Despite the plant remaining a Schedule I narcotic in the eyes of the federal government, 30 states and the District of Columbia have approved the use and sale of cannabis for medical use; nine of those have also legalized adult-use for those aged 21 and over. Canada will soon become the first G-7 nation and only the second in the world to offer full legalization throughout the country. While there is a smattering of support for similar measures in Congress, it's still up to the states themselves to decide. So, which states are the most likely to pass recreational pot next? Read on to find out our picks.
In June, voters in the Sooner State approved Question 788, one of the nation's most liberal medical marijuana laws to date. Some state officials were quick to backtrack, implementing controversial rules such as a ban on smokable flower and ruling a board-certified pharmacist must be on-staff at dispensaries. However, these hastily adopted regulations were met with great criticism and legislators soon folded to mounting pressure. Meanwhile, advocacy group Green the Vote says it has gathered more than enough signatures for its ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis. If verified, the measure would be put to voters this November.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on a promise to legalize adult-use cannabis in the Garden State, which approved medical marijuana in 2010. In his 2019 budget address, Mr. Murphy stated “[T]he only sensible option is the careful legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults. From the standpoint of social justice, and from the standpoint of protecting our kids and lifting up our communities, I could not arrive at any other conclusion.” Lawmakers expect to debate recreational pot legislation this fall.
This November, voters will decide the fate of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which would allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana products or cultivate up to 12 plants in their residences. A 10 percent excise tax would be implemented, with those revenues going towards K-12 education, roads, and the communities where cannabis businesses exist. A recent poll found that 61 percent of Michigan voters will vote “Yes” on the measure.
The Empire State is on track to approve adult-use cannabis after New York State's Department of Health (“DOH”) Commissioner, Howard Zucker, recently that the agency plans to recommend that the state legalize and regulate recreational marijuana, as well as expand its medical marijuana program to patients currently taking prescription painkillers to help combat the opioid crisis. A report released by the DOH stated, “Studies have found notable associations of reductions in opioid prescribing and opioid deaths with the availability of marijuana. States with medical marijuana programs have been found to have lower rates of opioid overdose deaths.”
Voters in North Dakota approved medical marijuana in 2016, but so far, the program has yet to be implemented. Due to growing frustration, advocacy group ND Legalize began quietly collecting the signatures needed to put recreational cannabis on the November ballot. More than 18,000 signatures were submitted to the Secretary of State's office in July, far surpassing the 13,452 required to secure a vote on the measure.
While it will probably be some time before the US sees cannabis law reform on the federal level, it is undoubted that individual states will continue to fall in line aside their neighbors already seeing great economic and social benefits that legalization has brought.
David Kani is an Orange County veteran high-stakes business litigator with a strong track record of trial victories, favorable settlements, and positive outcomes for clients in Southern California. To connect with David: [hidden email].