As of 2015, recreational marijuana is legal in four states, including Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, and the District of Columbia, according to Mic. Medical marijuana is legal in another 23 states. Mic expects 11 other states, including New York, California, Michigan, Maryland and Massachusetts to legalize recreational marijuana in the near future.
Many states have moved to relax laws against marijuana use in light of changing societal attitudes regarding the drug, notes USA Today. A majority of Americans across all political persuasions now support legalization of the drug, and in 2012 and 2013, an estimated 12 percent of Americans aged 12 and older had smoked the drug. As of 2015, all states that have legalized recreational marijuana have first taken steps to relax strict laws against possession or have legalized medical marijuana.
Other states that have not legalized recreational or medical marijuana use have moved to decriminalize its use and possession to some degree, resulting in reduced penalties for marijuana use and possession, explains USA Today.
Economic factors play a large role in the trend toward legalization, reports USA Today. Jailing marijuana offenders is costly and strains state prisons. Legalizing marijuana, by contrast, creates significant jobs and tax revenue.