As more and more states decriminalize cannabis and legalize recreational use for adults, cannabis tourism is on the rise. Much as one might sample Seattle's famous coffee scene or check out the craft beer in hop capitals like Denver, Colorado and Bend, Oregon, visitors to legal states are dipping a toe into the local culture and sampling regional varietals of bud.
But knowing what the rules about purchasing and consuming cannabis are in different states can be a little tricky. Just in the past year, a slew of new states have sprung for legal cannabis legislation, including Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota and New Mexico.
Still, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, and each state has taken its own approach to decriminalizing and/or legalizing the drug for medical and recreational use. And even as more and more states eye cashing in on cannabis, it takes time to finalize all the regulations in newly legal states and get dispensaries up and running.
So where can you take a legal toke on your next vacation? Whether you're celebrating 420 with fellow cannabis enthusiasts or are curious if you'll be able to get a refill of your herbal medicine where you live, we’ve got the scoop on rules and regulations coast to coast.
Cannabis regulations in the United States
Alaska first legalized recreational cannabis in 1975 (and later again in 2015), and in 2019 became the first state to permit on-site consumption at dispensaries. You must be 21 years or older to consume cannabis in Alaska, and possession limits are capped at one ounce for personal use or up to 4 oz in your private residence. Public consumption is not allowed, and can be punished with fines up to $100.
Consuming edibles or tinctures in a hotel or private vacation rental is likely fine – you'll only run amok if you violate the property's no-smoking policy by firing up a bowl, bong, or joint. If you're worried about your preferred method of consumption, be sure to check with your host to find out the hotel or rental's cannabis policy before booking.
If you're driving with cannabis in your car, make sure it's in the trunk or back seat, not unlike how you'd want to be cautious about transporting an unfinished and corked bottle of wine. You can be charged with a DUI for driving under the influence of cannabis.
Particularly important to keep in mind when partaking in Alaska is that cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, so you shouldn't take your stash into national parks, onto public lands, or other federal property.
You should also be mindful that ferries, cruise ships, and other marine vessels cross federal waterways where the US Coast Guard has jurisdiction. The same technically goes for air travel, even if you're traveling between legal states, such as flying from Oregon to Alaska, or from Anchorage to Fairbanks.
Starting in November 2020, Arizona legalized possession of up to an ounce of cannabis and up to 5 grams of concentrates for adults 21 and over. While the legislation is still so new that dispensaries are still trying to open up, cannabis tourists will have a new way to experience the Grand Canyon State in the months and years to come. Just remember – as in Alaska, you don't want to run afoul of federal regulations in national parks, on public lands, or other areas that aren't managed by the state.
California has long been ahead of the curve on cannabis, and the state even has its own California Cannabis Tourism Association to help the hospitality industry and visitors connect with the state's robust network of pot providers.
Unsurprisingly, California has some of the most diverse options for cannabis-curious tourists. This is, after all, the largest legal cannabis market in all of North America. The state gave entrepreneurs a head start on developing 420-friendly hotels and vacation rentals, cannabis tours, yoga studios and even weed-infused cocktail and dining menus at restaurants and bars from LA to San Francisco.
As in most other legal states, you must be 21 or older to possess, purchase, or consume cannabis, and can carry about an ounce of flower or 8 grams of concentrate. Public consumption is not allowed, and it's at the discretion of private property owners and managers if they allow smoking on site at vacation rentals or hotels.
Another fun perk for cannabis tourists in California is that, unlike most airports in the world, LAX has officially stated that it's kosher to have cannabis on site, as long as you aren't taking it through the TSA's checkpoints. As long as you're on the state-regulated side of the security screening stations, you're in the clear.
Not to be outdone by California, Colorado has also leaned into cultivating a tourist-friendly cannabis industry – and they've really succeeded. In the four years following the state's decision to end prohibition, a full quarter of travelers to Colorado cited cannabis as one of the factors that motivated them to visit the Centennial State.
As in other states, you must be 21 or older to purchase and can possess up to an ounce of cannabis. Public consumption is banned – but like California, there are a bevy of ways to legally incorporate cannabis into your sightseeing, from 420-friendly hotels to pot tours to consumption lounges and even a technicolor church that incorporates herb into its services.
Definitely be mindful of wandering onto federal lands with any pot you purchase – especially if you're spending time in ski country, where trails and slopes can overlap with public lands under federal jurisdiction. Your safest bet is to enjoy cannabis in the – particularly in Denver, where the cannabis tourism offerings are especially rich.
You may also like: A guide to the best cannabis dispensaries, lodging and experiences in Denver
Illinois is still very new to being a post-prohibition state – recreational cannabis only became legal on January 1st, 2020. But already there are 110 dispensaries across the state, including 19 in Chicago and 47 in the surrounding suburbs like Evanston and Schaumburg. While Illinois still has a ways to go before it catches up to the offerings available to cannabis tourists in California and Colorado, there are already cannabis tour companies starting to crop up in Chicago, too.
Illinois residents can possess 30 grams of cannabis flower or 5 grams of concentrate, but non-residents are limited to 15 grams of flower or 2.5 grams of concentrate. You have to be 21 or older to purchase or possess, and you can't consume in public, or in a vehicle (even if it's parked). Keep your stash in the trunk of your car, and limit consumption to licensed lounges or private property.
Don't forget about the Smoke Free Illinois Act, which applies cannabis as well as tobacco smoke even in public areas of privately run, 420-friendly hotels, like the Potting Shed at the Aldrich Guest House in Galena.
Recreational cannabis was only legalized in Virginia in April of 2021, so it will take some time for dispensaries to roll out their wares. 2024 is the earliest that retail sales will start. But when they do, adults over 21 will be able to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, will not be allowed while operating a vehicle, and won't be allowed in public.
While cannabis has been decriminalized in Maine since 1976 and medical marijuana has been available since 1999, recreational legalization and sales were been pushed back until October of 2020. Now if you're over 21 you can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, of which 5 grams can be concentrates. Dispensaries are still opening up around the state, but some are already promising some exciting crossovers that might appeal to foodie tourists – like Higher Grounds, a coffee shop and dispensary combo.
Massachusetts legalized recreational cannabis in 2016, and its dispensaries have been slinging weed since 2018. Massachusetts allows adults over 21 to possess 1 oz on their persons and up to 10oz at home for residents. If you're driving with your stash, keep it in the trunk or a locked glove compartment to stay on the right side of the law at traffic stops. You can't consume in public, but you can on private property, at the discretion of the owner.
Much of the state's cannabis industry is centered in Worcester County, where you'll already find dozens of dispensaries and even private consumption clubs like the Summit Lounge. But you'll find plenty of places to partake throughout the state, from dozens of other dispensaries to bud-and-breakfasts like Melody's Place.
Michigan is also relatively new to legal cannabis, with recreational sales starting as recently as December of 2019, but the state has really hit the ground running. Already there are pop-up 420-friendly supper clubs for the 21+ set (on April 20th, natch), private cannabis lounges with fine dining and infused cocktails on offer, and more. That's on top of a flurry of lodging options open to cannabis enthusiasts, from guest cottages and bed and breakfasts to cabins and wellness retreats.
Adults over 21 can carry 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower and 15 grams of concentrates. You cannot smoke in public or drive under the influence, and your stash should be "out of public view" in a vehicle. The wording on that is key – Michigan is fairly liberal compared to other states about what qualifies as public consumption. Hotels with private balconies, for example, are fine to smoke on as long as it doesn't go against the policies set by management.
Montana is another state to recently end prohibition, with recreational cannabis going legal in November 2020. Sales haven't started up yet; lawmakers are still tussling over the details. But sometime between 2022 and 2023 visitors should be able to buy sticky buds in addition to other home-grown cultivars like the Big Sky state's famous huckleberries.
November of 2020 was a big month for cannabis legislation in the US, with New Jersey joining the class of recent graduates from prohibition to recreational sales. While dispensaries won't be up and running until 2022, possession under six ounces is decriminalized – good news for the minority communities disproportionately impacted by anti-drug policies.
New Mexico just passed recreational marijuana legislation in April of 2021. So while you can't legally partake in the Land of Enchantment just yet, you can start planning a cannabis-oriented vacation there for next year. Dispensaries will be up and running by April 1, 2022, and adults over the age of 21 will be able to possess up to 2 ounces as of June 29, 2021.
New York is the 15th state in the country to legalize recreational cannabis, as of March 31, 2021. The legislation immediately gave New Yorkers the right to possess up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrate. The law also allows public consumption of cannabis as long as it aligns with current regulations on tobacco smoke – so sparking up a joint on the sidewalk in New York City is allowed, but doing so on a public beach in Duchess County upstate would be off limits.
Where to get that hypothetical joint, however, is still a hurdle for locals and visitors alike. Recreational dispensaries won't open for another year while licenses are distributed, regulations finessed, and brick-and-mortar shops are built out.
Nevada has long had a reputation as a place where visitors can blow off steam, so it's no surprise it was the fifth in the country to legalize recreational cannabis. Adults over 21 years of age can purchase up to an ounce of flower or 3.5 grams of concentrate at a time. You need a designated driver if you're planning on partaking, and you can't consume in public – so forget about firing up a doob in your favorite casino.
Instead, you can go on a cannabis tour on a private party bus, take a Puff, Pass Pastry cooking class, or pay a visit to NuWu on the Las Vegas Strip, which boasts a 24 hour drive through, the state's only legal consumption room, and is run by the Paiute Tribe.
Oregon has long been at the forefront of legal cannabis – not only allowing recreational sales but also permitting retail options outside dispensaries, such as the Beaver State's 2017 decision to allow home delivery of cannabis products from licensed retailers.
Adults over 21 can possess 1 ounce of flower and 1 ounce of concentrates in public, or 8 ounces of flower and 1 ounce of concentrates at home. You can't partake in public, but there are plenty of ways around that, from cannabis tours to consumption lounges to bud-and-breakfasts like The Doctor's House.
Coastal and urban Oregon have dispensaries aplenty and a fairly relaxed attitude about consumption, but the further east you go the more likely you are to encounter communities that have eschewed the cannabis industry and where stigma is alive and well. The Sumpter Nugget, for example, is one of the few places you can stock up near the Wallowas, Joseph, and the John Day fossil beds.
You may also like: The complete guide to cannabis tourism in Portland, Oregon
South Dakota joined nearby Montana is legalizing cannabis in November 2020, but the law doesn't take effect until July 1, 2021. On that date, medical cannabis will be legal and available for purchase, but recreational cannabis likely won't follow until 2022. It depends on ongoing litigation regarding the public vote for cannabis legalization in the Mount Rushmore State.
Washington is famous for green trees of all sorts, including those available to recreational cannabis consumers. Like many other states, anyone over 21 can purchase up to an ounce of flower, seven grams of concentrates, 16 ounces of edibles, or 72 ounces for infused beverages. As with neighboring Oregon, you can't consume in public or operate a vehicle under the influence. You should also be mindful, as in Alaska, that ferries and cruise ships to places like the San Juan Islands, Bainbridge Island, and Vashon Island may cross federal waters.
Washington is a little behind Oregon and California in terms of openly 420-friendly hotels, legal consumption lounges, and the like. But you can definitely find cannabis tours aplenty in Seattle, which gives you a place to smoke and a chance to learn more about the state's cannabis industry.
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