(TMU) — As we enter 2020, the legalization of marijuana on a state-by-state level continues to steadily progress.
However, a comprehensive end to marijuana prohibition on a national level remains distant as Congress continues to oppose attempts to legalize marijuana or even reduce criminal penalties associated with the plant.
Rather than wait on permission from a deadlocked Washington D.C., states across the country have taken it upon themselves to legalize cannabis. According to cannabis reform advocacy group NORML, twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have either legalized or decriminalized possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, while medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.
In 2018, Michigan, Utah, Missouri, Vermont, and even the deeply conservative state of Oklahoma freed up access to medical marijuana. And while the steady spread of legalization has run into some stumbling-blocks in New York and New Jersey, an end to prohibition appears inevitable across the country.
According to recent data from the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of the public in the U.S. favors the legalization of cannabis—a sure sign of the anti-prohibitionist mood of most Americans, especially millennials. For many, the sentiment is less about politics or partying, and more a simple matter of wanting to put an end to the failed “War on Drugs” and its disproportionate and unjust impact on poor communities of color.
Let’s look at the states where weed could be legalized in 2020:
— Alexis McAdams ABC-7 (@AlexisMcAdamsTV) January 1, 2020
The Prairie State rang in the New Year by allowing residents 21 and older to purchase up to 30 grams of cannabis flower from authorized dispensaries while non-residents can carry 15 grams. Only patients will be allowed to grow plants at home.
And while consumers have complained of exorbitant taxes on legal weed, that didn’t stop them from flocking to dispensaries and shelling out $3.2 million on the first official day of legalization.
The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support last spring, also provides a number of different avenues to expunge convictions and arrest records for minor cannabis offenses.
The law has also been hailed by advocates for its various social justice provisions meant to undo the damage done against those who have run afoul of the state’s past prohibitionist policies, and it also establishes $30 million in low-interest loans for aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs from areas impacted by the War on Drugs.
Minnesota’s two medical marijuana makers want state lawmakers to legalize smokable medical marijuana. The benefits, they say, are clear: Prices will plummet, enrollment will soar and patients will prosper. https://t.co/kGUZQq3dcz
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) December 29, 2019
In February, Minnesota will consider a bill to legalize cannabis that has similar social justice provisions as those in the Illinois bill, Democratic house majority leader Ryan Winkler told Newsweek. While the bill hasn’t been drafted yet, supporters will ensure that cannabis apprenticeships and loans for people from communities that suffered from prohibitionist laws will be included. Winkler said:
“It just is manifestly unfair to say ‘Okay, well, now that we think [marijuana] is good and we’re going to make money, let’s make it a corporate, whites-dominated industry.’
We may not be able to stop that, but we’re going to try.”
However, even if the legalization bill clears the Democrat-held House it will have to clear a Republican-held Senate. In that case, Winkler said that supporters of the bill will be studying the impact of legalization on taxes, DUI rates, and other sources of concern for conservative lawmakers.
New York State, while falling shy of its goal to legalize cannabis outright, said it would expunge the records of 160,000 residents convicted of low level marijuana-related crimes. New York's marijuana decriminalization law went into effect on Wednesday. https://t.co/l87vF3skc3
— Veronica (@Veronica2twit1) August 30, 2019
In New York, advocates are steadily pushing to legalize marijuana in 2020. However, the campaign faces concerted opposition from cops, conservative parents, and even some members of the medical community.
While the state decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot and the expunging of prior convictions last year, many argue that it didn’t go far enough in rooting out the damage wrought by the War on Drugs. The sale and purchase of cannabis also remains prohibited.
Lawmakers like Manhattan Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger hope that opponents of legalization can see the benefits of legalizing and regulating weed rather than allow it to continue dwelling in the shadows of the black market.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo strongly supports legalization and has proposed that revenue from taxes on pot go toward everything from traffic safety to transit upgrades, addiction treatment, public health education and intervention, and small business developments.
Critics contend that while Cuomo talks a big game, he didn’t do enough during the last legislative session to support legalization.
Utilizing a partnership between Connecticut and NY, our states are developing a uniform approach to recreational marijuana and e-cigarettes. On 10/17, we will host a summit to develop guidelines on these issues.
The more that states work together, the better the results will be. pic.twitter.com/lxVQJEjPgx
— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) September 25, 2019
States Pushing Toward Legalization:
The state governors of New York, New Mexico, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont each support the legalization of recreational cannabis use. Each state legislature besides that of Rhode Island is considering legislation or will draft bills for that purpose.
This past fall, Marijuana Moment reported that New York Gov. Cuomo revealed that he was working with fellow Democratic governors in the northeast states of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to ensure that they could unify their efforts across state lines to push legalization efforts in the face of federal inaction on the issue.
Cuomo told reporters at the time:
“We can do more together than we can working alone … We don’t have a federal government, in my opinion, that is providing leadership on these issues. They’re saying to the state, ‘you are on your own,’ and that’s liberating on one level.
If we are on our own, let’s hook our boats together and let’s see if we can find our way through this storm … The devil is gonna be in the details and how you do it will determine the success of the program. Doing that collectively and regionally makes sense.”
According to Forbes, advocates for recreational and medical cannabis will soon be able to bypass their legislatures with ballot measures that will be voted on in the November 2020 ballot.
Meanwhile, advocates are hard at work gathering signatures for similar ballot measures in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. Idaho and Mississippi could also see ballot measures to approve the use of medical cannabis.
Voters in New Jersey and South Dakota can bypass their legislatures at the ballot box with a vote in favor of recreational and medical legalization, respectively, in 2020, according to Forbes.
In Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, advocates are working to gather signatures for similar ballot measures to legalize recreational cannabis use, according to Forbes and data compiled by Ballotpedia. Mississippi and Idaho could see ballot initiatives approving its medical use.
2020 the “Biggest Year Yet” For Cannabis Reform
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Forbes:
“In 2020, hundreds of thousands of Americans will turn out to vote not for the top of the ticket, but for the rights of cannabis consumers in upwards of a dozen states.
As we have seen in previous elections, marijuana initiatives increase voter turnout in nearly every demographic. With public support growing by the day, 2020 will be the biggest year yet for expanding the freedoms and liberties of cannabis consumers.”
— Tom Angell 🌳📰 (@tomangell) December 27, 2019