,000 fine.

Possession in the First Degree, § 13A-12-213, is charged for non-“personal use” (i.e. intent to sell) and second and subsequent “personal use” offenses. This charge is a Class C felony punishable with imprisonment of 1-to-10 years (there is a mandatory minimum of 1-year-and-1-day to serve which cannot be suspended by the judge) and $15,000 fine.[25]

Sale of any amount is a Class B felony punishable with a 2- to 20-year sentence (with the 2 years being a mandatory minimum) and maximum $30,000 fine. Sale to a minor is punishable by a sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $60,000.[1]

As Alabama is a “Smoke a joint, lose your license” state,[26] any conviction for a cannabis offense is punished with a mandatory six month driver’s license suspension.[1]


Alaska cannabis legalization

Cannabis in Alaska is legal for recreational use since 2015. It was first legalized by the court ruling Ravin v. State in 1975, but later recriminalized by Measure 2 in 1990. Ballot measures in 2000 and 2004 attempted (but failed) to legalize recreational use, until finally Measure 2 in 2014 passed with 53.2% of the vote. Medical use was legalized by way of Measure 8 in 1998.[1]


Decriminalization (1975)

On May 16, 1975, Alaska became the second state in the U.S. to decriminalize cannabis. The law imposed a $100 fine (equivalent to $500 in 2021) for persons possessing cannabis, and became law without the governor’s signature. It passed just a week before the Ravin ruling.[2]

Ravin v. State (1975)

Ravin v. State was a 1975 decision by the Alaska Supreme Court that held the Alaska Constitution‘s right to privacy protects an adult’s ability to use and possess a small amount of marijuana in the home for personal use.[3] The Alaska Supreme Court thereby became the first – and only – U.S. state or federal court to announce a constitutional right to privacy that protects some level of marijuana use and possession.[3]

Decriminalization (1982)

In 1982, following the Ravin decision, the state legislature decriminalized possession of up to four ounces (110 g) of cannabis in the home, or one ounce (28 g) outside the home.[4]

Recriminalization (1990)

Cured, trimmed Alaska-grown cannabis flower.

In 1990, Measure 2 to recriminalize cannabis passed with 54.3% of the vote. The measure imposed a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1000 for simple possession.[5]

Medical legalization (1998)

In 1998, Measure 8 to legalize the medical use of cannabis passed with 58.7% of the vote.[6] The measure allowed patients with a doctor’s recommendation to possess up to one ounce (28 g) of cannabis or grow six plants.[1]

Failed recreational legalization (2000)

In 2000, Measure 5 to legalize the recreational use of cannabis failed with 40.9% of the vote.[7]

Recriminalization struck down (2003)

Noy v. State is a case decided by the Alaska Court of Appeals in 2003. David S. Noy was convicted of possessing less than eight ounces (230 g) of marijuana by a jury. However, in 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court had ruled in Ravin v. State that possessing less than four ounces (110 g) of marijuana in one’s home is protected by the Alaska Constitution‘s privacy clause. The amount possessed being over four ounces was highly in question on appeal. Thus, the Court of Appeals overturned Noy’s conviction and struck down the part of the law that criminalized possession of less than four ounces of marijuana.[8]

Failed recreational legalization (2004)

In 2004, Measure 2 to legalize the recreational use of cannabis failed with 44.3% of the vote.[9]

Recriminalization (2006)

The state legislature passed a new law making possession of under one ounce (28 g) a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. Possession of one to four ounces (28–113 g) was made a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Possession of over 4 ounces (110 g) was made a felony. The measure was pushed by Governor Frank Murkowski.[10]

Recreational legalization (2014)

Alaska-made cannabis concentrate

In 2014, Measure 2 to legalize the recreational use of cannabis passed with 53.2% of the vote.[11] The measure allows adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce (28 g) of cannabis and cultivate six plants, effective February 24, 2015.[12] It also allows the sale of cannabis at state-licensed dispensaries, the first of which opened on October 29, 2016.[13] The passage of Measure 2 made Alaska the third state to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana, preceded by Colorado and Washington in 2012.


Portion of the vendor area at the High Times Alaska Cup cannabis festival and competition outside of Wasilla in 2018

The state of Alaska collected its first full month of cannabis tax proceeds in November 2016, raising $80,000 for the state. Cannabis buds are taxed at $50/oz and stems and leaves are taxed at $15/oz.[14] The state reported fiscal year 2017 marijuana tax revenue of $1,745,767 (cultivators only – not retail).[15] In December 2016 and January 2017, widespread supply shortages were reported, causing many cannabis shops to temporarily cease operations until inventory was restored.[16] In January 2017, Anchorage Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar proposed legislation banning cannabis stores from advertising discounts to active-duty military, who are prohibited by federal policy from consuming cannabis.[17]

In 2020, the cannabis industry was hit by a decline in tourist traffic. Tourists make up nearly 20% of the state’s wholesale cannabis market during the summer months, according to an interview with Brandon Emmett, chief operating officer of Alaska-based cannabis brand Good Titrations. He also added that it was not disastrous for the owners of the cannabis business, but they felt it.[18]


Arizona cannabis legalization

Cannabis in Arizona is legal for recreational use. A 2020 initiative to legalize recreational use (Proposition 207, the Smart and Safe Act) passed with 60% of the vote. Possession and cultivation of recreational cannabis became legal on November 30, 2020, with the first state-licensed sales occurring on January 22, 2021.

Medical use was legalized in 2010 through the passage of Proposition 203 (approved with 50.1% of the vote), with the first licensed sales occurring in December 2012.


Prohibition (1900s)

A newspaper from 1920 showed that when a Mexican immigrant possessed marijuana, they were found guilty but were only fined for using it.[1] Other sources contradict this idea, as one newspaper in 1926 wrote that a Mexican immigrant received jail time for use of the drug.[2] Due to the War on Drugs, as well as archival issues, it is much more difficult to find credible sources on the history of cannabis prohibition in Arizona.

Medical use

Proposition 200 (1996)

In 1996, 65% of Arizona voters approved Proposition 200 (the “Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act”), a drug policy reform initiative that contained a provision allowing physicians to prescribe cannabis.[3] The medical use provision was then essentially repealed by state legislators a few months later,[4] but the change was rejected by voters in a 1998 veto referendum (Proposition 300).[5] Ultimately the medical use provision was ineffective, however, due to language that created significant conflict with federal law (use of the word “prescribe” instead of “recommend”).[6]

Former U.S. Senator and Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater was among the supporters of the initiative,[7] serving as honorary chairman of the Proposition 200 campaign.[8] The main sponsor in support of the initiative was University of Phoenix founder John Sperling.[7]

Proposition 203 (2002)

In November 2002, Proposition 203, a medical cannabis initiative that also sought to decriminalize recreational use, failed with 42.7% of the vote.[9] Included in the initiative were requirements to: (a) allow patients to possess up to two ounces (57 g) of cannabis and grow 2 plants; (b) establish a state-run system for the distribution of medical cannabis to patients; (c) decriminalize up to 2 ounces (57 g) of cannabis for any use (punishable by a $250 fine); and (d) enact new sentencing reforms for non-violent drug offenses (expanding upon the 1996 reforms).[10][11][12] Proposition 203 was opposed by the state’s law enforcement community, both major party gubernatorial candidates (Democrat Janet Napolitano and Republican Matt Salmon), and drug czar John P. Walters who traveled to the state to campaign against the initiative.[11]

Proposition 203 (2010)

Main article: 2010 Arizona Proposition 203

In November 2010, Proposition 203, an initiative seeking to legalize the medical use of cannabis, was approved with 50.1% of the vote.[13] The initiative allowed patients with a doctor’s recommendation to possess up to 2+12 ounces (71 g) of cannabis for treatment of certain qualifying conditions.[14][15] It limited the number of dispensaries to 124 and specified that only patients who reside more than 25 miles (40 km) from a dispensary could cultivate their own cannabis.[14][16] Proposition 203 was approved despite opposition from Governor Jan Brewer, Attorney General Terry Goddard, all of the state’s sheriffs and county prosecutors, and many other state politicians.[16][17]

In May 2011, Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne filed a lawsuit in federal court questioning some of the initiative’s provisions.[18] The lawsuit sought a ruling on whether state employees involved in implementing certain provisions were subject to federal prosecution.[19][20] Citing this uncertainty, the state also announced that it would suspend the issuance of licenses for medical cannabis dispensaries.[21] The lawsuit was dismissed in January 2012; a federal judge found that the issue was not ripe as there was no indication that the federal government would prosecute Arizona officials for implementing the act.[22] Brewer subsequently lifted the moratorium, allowing state officials to begin implementing the initiative.[23][24] The first licensed dispensary opened to the public on December 6, 2012.[25][26]

In May 2012, Brewer signed legislation that made illegal the possession of medical cannabis on college campuses.[27] The Arizona Supreme Court ruled in May 2018 that the law was unconstitutional, however.[28][29]

Recreational use

Proposition 205 (2016)

In November 2016, Proposition 205, an initiative to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, failed with 48.7% of the vote.[30] The initiative would have allowed adults to possess up to one ounce (28 g) of cannabis and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.[31] It also required the establishment of a system for the commercial distribution and taxation of cannabis, with excess tax revenues (after paying for the program’s expenses) dedicated to funding public schools and substance abuse programs.[31]

The campaign to defeat Proposition 205 raised more than $6 million,[32] aided significantly by the fundraising efforts of Gov. Doug Ducey.[33] Among the largest contributors to the opposition campaign were Discount Tire ($1,000,000), Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry ($918,000), Sheldon Adelson ($500,000), and Insys Therapeutics ($500,000).[34] The top contributors in support of the initiative were Marijuana Policy Project ($1,715,000), Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps ($550,000), and Drug Policy Alliance ($350,000).[30]

Proposition 207 (2020)

Main article: 2020 Arizona Proposition 207

Recreational use of cannabis was legalized through the passage of Proposition 207 on November 3, 2020.[35][36] Organizing for the initiative began in August 2019 by the Arizona Dispensaries Association and Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.[37][38][39] The Arizona Dispensaries Association filed a ballot initiative application on September 26, 2019, for the “Smart and Safe Act”,[40] seeking to obtain the necessary 237,645 signatures from registered Arizona voters by the July 2, 2020 deadline.[41][42] The Smart and Safe Arizona campaign ultimately submitted more than 420,000 signatures to the Secretary of State‘s Office.[42][43] On August 11, 2020, the Secretary of State announced that the initiative had qualified for the November ballot as Proposition 207.[44]

The Smart and Safe Act legalized the adult recreational use of marijuana, specifically by allowing adults in Arizona to possess up to 1 ounce (28 g) of marijuana (with no more than 5 grams being marijuana concentrate), and by allowing each adult to have up to 6 marijuana plants at their home (with up to 12 marijuana plants in households with two or more adult members).[42] It directs the state Department of Health Services to set forth rules for retail marijuana sales by June 1, 2021, allows marijuana to be subject to state and local sales taxes like other retail items, and imposes an additional 16% excise tax on marijuana products. The revenue will be used to implement and enforce regulations related to the act; the remaining revenue is required to be split between community colleges (33%), police and fire departments (31.4%), the state highway fund (25.4%), a justice reinvestment fund (10%), and the state attorney general for enforcement (0.2%).[45] The initiative provides that employers may adopt “drug-free workplace” policies and restrict employees’ and applicants’ use of marijuana, and does not permit the use of marijuana in any public spaces.[42] The initiative established that the possession by an adult of more than an ounce, but less than 2.5 ounces, of marijuana, is a petty offense.[42] It also prohibits the sale of marijuana products that resemble a “human, animal, insect, fruit, toy or cartoon” and sets forth penalties for possession of marijuana by minors (which, for a first offense for possession of under an ounce of marijuana, is a $100 fine and drug counseling).[42]

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry opposed the ballot initiative, contending that it would lead to “an uptick in workplace accidents and lower overall workplace productivity”.[42] Opponents of the measure sought to remove Proposition 207 from the ballot, asserting that the 100-word ballot statement was defective.[46] The claim was rejected by a unanimous Arizona Supreme Court.[46]

The Smart and Safe Act passed with 60% of the vote on November 3, 2020.[35] Possession and cultivation of cannabis became legal on November 30, 2020, when the results of the election were certified.[47] State-licensed sales of recreational cannabis began on January 22, 2021, making Arizona the fastest state to begin retail sales after recreational legalization was approved in U.S. history.[48][49]


Former Maricopa County Attorney and current Arizona Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery has been a leading opponent of cannabis reform efforts in the state of Arizona.[50] He has made a number of controversial comments on the subject, including telling a military veteran who spoke in support of legalization: “I have no respect for you … because you’re an enemy.”[51] Montgomery has also engaged in a multi-year legal battle seeking to overturn the state’s medical cannabis law that was approved by voters in 2010.[52]


Arkansas cannabis legalization

California cannabis legalization

Colorado cannabis legalization

Connnecticut cannabis legalization

Delaware cannabis legalization

Florida cannabis legalization

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Hawaii cannabis legalization

Illinois cannabis legalization

Iowa cannabis legalization

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Massachusetts cannabis legalization

Michigan cannabis legalization

Minnesota cannabis legalization

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Missouri cannabis legalization

Montana cannabis legalization

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New Hampshire cannabis legalization

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