More than 40 percent of Americans now live in states — 18 in total — that have embraced full legalization. Roughly two-thirds of American back legal weed, according to polls.
The acceptance of legal weed by governors and state lawmakers in 2021 — without the explicit blessing of voters — marks a turning point. Until this year, only two states had legalized recreational marijuana programs through the legislature: Illinois in 2019 and Vermont in 2020.
“The sky hasn't fallen in those states that have legalized,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for legalization advocacy organization Marijuana Policy Project. “It doesn't hurt that these laws generate a lot of economic growth in the way of new jobs, new small businesses and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that states could really use as they recover from Covid.”
While not all legislative efforts have been a success, with legalization bills dying in Maryland, Hawaii and Wyoming in recent months, the rapid spread of legalization across the country will further exacerbate the tension between state and federal laws.