2022’s Best Cities to Get Stoned

Image of female tourist smiling as she passes by cannabis shop

Whether you seek inspiration, relief, or relaxation, certain U.S. cities are guaranteed to enhance your cannabis experience.

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

LawnStarter ranked nearly 100 of the biggest U.S. cities (where recreational marijuana use is legal) based on 12 key indicators of a smoking good time. 

We looked at access to dispensaries, head shops, consumption lounges, and 420-friendly lodging. We also considered the availability of tours and events and even munchie relief, among other factors.

See the top cities for toking up below. You’ll also find highlights, lowlights, and weedy wisdom from pot experts.

Table of Contents

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

City Rankings 

See how each city fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScoreAccess RankMunchies RankCommunity Rank
1San Francisco, CA69.461425
2Denver, CO51.562306
3Las Vegas, NV50.538111
4Long Beach, CA46.61794
5Los Angeles, CA46.51135
6Oakland, CA45.1434529
7Pasadena, CA44.0910149
8Portland, OR42.3914721
9Torrance, CA42.11121518
10San Diego, CA42151316
11Glendale, CA39.94132718
12Sacramento, CA39.6664127
13Santa Ana, CA39.5354641
14Rancho Cucamonga, CA37.6517367
15Garden Grove, CA37.4948423
16Orange, CA35.72161241
17Colorado Springs, CO35.28211873
18Seattle, WA34.2449626
19Boston, MA34.2246535
20Phoenix, AZ34.19261761
21Chicago, IL33.977313
22Santa Clarita, CA33.540297
23Fullerton, CA33.33183838
24Elk Grove, CA33.0899048
25Anaheim, CA32.95312141
26New York, NY32.698822
27Santa Rosa, CA32.58373216
28San Jose, CA32.36441629
29Fontana, CA31.75247011
30Lancaster, CA31.21423715
31Paterson, NJ31.15235173
32Eugene, OR31.11225469
33Huntington Beach, CA31.02334041
34Hayward, CA30.92255648
35Oceanside, CA30.8208611
36Gilbert, AZ30.76342473
37Mesa, AZ30.63363361
38Fremont, CA30.52276129
39Modesto, CA30.09392869
40Grand Rapids, MI29.41304873
41Detroit, MI29.17198535
42Alexandria, VA28.84791048
43Tucson, AZ28.56354773
44Escondido, CA28.38506013
45Buffalo, NY27.66563459
46Worcester, MA26.94386961
47Riverside, CA26.83327941
48Spokane, WA26.77612373
49Naperville, IL26.64712048
50Irvine, CA26.35682641
51Oxnard, CA26.23289420
52Corona, CA26.13525848
53Fresno, CA26.1691973
54Pomona, CA25.78584948
55Richmond, VA25.5773522
56Sunnyvale, CA25.46724229
57Fort Collins, CO25.4486666
58Tempe, AZ25.39594373
59San Bernardino, CA25.32518014
60Glendale, AZ25.09555073
61Salinas, CA25.07298769
62Aurora, IL24.72655248
63Palmdale, CA24.52814410
64Bellevue, WA24.47752566
65Scottsdale, AZ23.93536573
66Aurora, CO23.78547827
67Salem, OR23.77418934
68Arlington, VA23.34872248
69Springfield, MA23.06577161
70Yonkers, NY22.92458373
71Tacoma, WA22.91626866
72Vancouver, WA22.86607260
73Ontario, CA22.67665929
74Lakewood, CO22.58439748
75Henderson, NV21.84746438
76Stockton, CA21.65479265
77Reno, NV21.21637673
78Albuquerque, NM20.78785573
79Bakersfield, CA20.58805373
80Jersey City, NJ19.9594873
81Moreno Valley, CA19.89679523
82Rochester, NY19.04767469
83Chandler, AZ18.87903173
84Anchorage, AK18.49649373
85Thornton, CO18.43709148
86Joliet, IL17.6837448
87Peoria, AZ16.74858173
88Chula Vista, CA16.71897341
89Rockford, IL16.51867773
90Virginia Beach, VA16.34916335
91Syracuse, NY15.74828873
92North Las Vegas, NV15.72849638
93Norfolk, VA15.2925773
94Bridgeport, CT12.83973973
95Newport News, VA11.55938273
96Chesapeake, VA11.53956773
97Newark, NJ10.22966273
Infographic showing the best cities for marijuana lovers, a ranking based on access to dispensaries, head shops, consumption lounges, muchie relief, and community metrics
Note: We ranked 97 cities on each of the above metrics. However, the lowest-ranking position for some of the metrics may not be 97 due to a significant number of ties among cities.

Highlights and Lowlights

San Francisco Blazing (the Ganja Trail)

The City by the Bay (No. 1) smoked the competition in our ranking this year, scoring 18 points higher than our previous gold medalist, Denver.

San Francisco dominated the Access category and also gave a dope performance in Munchies at No. 4.

But consumers find many of the city’s dispensaries a bit of a drag. San Francisco ranked a middling 42 in average rating of cannabis dispensaries.

Denver: One-Hit Wonder?

The aptly nicknamed Mile High City was our 2021 cannabis capital. This year, the city’s high (rank, that is) has worn off slightly, coming down to spot No. 2.

Denver’s short fall from grace is partly due to new metrics we introduced in 2022, particularly the Munchies category, where the city placed 30 overall.

But Denver continues to ride high on Colorado’s first-mover advantage. Along with Washington State, the Centennial State was first to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. That’s why Denver ranks high in access to dispensaries, consumption lounges, and 420-friendly lodging — it’s simply had more time to roll out those joints.

Pacific Northwest High

You don’t need to climb a mountain just to reach the clouds in the PNW. Both Portland (No. 8) and Seattle (No. 18) can transport you to higher elevations from wherever you’re standing — or lying down.

That’s to be expected of hipster and hippie havens like these two, where cannabis is woven into the culture. Step out of a downtown Light Rail station, and you’ll likely get a whiff of pot-pourri in the air. 

Portland and Seattle are particularly good destinations for stoners with a big appetite. Both are widely considered “foodie” cities, gobbling up the competition in Munchies.

California: The State of High

You’ll never have to ask “Canna get a what what?” again in the Golden State. The answer is “everything” because California is the It place for stoners.

With seven cities in our top 10 — plus seven more in our top 20 — there’s no better state than California to get totally baked. It is, after all, the true marijuana reform pioneer: California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, in 1996.

Doobie Newbies

2021 was a banner year for stoners in “new” states. New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico — along with Connecticut and Virginia — all joined the league of fun-weed states.

Most of the cities in these states ranked low on our list. In fact, our bottom 10 includes Newark, New Jersey, in last place, Bridgeport, Connecticut, at No. 94, Syracuse, New York, at No. 91, and four Virginia cities. In their defense, building up the necessary infrastructure in a budding weed city takes time.

New York City managed to place 26th, though, with Paterson, New Jersey, not far behind at No. 31. Clearly, ganja-preneurs here were ready before the new rules took effect.

Doobie Downer

Not to take a cheap potshot at Newark, New Jersey, but most of the people getting high in this city are the ones flying out of its airport. 

Newark finished last in our ranking overall, on account of dismal access to cannabis (No. 96 overall in this category). 

Its one bright spot? Newark ranked an impressive No. 20 in head shops per square mile. But what do you do with a pipe with no weed?

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 that has cleared the House, 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
Ben Michael
Criminal Defense Attorney
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 that has cleared the House, 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 that has cleared the House, 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 that has cleared the House, 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 that has cleared the House, 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 that has cleared the House, 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.

Ben Michael
Criminal Defense Attorney
Michael & Associates

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

These are two very different things, and it’s worth knowing that difference.

Legalization means that a drug that was illegal is now legal under either state or federal law. Also, something can be legal at the state level, but not at the federal level.

Decriminalization typically means that a drug is still illegal, but a state or locality has decided not to enforce the law or prosecute possession cases.

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

As long as marijuana is illegal at the federal level, banks will be reluctant to lend to marijuana related companies. It’s far too risky from a legal perspective, and it’s an industry that is perceived as having bad actors.

One industry that is changing is the fertilizer industry. Companies like Scott’s Miracle Grow are investing billions in creating products from grow lights to plant fertilizers that help

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

First off, be sure that it is actually legal. Secondly, do not drive while under the influence of marijuana. In most places where marijuana is legal, it is still illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana.

Ben Michael is Partner at Michael & Associates Criminal Defense Attorneys.

Methodology

We ranked 97 U.S. cities from best (No. 1) to worst (97) for stoners based on their overall scores, averaged across all the metrics listed below.

We began with a sample comprising the 200 most populated U.S. cities. Of those, we included only the cities — 97 total — where adult non-medical use and commercial sale of marijuana were fully legal as of April 1, 2022.

Although recreational use and sale of cannabis are also legal in Maine, Montana, and Vermont, we did not include cities from these states because they did not meet our criterion for population size. 

We also excluded Washington, D.C. — where both adult recreational use and dispensaries are allowed — because the commercial sale of non-medical marijuana was technically outlawed at the time of writing. Certain amounts of recreational marijuana may only be “gifted” in the District.

We will add more cities to our ranking as more states — or possibly the federal government — legalize recreational marijuana in the future.

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Access
Legality of Home Cultivation (0 = Not Allowed, 1 = Medical Allowed, 2 = Medical + Recreational Allowed)102Max. Value
Marijuana Dispensaries per Square Mile402.34Max. Value
Average Consumer Rating for Marijuana Dispensaries415Max. Value
Head Shops per Square Mile301.31Max. Value
Number of Cannabis Collectives1053Max. Value
Number of Cannabis Delivery Services2055Max. Value
Number of Cannabis Consumption Lounges304Max. Value
Number of 420-Friendly Accommodations2032Max. Value
Munchies
Fast Food Lover-Friendliness23195Min. Value
Cheese Lover-Friendliness21181Min. Value
Community
Number of Cannabis Tours1019Max. Value
Number of Cannabis Events2010Max. Value

Sources: 10times.com, Cannabis Business Times, Cannabiz Media, CelebStoner, Everfest, Green Tripz, Marijuana Policy Project, PotGuide, U.S. Census Bureau, Weedmaps, and Yelp

High Times: Why This Study Matters

A decade ago, Americans couldn’t smoke pot for giggles without breaking the law.

Today, adult recreational marijuana use is legal in 18 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories. That number more than doubles for medical cannabis, with Mississippi, one of the most conservative states, most recently allowing it.

Will recreational weed become the law of the land during the Biden administration? The House passed legislation (again) in early April, though it has no real legs in the Senate. But recreational cannabis reform bills are pending in 25 states, some of which could pass this year.

Of course, the U.S. wouldn’t be embarking on these high times if Colorado and Washington State hadn’t blazed the regulatory trail in 2012. This study reflects the progress of America’s biggest cities since.

LawnStarter and 420 — what’s the connection? LawnStarter can mow your grass and get rid of weeds in your yard. For all other grass and weed needs, well, this story can help you find that easily.

Editor’s note: LawnStarter neither condones nor promotes drug abuse. This study is intended only to provide entertainment value and information.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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