If the year 2020 is one of clarity, a handful of US states have the potential to see the debate on cannabis legalization more clearly and join the regulated market. Illinois became the first state in the new year to allow recreational marijuana sales, becoming the second Midwestern state and 10th state countrywide to do so. Moreover, the Prairie State is the first in the country to legalize recreational sales through legislature rather than ballot initiative. This means that the state politicians themselves signed off on the measure.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico has expressed support for cannabis legalization, saying via press release that, “Skeptics have been right to preach study and patience. I agree with their caution – and that’s why we haven’t rushed into this issue. But if we are clear-eyed about the risks, we have to be clear-eyed about the opportunity.” Meanwhile, while the state of Vermont legalized marijuana possession and home cultivation in 2018, Gov. Phil Scott may now be open to legalizing cannabis sales.
Connecticut Senator Doug McCrory has both voiced support for marijuana legalization as well as called out states that he said haven’t sufficiently provided equity for marginalized communities and those affected by the failed War on Drugs. “As the state of Connecticut, we should be demonstrating to other states how it should be done. So that individuals and others can get involved in this system from seed cultivation to sale,” he said.
Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island has said that cannabis shops should be government-run, obtaining marijuana products through a contractor. “This legalization takes the form of a state-control model, similar to how liquor sales are regulated in New Hampshire and over a dozen states,” the fiscal year 2021 budget states. “This regulatory approach will allow the state to control distribution, prevent youth consumption, and protect public health.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has said that eradicating jail penalties for marijuana possession meant for personal use is his highest criminal justice legislation priority. “We are a nation of laws and punishment is appropriate for those who break those laws,” said Gov. Northam. “But it benefits no one for those punishments to be overly harsh. Justice should be tempered with mercy.” To be clear, Northam has called for the decriminalization of cannabis, but not full legalization yet.
Ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana might appear for vote this year in Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Medical cannabis legislation could end up on the ballot in Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
According to Gallup, 66 percent of US adults supported marijuana legalization in 2019, up from just 34 percent in 2001. The Pew Research Center found that approximately 59 percent of US adults said they want both medical and recreational cannabis legalization, while 32 percent said they only want medical legalization and only 8 percent said neither. Moreover, research has shown that marijuana legalization has bipartisan support, virtually a rarity in current day US politics. Pew found that a majority of 55 percent of Republicans support legalizing cannabis, while Gallup reported 51 percent of Republicans backing legalization.