The legalization of marijuana has been a hot topic in the United States for the last few years. Some advocates of marijuana believe that the plant has medicinal properties that can help with everything from insomnia to relieving pain. Other advocates are for recreational use, stating that marijuana is safer than alcohol, which is currently legal in all 50 states. On the flip side, opponents of legalizing marijuana believe that this illegal drug is just a gateway to harder drugs like crack cocaine and heroin. Some people think that medical marijuana is okay but disagree with recreational marijuana. No matter what side of the issue you stand on, the fact remains that states are taking action to legalize marijuana.
As of March 2021, medical marijuana is legal in 39 U.S. states plus Washington, D.C. Recreational marijuana is legal in 16 states, plus Washington, D.C. Thirteen additional states have decriminalized recreational marijuana, meaning that those caught with marijuana don't receive jail time but may be fined, lose their drivers license, or face other smaller penalties. It's only a matter of time before more states legalize marijuana, either for medical or recreational use or for both purposes. Multiple states that still have laws against marijuana have seen bills introduced, and advocates stand up to have marijuana legalized. With so many people coming forward in support of marijuana, you can't help but wonder which states will be the next to legalize its use.
States That Could Legalize Weed in 2021
Florida voters will not be voting to legalize recreational marijuana in 2020. Make It Legal Florida, the group leading the efforts to get a constitutional amendment for recreational marijuana, announced in January of 2020 that they received more than 700,000 signed petitions to bring adult-use marijuana to Florida; however, they are pushing their efforts to get the bill on the 2022 ballot now. Make It Legal needed 700,000 verified signatures by February 1st, but the timeframe to get them verified was too small, and the group only had 295,072 verified by mid-January. Make It Legal Florida is now setting its focus on getting an amendment on the ballot for 2022.
In 2016, Arkansas voters passed a medical marijuana amendment. The Arkansas Adult-Use Cannabis Amendment proposal would legalize and regulate recreational marijuana for adults over 21 and tax revenue from marijuana sales. The proposal must gather 89,151 signatures by July 3, 2020, to appear on the 2020 ballot. There is also a separate expungement measure where people with prior marijuana convictions would be able to appeal to courts for release from incarceration, reduce remaining sentences, and restore voting rights.
Governor Ned Lamont has made it clear that he wants a push for marijuana legalization in 2020. In March and April 2019, three legislative committees in Connecticut legalized bills to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis; however, the legislature adjourned in June without bringing them to a vote. In a coordinated regional approach to marijuana, Governor Lamont's approach to marijuana legalization is similar to New York Governor Cuomo's approach, including measures to right the wrongs of a war on drugs that has devastated minority communities. Governor Lamont's Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation Bill can be found here. About 65% of Connecticut residents support the legalization of marijuana. In the 2020 election, Democrats increased their majority in the state legislature, boosting the chances of legalization in 2021. Top lawmakers said they would take the issue to voters through a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2022 if necessary.
In 2020, a bill to legalize marijuana passed one Senate committee in January; however, it was rejected in another. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) expressed support for legalization, stating that it represents a positive fiscal opportunity, especially amid troubles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020 election, neighboring state Arizona voted to legalize recreational marijuana, adding pressure to New Mexico's lawmakers to legalize in the new year.
Governor Gina Raimondo and legislative leaders have expressed interest in legalizing marijuana in 2021. In January 2020, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to consider the governor's proposal to legalize marijuana through a state-run model. The governor has argued that the state-run public model "will allow the state to control distribution, prevent youth consumption, and protect public health." Meanwhile, House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi said he is "absolutely" open to cannabis legalization but thinks they can look at the private model.
Other States that Could Legalize Marijuana
Delaware's House committee approved a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use in 2019; however, it did not advance before the end of the session. Rep. Ed Osienski plans to reintroduce the bill in 2021. Delaware could receive extra pressure from its neighbor New Jersey, which legalized marijuana in the 2020 election.
Minnesota House Majority Leader Ran Winkler filed a bill in early 2020 to enact the policy change to legalize marijuana. Governor Tim Waltz has taken steps to prepare to end prohibition, including saying in 2019 that he was directing state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of the legalization passing. However, any attempt to pass legalization will face stern opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate. Minnesota faces regional pressure from South Dakota, which voted to legalize in the 2020 election.
In September 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that he was embracing the policy change to end marijuana prohibition. Shortly after, a lawmaker filed a bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model; however, the Republican controlled-legislature is likely to continue opposing legalization.
Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin proposed to legalize marijuana as part of his 2021-2023 state budget. Ever had previously proposed legalization in his 2019-2021 budget; however, it was strongly opposed by Republicans in the state legislature. Bordering Wisconsin is Illinois, where adult-use marijuana is legal and serves as an example of how significant marijuana tax revenue is for states.