This year has been momentous for cannabis reform, from the Illinois General Assembly becoming the first state legislature to pass a bill to regulate cannabis like alcohol to the U.S. House of Representatives passing the SAFE Banking Act and forging ahead with the MORE Act.
It’s important to celebrate these victories, but with the end of 2019 comes the beginning of 2020, which is already shaping up to be the biggest year ever for marijuana-policy reform…
Next year, a handful of state legislatures will seriously consider cannabis legalization, and voters in up to 10 states could face a question about the legalization of cannabis for medical or adult use on their November ballots. Some of these campaigns are well-funded and well-organized efforts that will almost certainly make it to the ballot and have a great chance at passing, while others are grassroots campaigns operating on a shoe-string budget—but as demonstrated by voters in North Dakota in 2016 and Oklahoma in 2018, smaller campaigns can still win big when the voters’ appetite for cannabis reform is so strong.
Here are the states to watch in 2020, with a focus on the top contenders, along with a quick overview of the underdog campaigns.
LEGALIZATION BY LEGISLATURE
Vermont’s state legislature was the very first to legalize marijuana back in 2018, but that law only legalized possession and home cultivation for adults, while keeping sales and production illegal. Activists have kept pushing to expand the law to regulate marijuana like alcohol, including commercial cultivation and sales to people over 21. The Vermont Senate even passed a tax-and-regulate bill this year, and while the House didn’t follow suit, it’ll have another opportunity when the two-year legislative session picks back up in early 2020. The House Majority Leader has said this is a priority, so Vermont could become the second state legislature to tax and regulate cannabis like alcohol.
New Mexico is another state to watch in early 2020, with an incredibly short 30-day legislative session starting in January. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is a supporter of legalization, and established a Cannabis Working Group that has been putting in significant legwork between sessions. Since the New Mexico House has passed a legalization bill before, and the Senate president has signaled openness to the concept, the Land of Enchantment could give the Green Mountain State a run for its money in the race to tax and regulate cannabis.
New York got close to taxing and regulating cannabis in 2019, but efforts stalled when Gov. Andrew Cuomo disagreed with legislative leaders on important details like taxation and social equity. But those debates laid the groundwork for legalization in the state, which should make the debate in 2020 much more productive. That was also before Illinois became the first legislature to tax and regulate cannabis, so being the second legislature (or third, or fourth, depending on how things go in Vermont and New Mexico) to act might make some legislators more comfortable voting yes.
Other states to watch:
- Connecticut – Gov. Ned Lamont supports legalizing for adult use, and was one of the governors who participated in October in a summit of Northeastern governors to coordinate efforts on cannabis legalization. While efforts to regulate marijuana like alcohol have gotten further each year, elected officials still haven’t come to agreement…
Continue reading at FORBES.com