So even as we make progress, I still can’t bring myself to rejoice yet. In the days after the 2020 election, news articles and social media posts celebrated the legalization of recreational cannabis in multiple states: Montana, Arizona, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Then in late 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. (The bill remains stalled in the Senate.) But while decriminalization and legalization are the first steps toward equality, they are not a complete solution.
In the wake of growing unrest over racial injustice, several states have taken steps that may give legalization proponents reason to be optimistic. For example, Georgia lawmakers included decriminalizing marijuana in a recent police reform bill. In New Jersey, a decriminalization bill passed the state Assembly by a 63-10 vote. Taking everything into account, Karen O’Keefe, the director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, believes we will see a record number of states legalize marijuana next year.
A marijuana industry group sent letters to seven governors in the Northeast on Thursday, imploring them to push for cannabis legalization to aid in economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Association of Cannabis Businesses (NACB) said a regionally coordinated legalization strategy would help generate much-needed tax revenue from legal marijuana sales.
At the start of 2020 (a little over 90 days ago), the cannabis industry anticipated that this would be the year for major cannabis reform at the state level. Many states, including New York, New Jersey, Idaho, and Arkansas, had expressed great interest in clarifying and expanding cannabis legislation. And, as recent as January 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed his desire that New York's executive budget for 2021 include tax income that could be anticipated if the state allowed and taxed recreational cannabis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced government officials to make life-or-death decisions about which goods and services are essential, and which are not.
In state after state, and province after province, regulators have declared medical marijuana essential. This is a watershed moment worth noting.
In California, New York, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, Colorado, Nevada, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, governors have closed non-essential businesses, but specifically allowed medical (and sometimes adult-use) cannabis dispensaries to remain open.
The nationwide coronavirus outbreak could set back cannabis legalization efforts along the East Coast and elsewhere, raising further questions about the launch of lucrative new adult-use and medical markets in New York and other states.
Those potential markets, if launched, could generate billions of dollars in business opportunities for a range of marijuana companies.
But the outlook for legalization in those places now seems up in the air.
House candidate Brigid Harrison announced her support for marijuana legalization Wednesday, calling for the federal government to take point on legalization.
More than 40 U.S. states could allow some form of legal marijuana by the end of 2020, including deep red Mississippi and South Dakota — and they’re doing it with the help of some conservatives.
State lawmakers are teeing up their bills as legislative sessions kick off around the country, and advocates pushing ballot measures are racing to collect and certify signatures to meet deadlines for getting their questions to voters.
The political turmoil over marijuana comes as five northeastern Democratic governors announced last month that they had reached an agreement to fully legalize marijuana. Three of the states — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, where Democrats are in complete control of the government — already have spent months squabbling over the specifics of complex legislation that would legalize cannabis sales.
The four states represented have all either attempted or flirted with cannabis legalization, without yet achieving it: