Marijuana has become so common that you may see people smoking it while walking down the street, depending on where you live. If you want to know if it is legal, the answer is yes and no. Let’s look at the complex issue of weed legality.


Federal Law


Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and it remains a Schedule 1 drug. That is the category for drugs that have no medical use, according to the determination made by the Food and Drug Administration. Any state that allows marijuana use is in defiance of the law.


State Laws


Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Washington (state), Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Maine, Connecticut, and Alaska.


Weed is approved for medical use in Arizona, New Mexico, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and Hawaii.


Just to be clear, in all of the other states, marijuana is illegal. You can be arrested in those states for smoking it, selling it and possessing it.


If you drive under the influence of marijuana in any state, you could get a DWI, even if the drug is legal.




Dallas no longer sends people to jail for weed possession, even though Texas law deems it illegal. Washington, D.C., Anchorage, Alaska, Fort Collins, Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, Seattle, Washington, and Denver, Colorado allow possession.


Medical Marijuana


Just to muddy the waters further, the concept of “medical marijuana” is far from clear. In most places where it is legal, that means labs can work on medicines that are based on cannabis. It does not mean people can smoke a joint to get over a disease. However, that is not entirely true. Some doctors recommend smoking marijuana to relieve pain for cancer patients.




Many jurisdictions where marijuana is illegal have decriminalized it. What this means in practice is that the police may turn a blind eye to marijuana use, and users are unlikely to get severe penalties if they are arrested.


Odds of Getting Arrested

In 2016, the police arrested more people for marijuana than for all violent crimes combined. Despite the fact that most people see legalization as inevitable, law enforcement has a duty to support the laws in any given jurisdiction. Conceivably, a person in possession of marijuana who is driving across the country could be arrested when crossing a state line where it is illegal, despite having purchased it in a state where it is legal.



You need a chart to track the changes in marijuana laws these days. It is very important to know local, regional and state laws before assuming marijuana possession and use is legal.




Houston DWI Attorney

The Drug Policy Alliance