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A recently published industry report warns that New Jersey’s limited number of legal, licensed and regulated cannabis dispensaries may harm the state’s ability to curtail the illicit cannabis marketplace.
Of the 14 states across the U.S. with legalized adult-use markets, New Jersey – with a population of 9.2 million – had the fewest stores per capita, coming in at 0.3 dispensaries per 100,000 people, according to a study done in partnership between cannabis use and education website Leafly.com and research firm Whitney Economics.
The vote on the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act took place a day before April 20 — or 4/20 — the unofficial holiday that commemorates all things marijuana.
The cannabis industry is making strides in other ways as well. Since the November elections, several states, most recently New Mexico and Virginia, have taken steps to legalize marijuana sales for adult recreational use. Others, including New York, New Jersey and Arizona, have also gone that route. And more states are expected to follow suit.
Consider where things stand. Already this year New Mexico, New Jersey, New York and Virginia have legalized weed, which if you add them to the existing legal states, means some 43% of the U.S. population now lives in states where recreational marijuana is legal, as noted by Vox in a recent story headlined "Marijuana legalization has won." On tap this year are possibly Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island, while others like Wisconsin and Maryland are considering it as well. The record years for states legalizing weed were 2016 and last year at four.
Today, more than two-in-three Americans support marijuana legalization, including 49 percent of respondents who self-identify as “conservative,” according to Gallup’s 2020 polling. Even in a historically conservative state like Texas, nearly two-in-three respondents, 64 percent, supported legalizing and taxing marijuana in the 2021 Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation Poll.
In the span of eight short years, the number of states in the U.S. allowing adult-use marijuana has gone from zero to fifteen. Most of these efforts have happened via state-wide ballot initiatives.
Voters approved a slew of marijuana legalization initiatives during November’s election—in states around the country and across the political spectrum—but activists aren’t slowing down. They expect that 2021 will see another surge of reform in state legislatures.
Recreational marijuana legalization victories at the ballot box in Arizona and New Jersey this month have set the table for adult-use legalization in a handful of nearby states in 2021 – with more than $6 billion in business opportunities possibly up for grabs within a few years.
“New York, Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico are ripe for 2021” to legalize recreational use through their legislatures, said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project.
“My assumption is that 2022, for me, is the magic number,” Canopy Growth CEO David Klein told CNBC’s Jim Kramer. “I think, as you watch more and more states move to legalization for medical or rec, you really bring in almost two more senators each time who are really going to feel compelled to not make criminals out of the people in their state who are doing what’s legal in their particular state.”
Here are three factors to keep in mind as states address either recreational or medical legalization this year:
This was supposed to be the big year for marijuana legalization. But in many state capitols across the country, efforts have stalled or collapsed as Democrats clash over everything from race and criminal justice to how to divvy up a gold mine of pot-tax revenue.
Legalization of recreational marijuana seemed all but inevitable in at least a half-dozen states when the year began — including New York, New Jersey and Illinois, which all have Democratic legislatures.
Multistate marijuana firm iAnthus Capital agreed to acquire the U.S. assets of Toronto-based cannabis company MPX Bioceutical Corp. in an all-stock deal valued at 835 million Canadian dollars ($640 million), the second mega-acquisition in the American MJ industry in less than a week.
The acquisition positions New York-based iAnthus as one the largest U.S. cannabis operators and expands the firm’s footprint to 10 states, nearly doubling its reach.