2021’s Best Cities to Get Stoned

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES - Feb 09, 2019: Attendees in the adult-use smoking garden at WeedWeek Recharge LA Conference, a cannabis industry conference in Los Angeles.

Whatever you seek from marijuana — inspiration, relief, or relaxation — there are places in America guaranteed to enhance your experience. 

So where, to put it bluntly, are the Best Cities to Get Stoned this 4/20?

LawnStarter ranked 94 U.S. cities (where recreational marijuana is legal) based on 12 key indicators of a smoking good time. Among the factors we looked at? The volume of Google searches for “marijuana” and “weed,” access to dispensaries and head shops, and availability of 420-friendly lodging and smoking lounges. 

Check out our ranking below, followed by some highlights, lowlights, and weed-inspired wisdom. 

Now, hurry up and finish skimming this article before you get the munchies.

Table of Contents

  1. City Rankings
  2. Highlights and Lowlights
  3. Ask the Experts
  4. Methodology
  5. Why This Study Matters

City Rankings 

See how each city fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScorePopularity RankSupply Access RankSocial Environment Rank
1Denver, CO70.8529251
2Los Angeles, CA56.251652
3San Francisco, CA49.3843373
4Fullerton, CA41.171215
5Garden Grove, CA40.481120
6Glendale, CA38.051415
7Colorado Springs, CO37.5769514
8Boston, MA37.427437
9Portland, OR37.3166465
10Las Vegas, NV36.8259416
11Orange, CA35.251620
12Detroit, MI34.071748
13Torrance, CA33.551347
14Santa Ana, CA32.8111020
15Pasadena, CA32.641724
16Huntington Beach, CA32.0711323
17Anaheim, CA31.8211914
18Lakewood, CO30.8729926
19Ontario, CA28.311847
20Worcester, MA28.2273119
21Oakland, CA27.38432613
22Pomona, CA27.3311447
23Long Beach, CA27.2812129
24Irvine, CA27.2713425
25Santa Rosa, CA26.86434910
26Hayward, CA26.3343553
27Corona, CA26.0211553
28Chicago, IL26.0132869
29Paradise, NV26.01591130
30Lancaster, CA25.8111653
31Fontana, CA25.2311853
32Riverside, CA23.9314433
33San Bernardino, CA23.8712253
34Thornton, CO23.58292738
35Seattle, WA23.52368011
36San Diego, CA23.19366917
37Rancho Cucamonga, CA22.4413353
38Oxnard, CA21.7914053
39Sunnyvale, CA21.61432047
40Aurora, CO20.96693927
41Escondido, CA20.9363841
42Palmdale, CA20.4615453
43Chula Vista, CA20.29366034
44Fremont, CA20.27433044
45Oceanside, CA20.19363253
46Paterson, NJ20.1715953
47Moreno Valley, CA20.0516153
48Roseville, CA20.03731294
49Santa Clarita, CA19.9116353
50Bellevue, WA19.56365738
51Reno, NV19.38841744
52Spring Valley, NV19.36592453
53Tacoma, WA18.95367136
54North Las Vegas, NV18.57595634
55Salem, OR18.23662953
56Joliet, IL18326253
57Henderson, NV17.89595238
58Modesto, CA17.83732353
59San Jose, CA17.6435847
60Tempe, AZ17.37504753
61Phoenix, AZ16.62508927
62Washington, DC16.59936412
63Fort Collins, CO16.35694553
64Elk Grove, CA16.26733553
65Sacramento, CA16.26733653
66Enterprise, NV16.13595553
67Sunrise Manor, NV16.06596647
68Aurora, IL15.93327753
69Mesa, AZ15.77508531
70Glendale, AZ15.74507053
71Naperville, IL15.74327853
72Peoria, AZ15.68507253
73Grand Rapids, MI15.57586753
74Chandler, AZ14.8507553
75Eugene, OR14.77862853
76Stockton, CA14.73735053
77New York, NY13.95789418
77Springfield, MA13.95834853
79Vancouver, WA13.93667943
80Fresno, CA13.91825353
81Gilbert, AZ13.38508453
82Salinas, CA13.06874253
83Scottsdale, AZ12.97508753
84Jersey City, NJ12.02788144
85Tucson, AZ12698353
86Yonkers, NY11.68787653
87Bakersfield, CA11.33856853
88Anchorage, AK10.77897341
89Spokane, WA9.56928231
90Newark, NJ9.2789053
91Rockford, IL7.76888853
92Buffalo, NY6.05919237
93Syracuse, NY4.92909153
94Rochester, NY1.04949353
 Infographic showing best cities for marijuana lovers, based on access to dispensaries and head shops, prevalence of marijuana events and social consumption lounges, Google search popularity, etc.

Highlights and Lowlights

Denver: The Mile High City 

Denver takes the weed cake in our ranking as America’s pot capital. With Colorado leading the nation’s recreational cannabis reform movement in 2012, it’s safe to say being a first mover really has its advantages. 

Denver dominates the social environment category, with more 420-friendly lodging establishments and social consumption lounges. Where Denver falls short: the number of dispensaries and head shops and Google search popularity. 

Colorado Springs and Lakewood also finished on a high note, at Nos. 7 and 18 overall, respectively. Only Fort Collins, in 63rd place, didn’t fare as well.

California: The State of High

Five Golden State cities landed in the top 10, a dozen in the top 20, and 20 in the top 30, and … you get the point: California is the “it” place for stoners, with the Los Angeles metro sweeping the popularity and supply access categories. 

Among the top 10 overall are Fullerton, Garden Grove, and Glendale — all earning the highest grades in popularity and supply access — plus San Francisco at No. 3.

While no California city won every single metric, chances are you can find anything and everything cannabis-related in the state. It is, after all, the true reform pioneer: The state was first to legalize medical marijuana, in 1996.

Doobie Newbies

Cities in the newest states to join the league of fun-weed states — Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York — for the most part placed in the bottom third of our ranking. For example, Tucson, Arizona, landed at No. 85; Rockford, Illinois, at No. 91; Newark, New Jersey, at No. 90; and New York City at No. 77. 

But two cities are riding on their recent high: Chicago — propelled by an abundance of marijuana tours and events — at No. 28, and Paterson, New Jersey — with the most residents searching for weed online — at No 46. Apparently, stoners here have waited long enough and aren’t wasting any more time.

Ask The Experts

Even with nearly 7 in 10 U.S. adults today favoring legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use, the issue remains a contentious one, especially in politics.

To help clear the haze, we asked a panel of industry experts to light up the conversation — and guide budding cannabis users on their journey to new heights. See what they had to say below.

  1. In plain English, what is the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana use?
  2. Over two-thirds of U.S. adults — a record high — support legalization of marijuana for recreational use. With such high public support and a reform bill already in the works, how likely is federal legalization during the Biden administration?
  3. If the federal government were to legalize recreational marijuana use, who in society would stand to benefit and lose the most and why?
  4. Why are states seemingly racing to legalize the recreational use of marijuana?
  5. How is the legalization of marijuana changing industries like banking in cities, states, and across the U.S.?
  6. What are the top three pros and top three cons of growing marijuana at home in places where consumers are allowed to do so?
  7. What’s your most important piece of advice for consumers trying marijuana recreationally for the first time in places where it’s legal?
Michael Vitiello
Distinguished Professor of Law
Edward M Bednarczyk, PharmD, FACCP, FAPhA
Clinical Associate Professor Pharmacy Practice, Director, cHOPE
Mark K. Osbeck
Clinical Professor of Law, Legal Practice Program
Wally Wojciechowski
Assistant Professor, School of Criminal Justice
Ekaterina (Katya) Moiseeva
Ph.D. Student, Department of Criminology, Law and Society
Michael Flynn
Professor of Law, Shepard Broad Law Center
Marsha N. Cohen
Hon. Raymond L. Sullivan Professor of Law, Founding Executive Director, Lawyers for America
Michael Vitiello
Distinguished Professor of Law
University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

In plain English, what is the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana use?

Decriminalization: A state might get rid of all penalties for possession of marijuana.

Legalization: This typically would be broader, allowing for sale of marijuana.

Over two-thirds of U.S. adults — a record high — support legalization of marijuana for recreational use. With such high public support and a reform bill already in the works, how likely is federal legalization during the Biden administration?

Tough call: He has a serious agenda at this point (e.g., COVID issues plus an infrastructure bill). It is hard to imagine the administration making it a priority now.

Realistically, states have discretion how to handle their laws as long as they comply with guidelines set out by the Obama Justice Department — Jeff Sessions withdrew those memos, but from my understanding, U.S. Attorneys are largely following those guidelines.

In addition, there is a continuing budget resolution that prevents federal prosecutors from using resources to enforce federal marijuana laws against medical marijuana industry members.

If the federal government were to legalize recreational marijuana use, who in society would stand to benefit and lose the most and why?

That is a subject of some controversy. Many supporters were hoping to undo some of the racial injustice caused by unequal enforcement of marijuana laws. But as implemented, minority members lack capital resources to pay substantial costs of entry and of maintaining business. (Some communities have equity programs, but they are a small percentage of overall business). Large corporate license holders seem to be succeeding in the industry; they have greater access to capital. But this is a new market; some big players have already dropped out (e.g., MedMen, a large corporate entity, was close to going out of business).

Why are states seemingly racing to legalize the recreational use of marijuana?

After New Mexico, which recently passed legislation, South Dakota may be in line. Voters passed a constitutional amendment, but it is tied up in the courts. Connecticut is in the middle of the process of legalizing. Ditto on Minnesota. Florida may have a ballot initiative next year.

How is the legalization of marijuana changing industries like banking in cities, states, and across the U.S.?

Commonly misunderstood, banks can work with the industry, but most choose not to because of complexities that make it onerous. But members of Congress often express support for changing banking laws to allow easy compliance. If I was betting, I would think that this change will be made ere too long.

What’s your most important piece of advice for consumers trying marijuana recreationally for the first time in places where it’s legal?

Not being someone who consumes marijuana, I have little advice in general. Use at home; avoid driving; smoking and vaping are bad for a person’s health. Edibles are unpredictable and so some folks end up consuming too much. Be with someone whom you trust, in case you feel paranoid.

Edward M Bednarczyk, PharmD, FACCP, FAPhA
Clinical Associate Professor Pharmacy Practice, Director, cHOPE
University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences

In plain English, what is the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana use?

Decriminalization does just that: It reduces the penalty below that of a criminal charge while maintaining illegal status. A good analogy is a traffic ticket: Speeding might still be illegal, but you get a ticket, not a jail sentence.

Legalization is just that: The action is now legal, not just a different penalty version of illegal.

Over two-thirds of U.S. adults — a record high — support legalization of marijuana for recreational use. With such high public support and a reform bill already in the works, how likely is federal legalization during the Biden administration?

Let’s see, we’ve got a pandemic going on, an immigration crisis, Russia mobilizing near Ukraine — I’m guessing that this won’t be the administration’s highest priority in 2021.

If the federal government were to legalize recreational marijuana use, who in society would stand to benefit and lose the most and why?

Winners: “Big Cannabis”

Why are states seemingly racing to legalize the recreational use of marijuana?

The obvious answer is money. Let’s be honest; the tax revenue is a strong driver.

How is the legalization of marijuana changing industries like banking in cities, states, and across the U.S.?

Banking? Not so much. It’s introducing a disruptive element to the beverage ethanol industry, at least in the short term.

What are the top three pros and top three cons of growing marijuana at home in places where consumers are allowed to do so?

Pros:

  • Strong statement of your views
  • You control the environment.
  • Great for the hobbyist who wants to get in deep
  • Sense of not supporting “Big Cannabis”

Cons:

  • You might not have a green thumb!
  • You’ll have to learn about cultivation.
  • You need the space.

What’s your most important piece of advice for consumers trying marijuana recreationally for the first time in places where it’s legal?

For first time users, read up on what effects (and side effects) to expect. Educate yourself to some of the strains (and therefore THC and other cannabinoid content). Go with a friend!

Mark K. Osbeck
Clinical Professor of Law, Legal Practice Program
University of Michigan

In plain English, what is the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana use?

Decriminalization generally means imposing a noncriminal penalty (e.g., a civil fine, similar to a speeding ticket) rather than a criminal penalty for a violation of the law.

Over two-thirds of U.S. adults — a record high — support legalization of marijuana for recreational use. With such high public support and a reform bill already in the works, how likely is federal legalization during the Biden administration?

Hard to say. I think a legalization bill has a substantial chance of clearing the House. It’s a closer call in the Senate, and to date President Biden has not given his support to legalization, though he would probably support decriminalization.

If the federal government were to legalize recreational marijuana use, who in society would stand to benefit and lose the most and why?

I assume shareholders in large cannabis businesses would have the most to gain.

Why are states seemingly racing to legalize the recreational use of marijuana?

I wouldn’t say “racing,” but the pace of legalization is indeed picking up, probably because it no longer seems like a radical idea.

What are the top three pros and top three cons of growing marijuana at home in places where consumers are allowed to do so?

Make sure you are in compliance with state law, which imposes limits on the amount that can be possessed, etc. If you go beyond the limited exception to illegal possession under state law, you lose the protection of legalization.

Wally Wojciechowski
Assistant Professor, School of Criminal Justice
Michigan State University

In plain English, what is the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana use?

Decriminalization means that law enforcement will devote only the most minimal of resources toward policing an issue. For marijuana, basically this means that a person in possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use would not be arrested if the police found it. This depends on jurisdiction, but there may be some tickets or fines that may apply if caught with marijuana.

Legalization expands this by allowing retail businesses to actually sell marijuana, whereas this is not the case with decriminalization. Legalization then opens up the potential for tax revenue to be procured through legal sales of marijuana, whereas decriminalization does not.

In both cases, law enforcement may still devote resources toward arrest and prosecution of individuals in possession of large amounts of marijuana. Again, this will vary by jurisdiction.

Over two-thirds of U.S. adults — a record high — support legalization of marijuana for recreational use. With such high public support and a reform bill already in the works, how likely is federal legalization during the Biden administration?

This is a tough question. President Biden himself has a long anti-drug history and generally appears to not favor legalization of marijuana. However, other leaders in the Democratic Party do appear to want to put pressure on him to bend on the issue. If Biden would like to continue to sell his reputation as a “compromise” politician, one compromise that may come out of this is decriminalization of marijuana, but not full legalization.

I think this also depends on whether or not Joe Biden wins or even runs for a second term of office. I think this is unlikely given his age, but I think that there would be a much higher likelihood of legalization occurring during the 2025-2028 term regardless of who is president at that point, as public opinion regarding marijuana will likely continue to skew even more toward acceptance and legalization at that point.

If the federal government were to legalize recreational marijuana use, who in society would stand to benefit and lose the most and why?

I don’t necessarily think that anyone “loses” if marijuana becomes federally legalized. Given that marijuana use has demonstrated some medical benefits, full legalization will only open up the potential for more research on the topic. Beyond that, I am pretty uncomfortable with government at any level having the capacity to restrict mine or anyone else’s rights to do anything to our own bodies. So, I would see legalization of marijuana use as a win for all American’s civil liberties in that regard.

That said, I would say I do have some major concerns about how legalization might be carried out. I worry a great deal about corporatization of the marijuana industry. Essentially, this could lead to the McDonalds-ization of the industry very quickly if large corporations gain a competitive advantage in having the funding and infrastructure to set up operations at the expense of smaller business owners. Some small business owners have highlighted this issue in that it is difficult to get their businesses off the ground for this reason. Legalization would help with this in some respects, as getting loans for marijuana businesses remains very difficult due to the risk involved for banks due to the federal prohibition.

In the meantime, this is one reason why some jurisdictions have attempted to apply a social-equity lens to the situation in order to remedy some of these issues. There is necessarily a racialized aspect to this entire issue also that cannot be ignored. If we speak about communities being harmed by the war on drugs, our Black and Brown communities have certainly been disproportionately impacted for decades. This fact highlights the need to provide equitable access to individuals in these communities to allow them the opportunity to receive some kind of remediation for these harms done.

This is perhaps my biggest concern with federal legalization, as I think that there is a pretty high likelihood that this would be botched and the communities that have been harmed the most by decades of prohibition will not have equitable access to reap the potential benefits of legalization.

One final concern pertains to teenage marijuana use. While research has indicated that marijuana may have some medical benefits, it is not without potential risks, albeit somewhat small compared to other drugs. However, the cognitive impacts of marijuana use generally are of greatest concern when marijuana is used during the rapid period of cognitive development during adolescence. So, there is concern that legalization would make marijuana much easier to obtain for youth and this could lead to unwanted outcomes. Some research has indicated that access for teenagers may indeed increase when legalization occurs, but the research I have seen on this is somewhat mixed, and I think a bit more research is necessary before we can make a clear determination of just what impact legalization may have for teenager access.

Why are states seemingly racing to legalize the recreational use of marijuana?

I would highlight the tax revenue that states that have legalized marijuana use have garnered through taxes on sales, business licenses, etc.

Beyond this, these states also have additional potential to market themselves as tourist destinations. Marijuana tourism will continue to be an added financial benefit for these states, at least until federal legalization occurs.

How is the legalization of marijuana changing industries like banking in cities, states, and across the U.S.?

As I stated above, the banking industries are being impacted greatly by this because they are in a tough place. Many traditional banking institutions are wary to hand out loans for marijuana businesses because of the potential legal liability that they may incur because of the continued federal prohibition.

Beyond this, marijuana legalization has the potential to transform the hospitality industry as we move forward, as connoisseurs will undoubtedly wish to indulge in marijuana-centered activities when vacationing. This could obviously range from just buying marijuana from a dispensary to having a destination resort experience that is focused on sampling different types of marijuana.

What are the top three pros and top three cons of growing marijuana at home in places where consumers are allowed to do so?

Personally, I am a strong advocate for home gardening of all forms simply for the fact I believe that we should produce more and consume less just from a moral standpoint. There is also just something nice about producing something yourself for your own personal consumption.

Beyond that, there certainly are likely to be individuals who would enjoy marijuana as a gift.

In terms of consequences, the main one that I would highlight is potential risk for property victimization. The marijuana grey market remains a major opportunity for income, so growing your own marijuana certainly leaves you at risk for having it stolen, which makes security a paramount concern.

What’s your most important piece of advice for consumers trying marijuana recreationally for the first time in places where it’s legal?

I would just say that, like with any drug, ensuring that you know what dosage you are taking is paramount. Know your limits, and go slow if you’re inexperienced or have little tolerance.

With licensed dispensaries, dosage should be clearly labeled.

If you’re buying or being gifted marijuana products from a grey market source, you’ll just want to try to get as much information as possible in that regard.

Ekaterina (Katya) Moiseeva
Ph.D. Student, Department of Criminology, Law and Society
University of California-Irvine

In plain English, what is the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana use?

Decriminalization means that cannabis sale and possession are not considered a crime anymore. In the 1970s, social movements’ efforts led to the decriminalization of cannabis in several states (i.e. the possession of small amounts of cannabis became a civil infraction). Decriminalization of cannabis at the federal level would lead to its removal from the list of controlled substances.

Legalization means the creation of the legally operated market of cannabis products, similar to the tobacco or alcohol market. The state oversees the operation of the cannabis market by creating a legal infrastructure for market development, enforcing contracts, safeguarding competition, protecting property rights, and providing standards.

Over two-thirds of U.S. adults — a record high — support legalization of marijuana for recreational use. With such high public support and a reform bill already in the works, how likely is federal legalization during the Biden administration?

Of course, as more states legalize cannabis, the likelihood that it will be legalized federally increases. But it is hard to make any predictions.

Under the Trump administration, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded all Obama-era lenient policies toward cannabis, including the memo limiting federal prosecution of local cannabis cases. Nowadays, Congress is debating over the Marijuana Opportunity and Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which decriminalizes cannabis and completely removes it from the list of controlled substances. In December 2020, the House of Representatives approved the Act, but many experts are pessimistic about its passing in the Senate.

Let’s not forget that in the 1970s, cannabis activists believed that legalization was just around the corner. But in the 1980s, the war on drugs was launched, and cannabis played a huge role in mass incarceration.

If the federal government were to legalize recreational marijuana use, who in society would stand to benefit and lose the most and why?

Many experts predict that big businesses would benefit the most (probably tobacco companies). Small cannabis companies, which were on the market since the legalization of medical cannabis, are concerned about the possible invasion of big businesses.

Why are states seemingly racing to legalize the recreational use of marijuana?

Two reasons:

  1. Economical: Cannabis legalization brings substantial tax revenues and creates new jobs.
  2. Political: Cannabis legalization is a liberal trend that some states decide to follow in order to signal their “progressiveness.”

How is the legalization of marijuana changing industries like banking in cities, states, and across the U.S.?

Cannabis companies often do not have access to professional services because banks, attorneys, insurance companies, potential investors, and others are concerned with breaking federal law.

Since the traditional professions are cautious about engaging with legal cannabis, a pool of “special” cannabis bankers, creditors, and attorneys has emerged. However, these specialists are often considered marginal within their professional groups and do not change significantly the traditional industry.

What are the top three pros and top three cons of growing marijuana at home in places where consumers are allowed to do so?

One of the cons is that neighbors can sue cannabis users and growers on the basis of nuisance laws that govern the presence of unwanted odors.

What’s your most important piece of advice for consumers trying marijuana recreationally for the first time in places where it’s legal?

There are still many social risks related to cannabis use. People may lose their jobs, parental rights, and federal benefits (such as student loans, subsidized housing, or research grants). Be aware of it.

Michael Flynn
Professor of Law, Shepard Broad Law Center
Nova Southeastern University

In plain English, what is the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana use?

Legalizing marijuana means that if a person fits the legal requirements for use in a particular state, then there will not be any criminal liability for that use.

Decriminalizing marijuana means that there can be no criminal charges for use.

If the federal government were to legalize recreational marijuana use, who in society would stand to benefit and lose the most and why?

Benefit would be for users, growers, and state and local governments through tax revenue, entrepreneurs, jobs increase.

Loss could be damage or injury to the person or the person’s property or other people’s property from abuse.

Why are states seemingly racing to legalize the recreational use of marijuana?

Tax revenue

What’s your most important piece of advice for consumers trying marijuana recreationally for the first time in places where it’s legal?

Be careful. Avoid abuse.

Marsha N. Cohen
Hon. Raymond L. Sullivan Professor of Law, Founding Executive Director, Lawyers for America
UC Hastings College of the Law

In plain English, what is the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana use?

For marijuana to be legal, there needs to be a change in laws, requiring a legislature to act (or in a state like California, a vote of the people can accomplish some law changes). The status of marijuana depends on both federal and state laws, and that has been the complication since the beginning of the attempt to legalize marijuana.

States are free to legalize marijuana — but that does not protect anyone within that state from prosecution under applicable federal laws. (That is why federally regulated banks will not open accounts for anyone dealing in marijuana, even if legal under state laws. Legislation currently pending in Congress would change this.) Even multiple decades ago, however, the federal government wasn’t busting street dealers in the Haight-Ashbury (in San Francisco) — that was left to local law enforcement.

Decriminalizing also requires changes in laws, it is not really any different from legalizing. Something that is a violation of criminal law is by definition not legal; something that is legal is not criminal. A state could change its criminal laws, for example, to eliminate marijuana from its list of controlled substances, so it would no longer be a crime, say, to grow marijuana — or give it away or even sell it. Yet there is de facto marijuana decriminalization that has gone on for a long time — that is, the laws are still on the books, but law enforcement officials (police, sheriffs) look the other way (or look the other way in certain circumstances — for example, a person smoking pot while walking down the street), and prosecutors no longer prosecute.

So both making a substance legal that is not legal and making possession/use/sale of that substance not a crime when it is now a crime require changes in laws. You can leave laws on the books and not enforce them (effectively decriminalizing something). And states can say something is OK that federal law forbids — but if the federal law is one that has impact in the states (there is no way you can put the complexities of “federalism” into plain English!), you might not be protected by the state law.

Over two-thirds of U.S. adults — a record high — support legalization of marijuana for recreational use. With such high public support and a reform bill already in the works, how likely is federal legalization during the Biden administration?

The Biden Administration (known to all of us at UC Hastings, her alma mater, as the Biden-Harris administration) is wise to be thinking about midterm elections that are barely 18 months away. It can’t accomplish anything if it loses its House majority and could do so much more if it could capture a few additional Senate seats (and desperately needs at least to hold its flimsy 50-50 there).

Drugs are one of the multiple third rails of American politics and fit neatly into the “soft on crime” painting that could be done to those who might vote for legalization. (Remember: every member of the House is up for re-election in November 2022.) So I wouldn’t hold my breath.  Maybe once the House, Senate, and White House are safely in Democratic hands? (Not holding my breath for that anytime soon, either.)

If the federal government were to legalize recreational marijuana use, who in society would stand to benefit and lose the most and why?

This depends on how they were to legalize recreational marijuana use. I’ve always thought that if marijuana were legalized for recreational use, it should be treated just like alcoholic beverages. There should be federal rules (and taxation!) of the industry. Both of these substances may bring some pleasure, but they both have a huge downside of pain, most notably from DUI-caused injury and death, as well from habituation/addiction (and I believe the scientific experts on this).

Thirty years ago, I would’ve said we all could lose; the loss is smaller now because we’ve already borne some of these negative impacts because who is enforcing restrictions on marijuana growth and use anywhere in this country now?

A truly careful legalization scheme could put a lot of the “pot shops” out of business. I have not been a fan of a cottage industry growing up around a dangerous drug (as I just said, I deem it the equivalent of alcohol — both are dangerous, and there should be cautions). A lot of this industry grew up around legalization for “medical” purposes — and mostly the “medical” part of that was quite bogus. (It’s not that substances in marijuana can’t/don’t have some beneficial impacts on diagnosed medical ailments, many surely finally getting controlled clinical studies – it is that anyone could get a medical marijuana card in California, for the right price.)

One major concern expressed has been if you regulate marijuana too much, only the illegal dealers will benefit (it’ll be cheaper on the street). But if you could get safe, legal pot at BevMo? (Or your equivalent Adult Substances Discount Store? Or Costco?)

Why are states seemingly racing to legalize the recreational use of marijuana?

I think they are all chasing the Almighty Dollar, another taxable substance! After all, if your citizens are just crossing the state line to get it … Also presumably responding to demand.  I wonder if there is a red state/blue state divide?

How is the legalization of marijuana changing industries like banking in cities, states, and across the U.S.?

As I noted above: Federally regulated bankers can’t now interact with those dealing in federally illegal substances. So there need to be “alternatives” or a lot of dealing in cash. I’m not up on how the pot shops are “banking,” but I know it has been a problem.

What are the top three pros and top three cons of growing marijuana at home in places where consumers are allowed to do so?

I assume some are just gardening problems and that plenty of people are growing it all over California for their personal use. Early on, the concern expressed in media was of intruders going after your pot plants. I’m not a gardener, but I wonder what marijuana does to animals/birds that might “share” your growing plants. Someone must know the answer, as marijuana does grow wild in some places.

What’s your most important piece of advice for consumers trying marijuana recreationally for the first time in places where it’s legal?

Those trying marijuana for the first time since they encountered it years ago have to know that it has been bred to be many times more potent. That has created a health hazard recognized by the medical establishment.

Young people should be told that there is considerable concern about negative brain impacts of marijuana (as with other illegal drugs) on still-developing brains. (Here’s some Real Science.) And that some people are more susceptible to habituation than others — there is surely a genetic component to that, but it’s not like you can take a blood test and be told if you are at low or high risk.

Methodology

We ranked 94 U.S. cities (where recreational marijuana use among adults is legal as of April 9, 2021) from best to worst based on their overall scores, averaged across all the metrics listed below. (Montana cities were excluded due to lack of data, as recreational use became legal Jan. 1.)

The city that earned the highest overall score — out of a possible 100 points — ranked No. 1, or “best.”

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Popularity
Google Search Interest in "Marijuana" and "Weed"31588Max. Value
Supply Access
Number of Marijuana Dispensaries (Serving City Within 5-Mile Radius) per 100,000 Residents2073.78Max. Value
Number of Head Shops (Serving City Within 5-Mile Radius) per 100,000 Residents20.249.62Max. Value
Legality of Home Growing102Max. Value
Social Environment
Number of 420-Friendly Lodging Establishments3010Max. Value
Number of Marijuana Tours3016Max. Value
Number of Marijuana Events3015Max. Value
Number of Marijuana Activities3012Max. Value
Number of Social Consumption Lounges304Max. Value

* Data collection date (and coverage period) for certain metrics:

  • Google Search Interest in “Marijuana” and “Weed”: April 9, 2021 (coverage period: past 3 months)
  • Number of Marijuana Tours, Number of Marijuana Events, and Number of Marijuana Activities: April 9, 2021 (coverage period: 2021)

Sources: 10times.com, Cannabis Business Times, Cannabiz Media, Google Trends, PotGuide, U.S. Census Bureau, and Yelp

Why This Study Matters

Ten years ago in America, you couldn’t smoke pot for fun without breaking the law. Times have changed and are changing — rapidly. 

Today, adult recreational marijuana use is legal in 16 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories. Virginia most recently joined the legal recreational pot party as the first Southern state, along with New York and New Mexico, bringing the total to 17 states by summer. 

That number more than doubles for medical cannabis. At the time of writing, medical marijuana use was legal in 36 U.S. states, plus D.C. and four U.S. territories. 

Things are still moving swiftly as states and the federal government look to new streams of tax revenue. Four other states may pass recreational cannabis reform bills this year. Whatever happens with states, Uncle Sam is tuning in: Recreational weed soon may be the law of the land.

This study, though, focuses only on U.S. cities where recreational marijuana use was legal among adults in early April 2021. (A full list of state-regulated cannabis programs, including their status, is available on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.)

America wouldn’t be embarking on these high times if Colorado and Washington State hadn’t blazed the legal marijuana regulatory trail in 2012. And Colorado continues to lead the way: Aptly on 4/20, Denver may pave the path toward home delivery in the U.S.

LawnStarter, of course, is your source for all your grass needs when it comes to lawn care and other outdoor services. For all other grass needs — well, this story might help you to find that kind of grass legally.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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