40 Percent Of States Have Legalized Weed - Here’s Who Is Next
More than 40% of Americans now live in places where marijuana use is legal.
That’s a huge change in attitudes toward the plant after years of crackdowns through the infamous, decades-long “War On Drugs.”
Here are the next states poised to legalize recreational marijuana use:
On paper, Virginia is the vanguard of the Old South when it comes to legal weed use. The Old Dominion was the first southern state to pass a recreational legalization bill for marijuana back in February; however, the measure doesn’t take effect until 2024. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has called on the state legislature to speed up the timeline, allow possession and home cultivation, strengthen labor protections and increased funding for impaired driving training for law enforcement starting July 1 of this year. Lawmakers will take up his proposals in April.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act" legalizing recreational cannabis use for adults aged 21 and older. Residents may use and share cannabis with adults of legal age and grow up to six plants in their homes. The law also expunges records of people convicted of activities that are no longer illegal.
The measures are eventually expected to generate $350 million in annual tax revenues and 30,000 to 60,000 new jobs. Reportedly, 40% of sales revenue will be dedicated to reinvestment in communities disproportionately affected by the state’s drug laws, 40% will go to public education and 20% will be allocated for drug treatment and prevention.
After three years of trying, both chambers of the state legislature passed a legalization bill in a special session called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last Wednesday. Two measures passed: One to legalize and regulate the adult-use cannabis industry, and one to expunge records for prior marijuana-related convictions. Public sales are set to begin no later than April 1, 2022, and existing medical dispensaries can only begin sales to non-medical customers at the same time as new licensees.
Lawmakers in the Garden State have “legalized cannabis for adults aged 21 and over and decriminalizing possession of up to six ounces of the drug,” reports Politico. In practice, however, the process has been a mess.
“The laws signed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy created a penalty system for underage possession that barred police officers from notifying parents or guardians of a minor’s first offense.
Meanwhile, the picks that Murphy and legislative leaders made for the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission — a five-person board tasked with rulemaking for the nascent industry — didn't meet a requirement that at least one member represent a civil rights organization. The state's NAACP leadership threatened to sue over the snub, forcing Murphy to reshuffle his picks.”
At best, New Jersey’s adult residents won’t be able to pursue cannabis in the state for at least another six months.
The state has two proposals on the table and a big fight going over who will benefit most from them. Reportedly, Democratic Rep. Robyn Porter and legalization advocates have criticized Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal for not doing enough to address that issue. New changes have been introduced along those lines, but now the clock is ticking. Neighboring New York just passed a sweeping new legalization law, and Connecticut residents could soon be hitting the road to visit those dispensaries. State lawmakers have until June 9 to make their move; otherwise, House Speaker Matt Ritter has indicated he’ll push for a voter referendum on the issue.
Prospects have improved greatly for legalizing marijuana in Rhode Island with many of the controversial players moving on from their roles. Former Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, who supported highly divisive state-run pot shops is now U.S. commerce secretary, and the former state House speaker, who was seen as a legalization foe, is no longer in office. Rhode Island’s legalization advocates believe that Democratic Gov. Daniel McKee and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey can find middle ground on a new proposal — if new House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi buys in.
The state’s legalization bill creates a new tax, so it needs a three-fifths vote to pass when it comes to the State House floor in early May. Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one in the State Senate, and those numbers may be key — Democratic Gov. John Carney, reportedly "still has concerns about legalizing recreational marijuana," so a veto override may be key to an ultimate victory.
While most states allow some form of medical cannabis consumption, there are some still working to establish programs like Kansas, Alabama and South Carolina. Holdouts remain, but even some of them are starting to loosen as the clear benefits of legalized marijuana use mount. Though Texas, Minnesota and Iowa currently have some of the country’s strictest laws, even they are reportedly considering legislation to expand patient access.
Yet there are always outliers, even for medical marijuana measures. In Nebraska, where Gov. Pete Ricketts notably told reporters last month, "If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids.” On top of that, efforts to loosen marijuana restrictions have failed so far in Maryland, Hawaii, Wyoming and North Dakota.