Changing Quickly: Which U.S. States Are Looking to Legalize Cannabis Next?

In the US, between legal medical programs, and recreational adult-use programs, more than half of America’s 50 states now allow some kind of cannabis use, with seemingly a new one joining in every day. Which states haven’t made the plunge yet, but are on the way? Read on.

Let’s start by looking at who already made the biggest plunge. When it comes to legalizations, the biggest, most contentious, one, is the legalization for recreational cannabis use. While Uruguay started out as the first country to legalize, followed soon after by Canada, the US only has about 1/5 of its states currently on board. But 1/5 is no small number, that’s an entire 20% of states that already have been willing to take this step.

Legal for recreational adult-use US states are as follows: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Maine. Maine is the only one of these states which hasn’t officially started its program, although there is plenty of information available about it. There’s actually an 11th state to tip the balance past 20% in that Vermont also has already legalized, but has yet to come up with a regulatory structure. All of these states have their own markets complete with different systems of taxation, laws for maximum purchases, and so on.

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Legal for medicinal use

Not every state is at the point of a recreational legalization, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of states that have already accepted cannabis as a medicine and legalized medicinal programs. As of this writing, 33 states (plus Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands) have legal medical programs. Another 14 states allow some amount of cannabis legalization as either CBD, or low-THC cannabis – but this can be limited to the point of non-existence. Here is the breakdown:

  • Legal for CBD only or with limited THC: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
  • Legal medicinally: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia.
  • Not legal for any use: Nebraska, South Dakota.

It should come as no surprise that states legal for adult-use, also have medical programs. Idaho appears on the list of legal for CBD or with limited THC. The state allows CBD oil, but only with 0% THC. As we know from the case of France, limiting CBD oil with 0% THC essentially creates a ban. So, while CBD oil is legal technically, as all CBD oil has at least trace amounts of THC, Idaho can also be considered a completely illegal state. This is the case any time CBD oil is legalized, but the requirement is for 0% THC.

The other thing to notice is that there’s a lot of room for improvement. Apart from the 11 states that have legalized recreational use, there’s tons of wiggle room left. So, which states are starting to wiggle?

Arizona

One of the states being looked at the most right now is Arizona. This isn’t the first time Arizona has posed the question of legalization to voters, however in 2016 the initiative did not go through. Four years is a substantial amount of time, especially in the current world of cannabis legalization, and with 2020’s Proposition 207, it will be voted on once again on November 3rd of this year. Arizona is a state that currently has a full medical program.

New Jersey

In December, New Jersey lawmakers voted to have legalization on the ballot this year. A poll from February 2019 found that 60% of New Jersey residents supported legalization. There has already been quite a bit of back-and-forth in New Jersey, with a legalization measure in March yanked out just hours before it was to be voted on. New Jersey currently has a full medical program.

New Mexico

New Mexico is already halfway there. A legalization bill did pass through the House last year, but stalled in the senate, and the legislative session ended before it could be passed. Legislators will likely be pushing the bill again this year. New Mexico currently has a full medical program.

New York

New York seems like a state that should have legalized already, and maybe it would be the case if there hadn’t been as much infighting. A legalization bill failed last year, supposedly due to issues between Governor Cuomo and lawmakers over how revenue would be allocated. There does seem to be an overall push to have it happen, though, and it seems what’s holding up New York the most is simply agreeing on the right plan. New York currently has a full medical program.

Florida

Florida currently has two campaigns that are pushing for legalization. Both got through the first step to get the initiative on a ballot, however, one – Regulate Florida – already stated it will not be able to collect the 766,000 signatures required to make it happen by January 1st. While the other campaign continues, whether it can get all the signatures remains to be seen. In Florida, this initiative would be a constitutional amendment requiring 60% approval to pass. So even if the initiative can be voted on, it’s certainly not definite. Florida currently has a full medical program.

Connecticut

A legalization bill came up for the first time this year, supported by the governor. Unfortunately, legislative sessions were adjourned early due to the Coronavirus. When government returns to normal it can be expected this will be on the table again. Connecticut currently has a full medical program.

Alabama & Kentucky

When it comes to both Alabama and Kentucky, the question isn’t about recreational legalization, but medical legalization. In both states, the House of Representatives approved medical bills, and in both cases the initiatives were disrupted by the Coronavirus. We can only hope that those initiatives will be back in play soon. Currently Alabama allows non-psychoactive CBD oil, and Kentucky allows CBD oil.

Should we expect more?

One of the things that’s becoming evident is that when there’s an ability to collect revenue from cannabis in some way, governments tend to want to do it. A great example of this is in Africa where countries like Lesotho are so intent on taking part in the green rush, that governments are leaving their own citizens out in a bid to bring in more money. With the Coronavirus recession on the brink of a global depression, it’s not that weird to think local governments might want to readjust their mindsets in order to bring in more cash flow. With cannabis as the new golden egg, there is expectation that more states will be changing laws in the near future to try to help themselves out financially.

A note on changing legislation: 26 states (and Washington DC) allow the power of initiative or referendum measures for citizens, while the rest only change laws via the legislature. In states where referendums are not used, it’s that much more important to make sure legislators are aware of constituent wants and needs. If you’re in one of those states, let your representatives know how you feel. And if you’re in a state that allows referendums, please, go out and vote.

Conclusion

Not many industries move as quickly as the legal cannabis industry. Within years there’s been so much change worldwide that keeping up with it is hard. Every day some new country or US state is implementing a new cannabis legalization policy. Ten years ago, it was exciting in the US because a few states had instituted medical programs, but not one recreational legalization had happened yet.

So, it’s nearly impossible to say what things will look like in ten years from now. My guess? After another few years of global acclimation to this new reality, I think by ten years from now, cannabis will be a standard part of life everywhere, and the questions and fighting over legalization will be a thing of the past, only to be read about in history books.

Thanks for stopping by CBD FLOWERS, your hub for all things cannabis-related. Check back regularly and make sure to subscribe to the CBD Flowers Weekly Newsletter to stay up-to-date on all the most interesting and important industry topics.

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