These 4 States Legalized Recreational Marijuana But Each Is Doing It (Or Not) In Its Own Way

Photo Credit: Associated Press

In November 2016, four states approved the sale of recreational marijuana. Each has taken different paths to getting a regulated, legal marijuana retail system off the ground. Or, in two cases, not quite off the ground yet.

Here’s an update and overview on where the legal recreational marijuana business stands in each of those states: Nevada, California, Maine and Massachusetts.


Nevada, as might be expected, wasted no time. By July 1, 2017, recreational sales had already started. There were some bumps in the road over transportation issues and, in one case, running out of marijuana supply. But about $200 million in recreational marijuana has already been sold, with the state bringing in about $30 million in taxes and fees in the first six months of sales.


California also moved fairly quickly (everything seems “fairly quickly” when compared to Nevada). By January 2018, recreational sales had begun. Some estimates anticipate the state pulling in $1 billion annually in taxes and fees and for the California marijuana market to reach $5 billion. But no one knows for sure.

What they do know is that California, in direct opposition to the federal government, has embraced the marijuana industry. Governing magazine suggests that the federal government look to the Golden State for a blueprint on drug policy — although other states might not like the idea of Girl Scouts selling cookies outside a dispensary (although the little entrepreneur sold 312 boxes of cookies in six hours).


Things are a bit of a mess in Maine.

Voters in Maine approved recreational marijuana sales in November 2016. However, the vote was so close it required a recount. In 2017, a bill that passed the state Legislature setting up rules on licensing and regulating marijuana businesses was vetoed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

At the time, he said he had conferred with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the issue. Sessions is anti-legalization and earlier this year ended Obama-era rules that essentially kept the federal government from interfering in states where marijuana is legal.

Things have only gotten stranger since. A committee has been trying to hammer out a new proposal. However, on Feb. 1, the deadline passed to extend the moratorium on licensing recreational marijuana retailers and cultivators.

In short: It’s now legal to grow and sell recreational marijuana in Maine, but there’s no system to obtain a license to do so.

The committee proposal could reach the Maine House of Representatives by the time you read this. If passed, it’s onto the Senate and, if passed there, back to LePage.

Meanwhile, Maine has become the first state to make it illegal for employers to punish workers for cannabis use during their off hours.


Massachusetts is moving ahead with regulating recreational marijuana sales, it’s just taking a little more time than expected to get there. They now have a target date of July 2018, although cannabis cafes or home delivery services of marijuana won’t happen until 2019 at the earliest.

The commission that is setting up the system in Massachusetts recently passed new rules that bar anyone with a felony drug trafficking conviction from getting licensed by the state to cultivate or sell legal marijuana. They also capped the space cultivators can have at 100,000 square feet over concerns that operations larger than that might divert some product to the black market.

On another issue,  most municipalities in Massachusetts have banned recreational marijuana dispensaries, which means cannabis might prove difficult to find even once its legal, according to the Boston Globe.