Marijuana Legalization and Regulation

There is more public support for marijuana law reform than ever before with new polls showing more than half the country is in favor of legalizing marijuana. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) believes marijuana should be removed from the criminal justice system and regulated like alcohol and tobacco.

Current Marijuana Laws in the U.S.

Where in the U.S. is marijuana legal?

Map showing states where marijuana is legal for adult use

See where medical marijuana is legal.


What do we know so far about marijuana legalization so far? 

Read our January 2018 report to learn how and why marijuana legalization is working.


2020 Initiatives

Federal Initiatives

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act). It is the most sweeping marijuana reform bill ever in Congress. 

What does the MORE Act do?

  • De-schedules marijuana at the federal level to let states set their own policies without federal interference 
  • Expunges prior marijuana convictions so we can start repairing the extensive damage done to communities of color from decades of biased law enforcement
  • Establishes a federal tax that would be used to assist the people and communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition with programs like job training, substance use treatment, and cannabis business licensing

Learn about the MORE Act.

State Initiatives

New York
We believe that it is time to stop the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition in New York. With our Start SMART NY campaign, we are working to create a well-regulated and inclusive marijuana industry that centers equity, is rooted in racial and economic justice, and reinvests in communities that have been the most harmed by marijuana criminalization. Smart regulation can support community well-being and safety while building a diverse, socially equitable industry that strengthens all parts of NY state.

Watch DPA’s Executive Director Kassandra Frederique speak at a BRIC TV town hall about what it would mean to legalize marijuana in NYC.

DPA is dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition in New York with the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). 

What does the MRTA do?

  • Allows the responsible use of marijuana by adults 21 and over within a tightly regulated system
  • Significant updates and improvements for the medical marijuana and hemp farming programs
  • Includes vital protections against housing and employment discrimination and addresses additional devastating impacts of marijuana prohibition in the fields of immigration and child welfare
  • Protects young people by reducing access to marijuana and promotes comprehensive, reality-based drug education
  • Establishes a licensing system that favors small businesses and family farmers, not large corporations, including co-op and microbusiness licenses that can reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing
  • Uses tax revenue for social good like community reinvestment, job training, youth programs, and drug treatment programs

Learn more about our NY legalization campaign.

New Mexico
DPA has been advocating at the state legislature for passage of a Constitutional Amendment allowing the possession, use, and sales of marijuana in New Mexico. This will increase tax revenue, generate commerce and support the agricultural economy. 

Why Should We Legalize?

Reduce harm
The criminalization of marijuana use disproportionately harms young people and people of color, sponsors massive levels of violence and corruption, and fails to curb youth access.

Create jobs
Legalizing and regulating marijuana will bring one of the nation's largest cash crops under the rule of law. This will create jobs and economic opportunities in the formal economy instead of the illicit market.

Save money
Scarce law enforcement resources will be better used to ensure public safety while reducing corrections and court costs. State and local governments would acquire significant new sources of tax revenue from regulating marijuana sales.

Promote consumer safety
Marijuana product testing is becoming a standard requirement for legalized marijuana markets. This means consumers are better informed about the marijuana they use.

Cannabis flowers with quality testing results on display at a dispensary.

DPA product safety recommendations

  • Consumers should consider requesting information on any pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, or any other residual solvents that could remain on flowers after the cultivation process.
  • Consumers should be sure to inquire about the potency and dosage of an edible product, especially if they are a novice consumer or if the package is not clearly labeled.
  • Testing for mold, fungus, bacteria, and other microbial organisms should be required to ensure safety and quality. The effects of consuming some of these chemicals, especially in the immunocompromised, could be significant.
  • Flowers and other cannabis products sold to consumers should include cannabinoid profiles on labels, including the content of THC, CBD and other major cannabinoids, and the number and concentration of doses. This is especially important for edible products, which can contain widely varying doses of cannabis.
Marijuana Legalization and Regulation