The Next 7: Will Your State Legalize Cannabis in 2020?
Although federal legalization could still be years away in the US, 2020 is shaping up to be a hallmark year for cannabis reform at the state level. Today, we’re looking at seven states where recreational cannabis legalization could happen over the next 12 months.
1. New Mexico
New Mexico might very well be the first US state to pass legalization in 2020. The state took big steps toward legalization last summer, decriminalizing the possession of up to 0.5 ounces/14 grams of cannabis.
New Mexico’s House of Representatives has since passed a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis, but that legislation has been stalled by New Mexico’s Senate. In the interim, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has built a 19-person cannabis legalization task force. The team consists of state legislators, Cabinet secretaries, law enforcement officials, and medical marijuana experts. The wait ends later this month when a 30-day legislative session on cannabis legalization kicks off.
Vermont has been one of the most cannabis-progressive states over the past couple of decades. The Green Mountain State approved medical marijuana in 2004, decriminalized possession of less than an ounce in 2013, and became the first state to legalize cannabis through state legislature in 2018.
Despite its relative headstart to legalization, Vermont has since fallen behind other states in this respect. While possession for recreational use is legal, the sale and production of cannabis remain illegal there to this day.
A mechanized cannabis retail system for the state was proposed and passed by the Senate last spring. Unfortunately, Vermont’s House of Representatives is yet to vote on it. So far in 2020, we have already seen efforts from state politicians and officials, including Attorney General T.J. Donovan, to lobby House members to expedite the process.
3. New Jersey
New Jersey made cannabis headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2019 when democratic legislators failed twice to reach an agreement with Senate members over the legalization of recreational, adult-use cannabis in the state.
But a glimmer of hope shone through the murky fog of partisan politics in December. Legislators on both sides of the aisle agreed that it would be better to let voters decide whether to legalize cannabis on the November 2020 ballot. In the meantime, Governor Phil Murphy is working with state legislators to pass a cannabis decriminalization bill that would administer fines instead of jail time for those caught with cannabis possession.
Arizona is no stranger to legalization attempts. In 2016, an adult-use legalization vote failed in a state-wide ballot vote after garnering only 48.7% support. Arizona has put the issue of legalization back on this November’s ballot and is expecting more favorable results this time around.
The campaign is spearheaded by Smart and Safe Arizona, an organization dedicated to legalizing cannabis in a — you guessed it — smart, safe, and responsible way. This includes initiatives to increase user safety and limit public consumption in addition to promoting the benefits that legalization would have in the state, such as job creation and tax revenues.
These efforts appear to be working. More than 54% of state voters are now reportedly in favor of adult-use legalization. There is even a flurry of Republicans who were previously against legalization that are now warming to the idea.
Over the next four months, Arizona lawmakers will convene to discuss and codify laws regarding medical cannabis access on school properties, tolerable pesticides during the cultivation process, State Department access to medical dispensary records, and potential expansions to the list of conditions that qualify for legal medical cannabis use.
5. New York
New York got so close to legalization in 2019.
Unfortunately, policymakers and legislators couldn’t reach an agreement on key issues. Decisions on taxation, regulations, and criminal expungements came to a standstill. But in 2020, New York’s cannabis industry is optimistic about its chances. So what’s changed?
The new hope for 2020 legalization in New York has been spurred on by the enormous amount of tax revenue and cannabis sales Illinois has generated since cannabis became legal in the state on New Year’s Day.
A 2019 poll revealed that a whopping 56% of New Yorkers approve of adult-use cannabis legalization. Plus, Governor Andrew Cuomo brought in the new year by vowing that cannabis would be legalized in the state at some point in 2020. Seems like it’s just a matter of time now…
The wheels are officially in motion for cannabis legalization in Montana, but the vehicle is yet to leave the driveway.
It was reported earlier this week that the advocacy group New Approach Montana had officially submitted two ballot initiatives to the state attorney general’s office for vetting. One initiative would allow voters to make a call on legalized recreational and a regulated retail system for it. The other would establish 21 as the minimum age for recreational consumption.
If the initiatives are approved, New Approach Montana would have until June to collect a minimum of 25,468 petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Kentucky lawmaker Cluster Howard pre-filed a bill to legalize recreational cannabis well ahead of the 2020 legislative session.
While most states have focused on the numerous benefits of legalization, such as reducing crime and increasing jobs, the Kentucky effort is centered on a singular purpose: economics.
The KERS (Kentucky Employees Retirement System) reports over $13.6 billion in unfunded liabilities. The hope is that taxing recreational marijuana could provide a safety net, helping to pay off the severely underfunded pension plan.