Here are three factors to keep in mind as states address either recreational or medical legalization this year:
- In the past, marijuana legalization has primarily occurred through the ballot box. But in a momentous development, Illinois legalized a projected $2 billion adult-use program through its Legislature in 2019. Expect that trend to amplify in 2020. “Increasingly, legalization is moving toward legislatures,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “That’s the biggest shift.”
- State marijuana laws historically have reflected a patchwork of regulations. But a more mature industry means that legalization increasingly involves conversations over what has worked and hasn’t worked in legal states. The lack of industry diversity is one common topic. “There’s a strong focus on making sure communities most hard-hit by the war on drugs benefit,” O’Keefe noted.
- Democratic governors in the Northeast are trying to coordinate adult-use legalization efforts. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted a summit in October to begin discussing common approaches to licensing, taxation, minority and small-business participation, product potency and other issues. Cannabis businesses would still need a lot of resources to apply for licenses and to operate on the East Coast, but they might be able to use one application as a template for others in the region. But experts say a regional approach is easier said than done, with each state facing its own internal politics.
What follows is a rundown of some of the states expected to consider recreational and medical marijuana ballot and legislative measures this year, listed in order of their likelihood of passing.