Legal cannabis in the United States is expected to increase nationwide this year. Legislation concerning marijuana has been introduced in over 17 states. To the surprise of many, cannabis legalization is now underway in conservative and liberal states alike. However, several of these states are more likely to approve cannabis legalization ahead of the others.
The empire state’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has recently made a complete turn-around from his previous statements about cannabis being a “gateway drug.” Cuomo’s new budget includes cannabis legislation in 2019 and shows plans for putting cannabis tax revenue to work as soon as 2021, leading residents to surmise that legal marijuana could find its way on shelves in New York by 2020. Among Cuomo’s cannabis legislation proposal is a 20 percent statewide tax on cannabis sales as well as a 2 percent tax on the same sales for counties.
Senate and House proposals in Connecticut regarding the legalization of adult-use cannabis as well as the establishment of a commercial cannabis market are moving forward by all appearances. Over 25 percent of the House jointly filed a bill recently, and Martin Looney introduced legislation in the Senate as well. Another proposal regarding cannabis in Connecticut has a focus on creating a cannabis equity policy via the open legalization of marijuana. Even more, Governor Ned Lamont has also recently voiced his intentions of making legal cannabis a priority for the state.
In Hawaii, President of the Senate, Ron Kouchi, has said debating the legalization of cannabis will be a high priority this year. To date seven legislative bills have already been filed in the state and its beginning to look like Hawaii will be among the next states to approve the legalization of cannabis. However, things have looked promising for the state before the current bills concerning cannabis, yet legislation has always failed in the end. Also, Governor David Ige has voiced his concerns about currently conflicting federal and state laws regarding cannabis.
Another state that is almost sure to pass cannabis legislation this year is Illinois. Senator Heather Steans has filed a placeholder bill establishing a proposed taxation and regulation system; however, her plans aren’t fully public yet. Also, House legislation moving to end cannabis prohibition has also recently been introduced. Said legislation focuses on social equity, suggesting that communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the decades-old war on drugs. Even more, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is ready to sign legislation legalizing cannabis in the state.
Legislators in New Hampshire are also on board with legalizing cannabis in the coming year. Furthermore, Steve Shurtleff, House Speaker and democratic representative, believes that his party has enough votes to override a veto should Governor Chris Sununu decide to follow through on his threat to veto any cannabis legislation that crosses his desk. That said, at least two bills have already been introduced into the states legislative system focusing on establishing a working retail system as well as general legalization of marijuana in New Hampshire.
New Jersey lawmakers have filed no less than eight bills concerning the legalization of marijuana. In fact, cannabis legalization legislation has been approved since last year. However, the issue has never come to an actual vote in chambers yet. One of the eight bills introduced by New Jersey lawmakers focuses on the expungement of previous marijuana-related convictions. The main concern with residents of the state, concerning cannabis legalization in 2019, is that the Governor, Phil Murphy, who has made many promises about legalization, won’t sign any legislation that lacks a high taxation rate for the sale of cannabis in New Jersey.
Recently, fifteen members of the House in Minnesota jointly filed a cannabis legalization bill. The proposed legislation amends that state’s current legalities regarding cannabis possession, use, production, and sales for adults only. Governor Tim Walz has committed himself to replace what he views as the current failed cannabis policy with a working one which will help to create jobs, tax revenue, and other opportunities for the people of Minnesota. That said, Governor Walz truly believes progress will be made this year.
One of the latest states to pursue the legalization of marijuana is Rhode Island. Initially somewhat opposed to the idea of legal cannabis, Governor Gina Raimondo has recently proposed an end to cannabis prohibition in Rhode Island. Included in a recent budget request, Governor Raimondo’s proposal suggests adults 21 and over to be allowed to purchase and possess cannabis purchased from licensed retailers. However, Raimondo’s proposal has no room for home-grown medical or recreational marijuana; it would also see products containing high amounts of THC banned from the market.
Last but not least, approximately half of Vermont’s Senate, as well as the chamber’s president, have signed onto legislation that would legalize commercial cannabis sales in the state. Last year, Vermont lawmakers approved personal possession, personal use, consumption, and cultivation of marijuana. However, currently, residents are left with no legal options for buying cannabis in Vermont. Also, Governor Phil Scott has said that he won’t sign cannabis legalization into law until a technology has been created for law enforcement to test drivers’ level of impairment.
Other states to watch for cannabis legislation
Delaware, Indiana, New Mexico and Wisconsin are among the dozen other states that have recently introduced proposed legislation for the legalization of cannabis in one form or another. Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin said recently that he supports the legalization of cannabis in the state. New Mexico representatives Javier Martinez, Moe Maestas, and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham are also fully supportive of marijuana legalization, having sponsored legislation as well as stating that a legal marijuana market would bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s economy.