Fourteen US states and territories have legalized recreational cannabis sales for adults, with varying levels of regulation. A total of 33 states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes.
The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania convened this past fall for a summit on coordinating cannabis and vaping policies. New Jersey is putting a recreational cannabis constitutional measure before voters in November. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently vowed that New York would legalize recreational cannabis in 2020. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf also signaled to the state’s legislature and regulatory departments to begin preparations for legalization.
Marijuana is currently legal for recreational use in: Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia, and, most recently, Illinois, where it became legal on January 1, 2020.
Potential 2020 Legalization
Political committee Make It Legal Florida is behind a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. According to their polling, over 65 percent of Florida voters “want to have expanded access to cannabis for 21 and over.”
Make it Legal Florida filed a lawsuit against the state on Tuesday, alleging that a new election law placed restrictions on the ballot initiative process that hampered their ability to collect signatures. The state has verified only 219,290 signed petitions from Make It Legal, which is 28% of the total signatures needed by the deadline.
Minnesota House Majority leader Ryan Winkler (D) has been touring the state on the issue of cannabis legalization in an effort to ready a bill for the state’s session in February. The Republican-controlled Senate remains opposed to legalization.
A measure to legalize cannabis for adults fizzled out despite support from Governor Cuomo and voters. Instead, another measure downgraded possession from a misdemeanor to a fine. However, police may still arrest people with more than two ounces of the drug on them. Governor Cuomo has continued to push the issue, hiring a major force in pro-legalization efforts to lead the state’s cannabis program, and pledging to get the measure done in 2020.
The state will vote on legalization of recreational marijuana in November 2020. If passed, the measure would allow New Jersey residents 21 and older to use cannabis recreationally. All sales of cannabis products would be subject to a 6.625% sales tax.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has called for the “immediate decriminalization” of possession of small amounts of marijuana. Herring also hosted a Cannabis Summit to educate state leaders on accomplishing that goal. Democratic legislators, who tend to favor marijuana reform, now control the Commonwealth of Virginia’s House and Senate. One piece of marijuana legislation that has been filed for the state’s 2020 session, SB 2, would decriminalize marijuana possession, raise the amount for a distribution charge to one ounce versus half-an-ounce, and allow people to petition to expunge their convictions.
US Cannabis Policy in 2020
The SAFE (Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking) Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September, would allow cannabis companies to access banking and financial services blocked due to federal prohibition. New cannabis companies would gain access to business loans, rather than exchanging equity for private investment. The impeachment process has slowed progress, but it has also given lobbyists more time to win over potential support from Senate Republicans.
The MORE (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement) Act would decriminalize the plant and offer an avenue for expungement for those charged or convicted of some cannabis-related crimes, but Republican opposition makes passage an uphill battle.
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing cannabidiol (CBD) and has yet to issue formal guidance. The agency has issued warning letters to CBD makers that make unsubstantiated health claims. These claims have resulted in class action lawsuits filed against several CBD companies.
In California, two new laws clarify tax laws. Senate Bill 34 allows licensed cannabis retailers to donate cannabis to low-income patients and exempts those products from state taxes. Assembly Bill 37 allows cannabis businesses to claim deductions and credits available to other legal businesses in the state.
In Colorado, the first state to legalize, a
slate of new laws is poised to shift the cannabis landscape. New laws would allow for social consumption
businesses and for out-of-state and publicly traded companies to own licenses.