There's good news and bad for people looking to move to a city that allows medical or recreational use of marijuana. The good: There's no need to give up hope for safe neighborhoods or quality school districts. But living there may not be cheap, either.
(Read more: Medical marijuana refugees face financial hurdles)
BestPlaces.net pulled data on cities in states with laws permitting medical or recreational marijuana use. "We looked for metros that have a combination of a solid economy, plenty of things to do, and a healthy population," said founder Bert Sperling.
Using that data, CNBC then looked for good schools and affordability relative to average incomes in the area. Cities such as Washington, D.C., and Chicago were eliminated because they have made access tough despite having medical marijuana laws.
SOURCES: BestPlaces.net for city picks; Trulia.com for average listing prices (in the week ending Jan. 22) and median sales prices (October 2013 through January 2014); Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness for cost of living index data (from Q3 2013).
—By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant. Follow her on Twitter @Kelligrant and on Google.
Posted 5 Feb. 2014
Average listing price in Boulder County: $675,417
Median sales price: $325,000
Cost of Living: 104.0 (with 100 being the U.S. average)
Weedmaps.com lists 30 medical dispensaries in and around Boulder. Five in Boulder County are in the process of licensing for recreational sales, reports the Daily Camera, the first of which could open in mid-February. Since Jan. 1, adults age 21 or older in Colorado can possess up to an ounce of marijuana and give up to an ounce to other legal adults. They can also grow up to six plants (including no more than three flowering plants), and legally possess marijuana from those plants at the location where it was grown.
Average listing price in King County: $584,528
Median sales price: $375,000
Cost of Living: 117.5 (with 100 being the U.S. average)
Washington state's Initiative 502, passed in 2012, legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana or marijuana-infused products, with a system for retail sales in the works. In December, the Metropolitan King County Council approved a one-year moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. But there's no shortage: Weedmaps.com lists more than 100 dispensaries in the Seattle area. Plus Seattle, Bellevue and Everett are already zoned for recreational marijuana, according to a study from the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Average listing price in Washtenaw County: $259,461
Median sales price: $199,995
Cost of Living: 101.6 (with 100 being the U.S. average)
Ann Arbor has been famously lenient on marijuana use, with a city charter amendment in place since 1974 setting a fine of just $5 for possession, use or sale. There are 15 medical dispensaries in the city, per Weedmaps.com. State law permits medical marijuana for people with medical conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C. The law also allows registered caregivers to cultivate up to 12 plants—but notes that the federal government may still step in to seize plants and prosecute caregivers and patients. (The Michigan House of Representatives passed two measures in 2013 that would offer protections to registered participants; both are with Senate Government Operations Committee for consideration this year.)
Average listing price in Pima County: $272,033
Median sales price: $157,000
Cost of Living: 96.4 (with 100 being the U.S. average)
Tucson's medical dispensaries first opened their doors a year ago, and Weedmaps.com lists 17 in and around the city. State law permits medical marijuana for people with medical conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C. (But earlier this month, the state rejected petitions requesting use for post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines and depression.) The law also allows registered patients to cultivate up to 12 plants, provided there is no dispensary operating within 25 miles.
Average listing price in Multnomah County: $300,828
Median sales price: $270,700
Cost of Living: 119.1 (with 100 being the U.S. average)
Weedmaps.com lists 60 medical dispensaries in the Portland area. Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana, passing a measure in 1973 making possession of an ounce or less a civil violation punishable by fines of up to $1,000. (Efforts to legalize marijuana, most recently in 2012, have failed.) But the state's medical marijuana program is the only one to accept out-of-state applications, and it permits medical use for people with conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS or post-traumatic stress disorder. It also protects registered users from criminal prosecution of possessing or producing marijuana.
Burlington-South Burlington, VT
Average listing price in Chittenden County: $382,339
Median sales price: $243,000
Cost of Living: 120.1 (with 100 being the U.S. average)
As of last year, Vermont decriminalized marijuana, setting civil fines of up to $200 for possessing less than an ounce. State law permits use of medical marijuana for people with conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS or multiple sclerosis. Registered patients and caregivers can grow up to nine plants, including two mature plants. But the law also permits just four dispensaries statewide. Three are currently open, including one in Burlington.
Average listing price in Dane County: $304,144
Median sales price: $202,000
Cost of Living: 102.8 (with 100 being the U.S. average)
Technically, Madison didn't fit our search parameters—which narrowed the field to states that have legalized some form of marijuana use. (Wisconsin hasn't, although in late January State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, introduced a bill that would legalize it for medical and recreational use.) But Madison routinely hovers at the top of nationwide "Best Places to Live" lists. It's No. 5 on Livability's this year, for example. Since 1977, city ordinance has decriminalized possession of marijuana, allowing up to 0.24 pounds kept in a private place. People found in possession in a public place face civil fines of up to $100.