Advocates of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes scored their most significant legislative victory of the year Friday when the Illinois state House gave final approval to a measure allowing residents over the age of 21 to purchase and use cannabis products.
But their win in Springfield comes at the end of a string of defeats in what was supposed to be a banner year for legalization. Even supporters of recreational use acknowledge their legislative agenda has run into more roadblocks than they expected.
Legislators in New Jersey, Connecticut and New Mexico hit the brakes on legalization bills this year, even though Democratic governors in all three states made clear their support. A New Hampshire bill stalled in the state Senate when it became apparent the legislature did not have the votes to override a likely veto from Gov. Chris Sununu (R).
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) effort to legalize recreational use through his state budget stalled, though the legislature is considering a separate bill.
"Some progress has happened slower than we would have liked, of course," said Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group.
Opposition groups have mounted surprisingly strong campaigns against legalization bills, in many states led by minority legislators who worry that increased access to marijuana will disproportionately impact their communities. Black caucuses in New Jersey and Connecticut have emerged as fulcrums in the debate over legalization.