At the start of 2020, more than a dozen states seemed very likely to legalize marijuana for recreational or medical purposes by the end of the year. Now that a coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed just about every aspect of American life, it seems only a handful of states will be able to enact marijuana reform.
The pandemic has hit legalization efforts on two fronts: First, at a time of social distancing, advocates in some states just can’t gather the signatures they need to get the issue on the ballot. Second, state lawmakers who might have passed marijuana legalization before quickly shifted to other priorities once the coronavirus crisis began.
Efforts to get recreational legalization on the ballot in Arkansas, Montana, Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma have stalled out, as have medical legalization efforts in Idaho and Nebraska. That could change if the coronavirus outbreak recedes faster than expected or if courts let organizers collect signatures online, but things don’t look good right now.
The pandemic has also dashed efforts by state lawmakers to legalize marijuana. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) previously said marijuana legalization was a priority for him. With his state now suffering the worst coronavirus outbreak in the US, he has walked that back, saying, “Too much [to deal with], too little time.”