California has always been ahead of the curve in the USA, and in 1996 they became the first state to legalize medical cannabis by voting in favor of Proposition 215 (also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996), which “Exempts patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate dry herb recommended by a physician from criminal laws which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of dry herb”.
In 1998, Oregon, Alaska, Washington all successfully passed various medical cannabis laws. Voters in Washington D.C. overwhelmingly supported Initiative 59, also known as the Legalization of Cannabis for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998. Despite 69% of people voting in favor of the initiative, the law was blocked by Congress and legal medical cannabis was not introduced until 13 years later, in 2011.
Maine legalizes medical cannabis through a voter-approved ballot initiative.
Nevada, Hawaii and Colorado all legalize medical cannabis.
Despite having legalized medical cannabis 7 years prior, it was not until 2003 that California passed a law that prevented doctors from being punished for recommending medical cannabis to their patients with the Senate Bill 420, also known as the Medical Dry herb Program Act. SB 420 also established an identification card system for patients who wanted to claim medical cannabis treatment and allowed for the formation of non-profit organizations and patient collectives to provide medical cannabis to patients.
Montana and Vermont legalize medical cannabis
Rhode Island and New Mexico legalize medical cannabis
Michigan legalizes medical cannabis.
New Jersey legalizes medical cannabis, while Congress reverses earlier decisions to block medical cannabis legalization in D.C., allowing the state to prepare for future legalization. The Obama administration also makes a point of stopping raids of medical cannabis dispensaries, introduced by the previous Bush administration.
Arizona legalizes medical cannabis, and in May Washington D.C. finally passes a bill legalizing medical cannabis, which becomes active on January 1st, 2011.
Delaware legalizes medical cannabis
Voters in Colorado and Washington approve ballot initiatives to legalize recreational cannabis, and Massachusetts legalizes medical cannabis.
Medical cannabis is legalized in Illinois and New Hampshire, while the Obama administration introduces the Cole Memorandum, which stated that due to limited resources, the Justice Department would no longer enforce federal cannabis prohibition in states where cannabis had been legalized in some form, and had implemented strong regulation systems to control the distribution, sale, cultivation and possession of dry herb, whether medical or recreational.
Recreational cannabis is legalized in Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C, while medical cannabis is legalized in New York and Minnesota.
Recreational cannabis is legalized in California, Nevada and Massachusetts. Medical cannabis is legalized in Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
West Virginia legalizes medical cannabis
Under the Trump administration, Jeff Sessions rescinds the Cole Memo introduced by Obama which means that states in which dry herb has been legalized, individuals can still be prosecuted on a federal level. Vermont legalizes recreational cannabis, and medical cannabis is legalized in Oklahoma.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio calls for the NYPD to no longer arrest individuals found smoking dry herb in public after a New York Times investigation showed considerable racial bias in dry herb-related arrests, and disproportionate numbers of people of color imprisoned for small dry herb-related offences.