Here’s a look at how the patchwork of existing laws compare, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, which played pivotal roles in passing some of the legalization laws.
Can marijuana be consumed in public?
No. In all four states and D.C., public consumption of marijuana is banned. Consumption is also limited to adults 21 years of age or older.
How much can an individual possess?
In all four states, adults may possess up to an ounce of the drug in public. In D.C., the limit is two ounces.
Can individuals grow it at home?
As in Colorado, adults in Alaska and D.C. can grow up to six plants in their home, three of them mature. In Oregon, the limit is four plants, but that is for each household, regardless of the number of adults there. In D.C., each household is limited to 12 plants total.
In Oregon, each household is limited to possession of eight ounces at home. In Alaska, Colorado and D.C., adults may possess all that they grow.
Home-growing is not allowed in Washington.
Can marijuana be shared?
In Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and D.C., adults can also gift up to an ounce of the drug to one another.
When were all these laws approved and how much support did they get?
Legalization was approved by voters in Colorado and Washington during the 2012 elections and the remaining states and D.C. in the 2014 elections. The following is a list, in order from most to least, of the share of voters who approved legalization in each place.
D.C.: 64.9 percent
Oregon: 56.1 percent
Washington: 55.7 percent
Colorado: 55.3 percent
Alaska: 53.2 percent
When do/did all these laws go into effect?
Legalization of possession went into effect in December 2012 in Colorado and Washington. It begins today, Feb. 24, in Alaska and July 1 in Oregon.
Retail sales began Jan. 1, 2014, in Colorado and July 8, 2014, in Washington. Rules must be drafted within nine months of the effective date in Alaska, meaning they can be expected by the end of the year. In Oregon, the state will begin accepting applications for marijuana businesses on Jan. 4, 2016.
D.C.’s legalization effort is in murky territory. Congress blocked the District from establishing new rules regulating the sales of marijuana, but D.C. officials say that federal action did not stop the initiative. As a result, pot is expected to become legal as early as Feb. 26, though it will be loosely regulated.
Who oversees the industry?
In Alaska, Oregon and Washington, marijuana will be overseen by the state liquor control boards. In Colorado, the Department of Revenue oversees the program.
How is marijuana taxed?
In Alaska, a wholesale excise tax of $50 per ounce will be collected on all marijuana.
In Colorado, the state collects a 15 percent wholesale excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana.
In Oregon, flowers will be taxed at $35 an ounce, immature plants at $5 per plant and leaves at $10 an ounce, all of which will be adjusted with inflation.
Washington levies a 25 percent excise tax at three levels: producer to processor, processor to retailer and retailer to consumer.
Where does revenue go?
Revenue from marijuana is unallocated by the ballot measure passed in Alaska.
In Colorado, the first $40 million collected by the excise tax must go to new school construction, while the rest goes to the state general fund for enforcement, studies and public health monitoring.
In Oregon, the money must be divided as follows: 40 percent to a school fund; 20 percent to a mental health, alcoholism and drug services account; 15 percent to state police; 20 percent to cities and counties for local law enforcement; and 5 percent to alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention and treatment services.
In Washington, marijuana revenue is divvied up in two ways. The following payments must be made every quarter: up to $1.25 million for administration of the program; $185,000 to study youth use; $50,000 to pay for reports mandated by the initiative; and $5,000 to create and maintain online educational materials.
After those payments are made, the rest of the money must be split up as follows: 50 percent to a state health plan trust account; 15 percent for reducing substance abuse among young people; 10 percent for a public health program; less than 10 percent to study the short- and long-term effects of marijuana use, to provide health and dental care and to fund bridge building. Just under a fifth of the remaining amount goes to the general fund.
Can municipalities opt out?
Local municipalities may opt out in each of the four states where marijuana has been legalized. They also have varying degrees of power over the number of businesses allowed within their limits and the time, place and manner in which the businesses can operate.
The Marijuana Policy Project has played a pivotal role in past legalization efforts and has its sights set on even more. They have established committees to pursue legalization on the 2016 ballot in a number of states, such as Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. And it has plans to pursue legalization through the legislature in states such as Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Hawaii and Maryland. Bills have been introduce in Maryland and Vermont, where the state recently commissioned a study on its options.