How Many States Have Legalized Medical Marijuana in 2021?

Medically Reviewed on 6/7/2021

Medical Marijuana
As a psychoactive drug that can be used for both recreational and medicinal purposes, marijuana has been legalized in 39 states as of May 18, 2021. Learn more about the effects of marijuana on physical and mental health.

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the most commonly used recreational drug after tobacco. As a psychoactive drug that can be used for both recreational and medicinal purposes, marijuana has been legalized in 39 states.

As of May 18, 2021, the use of medical marijuana is legal in:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Guam
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode island
  • Vermont
  • U.S Virgin Islands
  • Utah
  • Virginia (with some limitations)
  • Washington
  • West Virginia (only for terminally ill patients)

After the new amendments in 2021, marijuana is legal to consume recreationally in several states as well.

What are the effects of marijuana on the body?

Both short-term and long-term exposure to marijuana can impact your physical and mental health.

Impaired brain functioning

You may experience impaired judgment as well as difficulty concentrating, learning, and remembering things after using marijuana. 

Although this is a short-term effect that lasts for the first 24 hours after consumption, the effect may be more severe in teens. Teenage marijuana consumption can cause permanent problems in the brain regions that are used for learning skills, memory, and focusing ability.

Lung damage

Long-term use of marijuana can weaken your immune system, inflame your lungs and make you more prone to lung infections.

Increased heart rate

Marijuana can increase the heart rate from 70 to 120 beats per minute. It also releases certain chemicals that may put you at a higher risk of heart attacks.

Increased appetite

Because marijuana use can cause increased feelings of hunger, the drug may help people with AIDS, cancer, or other health conditions that cause a decreased appetite. Research is underway to investigate whether the drug really is safe and beneficial to use in these diseases.

Altered mental state

Getting a “high” is the reason most people try marijuana, due to its main ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain. While some people experience euphoria, others may feel anxiety or panic. Frequent use of marijuana is associated with depression and exacerbating already existing mental illnesses. Higher doses can even lead to someone losing touch with reality.

What are the medical uses of marijuana?

If used in appropriate doses, marijuana can help manage certain medical conditions. Limited research shows that its medicinal form may help with:

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Medically Reviewed on 6/7/2021
National Conference of State Legislatures. State Medical Marijuana Laws. May 17, 2021.

Mayo Clinic. Medical Marijuana.