The legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana remains one of the hottest trends in state taxation. Currently, 16 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia have passed bills or approved ballot measures that allow for the sale of recreational marijuana, and more states are poised to pass legislation this session. In total, actual recreational marijuana sales are happening in 11 states.
The Virginia legislature now has passed a bill that would legalize sales starting in 2024; legislators are currently working with Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to amend and finalize legislation. New Mexico lawmakers are very likely to pass legislation during an ongoing special session.
Voters in four states approved ballot measures in November, but only one state (Arizona) has established an operational marketplace. Vermont, which passed legalization back in 2018, has finally approved legislation, and the state plans to be operational starting in 2022. Recreational sales are delayed due to pending legal action in South Dakota and federal prohibition in the District of Columbia, although change is on the horizon in DC.
The unique legal framework under which marijuana use and sales operate—that of differing state and federal legality—means that every state market is essentially a siloed market. Marijuana products cannot cross state borders, so the entire process (seed to smoke, so to speak) must occur within state borders. This unusual situation, along with the novelty of legalization, has resulted in a wide variety of tax designs.
The following map highlights the states that have legal markets and levy taxes on recreational marijuana.
State Recreational Marijuana Taxes (State Excise Tax Rates on Recreational Marijuana) As of March 31, 2021 State Tax Rate