Understanding the Age Requirement Laws for Cannabis

Age Requirement Laws for Cannabis

Cannabis laws and regulations differ widely from state to state, and age requirement laws are no exception. Without a nationwide standard on age limitations, like there is for alcohol, it can be hard to get a handle on what exactly the age requirements are for recreational and medical cannabis programs in any given state. To help make sense of it all, we summarized the age requirements for cannabis across the US, and how they may change as legalization continues to gain momentum.

Age Requirements for Medical Cannabis

With states having the authority to determine their own age requirements for medical cannabis, there is a mix of laws across the country: the legal age can be 18, 19, or 21, depending on where you are. All states have programs that allow minors to use medical cannabis, usually requiring the permission of a parent or guardian who is of legal age as defined by the state. Regardless of age requirements, you also need to be diagnosed with an approved qualifying condition to access medical cannabis in any state.

Here is how the different requirements look in each state with a medical cannabis program, as of December 2021.

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Louisiana
  • Oklahoma
  • Utah
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington

States with Unique Cannabis Age Requirements:

  • Texas: There are no age limitations but patients under 18 may require a legal guardian.
  • North Dakota: The legal age for medical cannabis is 19, but the minimum age for caregivers in North Dakota is 21.

Age Requirements for Recreational Cannabis

Fortunately, the age requirements for recreational cannabis across the US are easier to make sense of. In the 18 states that have already legalized recreational cannabis, the legal age for purchasing, consuming, and growing cannabis is 21. This was determined in part by the legal age requirements in place for cigarettes and alcohol.

Unlike cigarettes and alcohol, however, the legal age for cannabis is decided by states, not the federal government. This means that it is possible for some states to introduce different age requirements. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that reducing the legal age for cannabis would be a good thing. Some experts say that a legal age of 19 is ideal: old enough to mitigate the negative effects associated with using cannabis at a young age, and low enough to discourage the use of illegal markets. But it remains to be seen if future states will break from the trend of legislating 21 as the legal age for recreational cannabis.

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