Posted by Dave Kaplan
8 months ago / December 6, 2021
The 5 States Most Likely To Legalize Recreational Cannabis in 2022
Federal cannabis legalization may still be years away, but 2021 was nevertheless a banner year for cannabis reform at the state level. The consumption and sale of adult-use cannabis was legalized in 5 major US markets—Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia—and optimism is at an all-time high for several other states to join the Green Rush in 2022. Today, we highlight the five states most likely to legalize recreational cannabis in the coming year:
Ohio seems like a shoe-in for legalization at some point in 2022. In October, the citizen-led Coalition to Regulate Marjiuana like Alcohol (CTRMLA) submitted a cannabis legalization ballot proposal to the Ohio Legislature for approval. The proposed legislation would legalize the consumption and sale of recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older, in addition to establishing a regulatory framework and tax/licensing proposals for the industry. The CTRMLA was then given three months to collect 132,887 signatures from state voters in order to send the measure to the Ohio Legislature for consideration. Support was apparently so widespread that the coalition needed less than 60 of its allotted 90 days to hit its mark. Now Ohio lawmakers will have four months to either adopt or reject it. If the measure is rejected, the CTRMLA will need to get another 132,887 signatures in order to bypass the Ohio Legislature altogether and put the question directly to voters on the November 2022 ballot. Judging by the support the initial petition got, that wouldn’t be much of a problem. But chances are it won’t even get to that point, as Democrats and Republicans in the state both seem to be aboard the legalization train.
Legalization efforts are back on track in Delaware after a slight hiccup this summer when House Bill 150 was delayed due to disagreements over a social equity fund included in the legislation. The bill, which establishes a regulatory framework for recreational cannabis sales in the state and allows the purchase of up to one ounce of cannabis by adults 21 and older, never made it to the house floor in early June, as anticipated. The legislation has since been retooled by chief sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski, who plans to reintroduce a new version of it to the House floor for the 2022 legislative session in January. Six licensed operators currently supply Delaware’s entire medical cannabis market, which is projected to surpass $31 million in revenue in 2021. Several of these brands have been outspoken about the potential harm adult-use legalization would do to Delaware’s existing medical market, claiming that an influx of new companies and products would oversupply the market and result in job losses. A majority of the state’s residents disagree, viewing legalization as both a necessary and inevitable change.
Maryland lawmakers failed to pass legislation legalizing the consumption and sale of adult-use cannabis in 2021, so the question will now be put to voters on the 2022 general election ballot. Nothing is written in stone, but most experts believe the ballot initiative will pass easily. Sixty percent of Maryland’s residents support adult-use legalization, according to a recent Goucher College poll, although that number is down slightly from 67% in March. In the meantime, state legislators have started meeting with cannabis policy and reform experts to better understand what a Maryland regulatory framework would look like. These details will likely be ironed out over the next few months, including how licenses will be awarded and what measures will be needed to ensure that entrepreneurs from lower-income and minority communities have opportunities to enter and thrive in the market, so that they can be enacted quickly if the ballot initiative passes. Even though the wheels are in motion for a November vote, Senate President Bill Ferguson remains optimistic that his chamber will pass legalization legislation in the General Assembly this spring. “It’s the responsibility of the General Assembly to put forward a framework that takes care of all of those issues,” Ferguson said in July. “We’ll see about the whole ballot issue. I think this is something the General Assembly should lead on.”
In Rhode Island, adult-use legalization is basically a foregone conclusion. On June 22, Rhode Island’s Senate approved an adult-use cannabis legalization bill with overwhelming support, but it has been in limbo in the state’s General Assembly ever since, which adjourned from its regular session shortly thereafter on July 1. That’s not to say the bill would have passed seamlessly had the session not adjourned. House members reportedly raised concerns at the time about the number of retail and cultivation licenses that would be issued, expungement processes and policies, and who would be tasked to oversee and regulate this new market. Lawmakers have been working behind the scenes in the interim to come to a consensus. Although not every issue has yet been resolved, some top Rhode Island lawmakers have recently hinted that they are nearing much closer to an agreement. Should they reach one, a special session will likely be convened in 2022 where the bill will be put to a vote. If passed, it will then be sent to Governor Dan McKee, a proponent of cannabis legalization, for approval.
Oklahoma is a bit of an enigma. The deep-red state boasts the largest medical cannabis program per capita in the country, with 15.9% of its residents aged 21 or older enrolled and over 9,000 licensed grow operations—a number that’s proven to be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, more licensed operators means more products, and Oklahomans have been purchasing them in droves with the state projecting more than $150M in cannabis tax revenue from 2021, alone. On the other hand, 9,000 licensed operators is clearly too many for a market with a population of only 2.5m eligible residents. Poor regulatory oversight in the state coupled with a paltry $2,500 licensing fee has opened the floodgates, paving the way for bad actors and “ghost” owners to set up shop, many with ties to international crime organizations. The state has begun pruning some of these bad-faith operators, but the reputation of Oklahoma’s cannabis industry has taken a hit as a result—even among its supporting ranks. We’ll see to what extent Oklahomans still support legalization in the coming months when multiple recently-filed petitions to add legalization to the state’s 2022 ballot are set to be circulated. Should either of those petitions garner 178,00 signatures, legalization will be put to a statewide vote in November.
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