Which States Might Pass Marijuana Legislation Next?
A green wave is sweeping over the United States.
Once the calendar turned to 2020, Illinois became the 11th state in the country to allow the legal sale of recreational marijuana. In all, 33 states have recreational cannabis or a medical marijuana program.
Those numbers could grow in 2020. More state legislatures have signaled they will consider laws that legalize marijuana for adult use or establish medical marijuana programs. The trend is reflected by increasing support legalization across the nation: A CBS poll from 2019 found 65% of Americans were in favor, the highest share ever.
Let's take a look at which states might be the next to pass marijuana legislation in 2020 and beyond.
Florida always seems to be in the news for some reason or other. Now, it's the next in line of populous and high-profile states to consider legalization efforts. As local reports show, 2019 was a big year for cannabis in Florida — but 2020 could be even bigger.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, while Florida voters in 2016 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment establishing a medical marijuana program, access was limited to cannabis pills, oils, edibles, and vapes. In 2019, it became legal to smoke medical marijuana in the state for the first time. The state also elected a "cannabis czar" for the first time.
Adding a legalization question to the 2020 state ballot was the next step eyed by many advocates. However, while one group gathered over 700,000 signatures in support, the tight filing timelines forced it to focus efforts on 2022. While a ballot question won't appear in 2020, the Tampa Bay Times said Florida lawmakers are still considering a series of other related bills, including legislation that would:
- Reform the Florida medical marijuana market by eliminating the need for businesses to grow, process, test and sell cannabis.
- Authorize patients to have more than one caretaker to administer medicine (e.g., a school nurse).
- Allow for the expunging and sealing of records for cannabis possession charges.
New Jersey politicians made a big push in 2019 to legalize marijuana for recreational adult use. However, while they fell short, it will be the state's voters who decide on the future of legalized marijuana.
The New Jersey 2020 ballot will feature the question: "Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called cannabis?” Also included in the text is a notice the state would create a commission to oversee the market and impose taxes.
The reaction was mixed after the initial legalization effort did not succeed, but now voters have a direct choice.
“Putting the issue to a referendum is both sensible and equitable," Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said, according to NJ.com. “While not our preferred method of legislating, public questions allow voters to affirm or deny massive shifts in public policy.”
While the future remains uncertain, a big win for New Jersey marijuana advocates in 2019 was a court decision that workers couldn't be fired if they failed a drug test because they are medical marijuana patients.
New York and Connecticut
This one is a package deal. New York, like it's neighbor New Jersey, has struggled to get a legalization bill to pass, despite having medical marijuana programs. Now The Empire State is looking to team up with Connecticut to coordinate their state approaches to legalized marijuana.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont recently announced the formation of a strategic partnership to develop a uniform regional approach to legal cannabis policies, as well as e-cigarettes. State officials plan a summit in late 2020 to workshop guidelines and principles on taxation, road safety, product testing, and social justice.
"[Connecticut and New York] not only share borders, but we share economic interests, public health priorities, and a joint understanding that the more states work together on these kinds of issues, the better the policy results will be for our residents," Gov. Lamont said.
State lawmakers who introduced a legalization bill that nearly succeeded in 2019 — but which failed because of a dispute about revenue allocation from cannabis taxes — have also signaled they plan to reintroduce the measure again in 2020.
New Mexico wasted little time in addressing the issue of legalization in the first weeks of 2020. In late January, a state senate committee voted to advance a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis for adult use, a move that was cheered by the governor. Now, the bill is on track to be considered by the entire state, which has had a medical marijuana program on the books since 2007.
The bill is wide-ranging, not just limited to legalization. As reported local media including the Las Cruces Sun News and Santa Fe New Mexican, some of the stipulations of the legislation include:
- Mandated sales of medical marijuana at all dispensaries.
- Subsidized medical marijuana for low-income patients.
- Expungement of many past marijuana convictions.
- Additional funding for substance abuse programs.
- Cannabis education for young adults.
“Legalizing and regulating will bring one of the nation’s largest cash crops under the rule of law, generating an estimated between 11,000 and 13,000 jobs for New Mexicans in every corner of the state,” State Senator Jacob Candelaria said.
If lawmakers succeed, New Mexico would join Illinois and Vermont as only the third state to legislate the approval of recreational cannabis, as opposed to a voter question. However, the bill faces uncertainty ahead as it progressed through the legislature.
Contact Verilife for more info on cannabis
As legalization efforts continue to gain momentum across the country, more Americans are experiencing cannabis for the first time. If you have any questions about products or a dispensary near you, visit Verilife.com today.