Cannabis in the new decade: Which states are next up when it comes to cannabis reform policy?
Marijuana legalization has swept the country in the last decade like no other time before in history. In 2000, only seven states in the nation had legal access to medical marijuana and no state had legal access to recreational cannabis. To date, eleven states plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational and medical cannabis and 33 states have legalized medical marijuana only.
As we enter a new decade, state lawmakers are still working to achieve what 66 percent of Americans favor, marijuana legalization. While more than 98 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state with some form of legal cannabis access, many states are establishing new decriminalization policies or legalizing different types of access.
Let’s take a look at how those numbers could change in 2020.
Which States Could be Next to See Cannabis Legalization?
Around 18 states could see some form of new cannabis legalization in 2020. Some states are trying again after a failed attempt and some are working to move cannabis bills for the first time. The following is a list of states to watch in 2020.
States That Could Legalize Recreational Marijuana in 2020
It will be up to the voters of New Jersey if recreational marijuana will become legal in the Garden State in 2020. In December, state lawmakers approved placing a marijuana measure on the Nov. 2020 ballot that, if approved, would legalize recreational use for adults 21 and older.
Adult-use legalization has been in the works for many years in New Jersey with several close attempts, but the odds are in favor that the measure will pass. According to recent polls, 60 percent of New Jersey voters support legalization for recreational use.
If the voters approve the measure, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Under the new law, a regulatory commission would be established to manage marijuana sales and collect state sales tax. Municipalities would have the freedom to set their own individual tax rates, not to exceed 2 percent.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has made it clear she wants her state to have the best marijuana program in the country. To do that she formed a marijuana legalization working group in July 2019 tasked with finding the best way to implement recreational use legalization in New Mexico.
In October 2019, the group delivered its report outlining a recreational legalization model for state lawmakers. Grisham wants to see a cannabis reform plan in place by the short 30-day legislative session beginning in January 2020.
According to an AP News report, Democratic lawmakers are in the process of drafting a bill for the state’s short legislative session. With Democratic control of both state chambers and strong support from the governor, New Mexico is poised to be the first state to legalize recreational cannabis in 2020.
Voters in the Sunshine State have a solid chance of legalizing a recreational cannabis initiative in the state’s 2020 election ballot if the pro-cannabis group backing the ballot measure can gather enough signatures by the deadline.
Make It Legal Florida submitted well more than the 75,632 signatures needed to trigger action by the state supreme court and make it to the next step. Now the group needs to collect and provide 766,200 signatures by February to get a ballot measure in the 2020 election. According to the Florida Division of Elections website, the political committee has submitted 159,250 valid signatures as of Dec. 16, 2019.
If the Make it Legal Florida initiative passes, residents 21 years and older in Florida will be able to possess, use, buy and transport up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for personal use. According to local news reports, 64 percent of Florida voters support adult-use marijuana. However, a strong campaign against legalization is fighting to keep recreational use cannabis out of the state.
In 2016, Arizona voters rejected adult-use legalization with 51 percent of the vote. After the tough defeat, cannabis advocates are back again and on track to place another recreational-use cannabis initiative on the Nov. 2020 election ballot.
In August, a group filed the Smart & Safe Arizona initiative with the Secretary of State. To gain a spot on the Nov. 2020 state election ballot, advocates must collect 237,64 signatures from Arizona registered voters by July 2, 2020. According to a recent poll, voters will approve the initiative by a 50 to 40 margin of support if they get a chance.
The initiative would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older and expunge prior low-level cannabis offenses. It would also grant the Arizona Department of Health Services the authority to regulate cannabis sales, including testing and inspection.
A recent survey found 56 percent of New Yorkers support recreational cannabis legalization. Moving into the New Year, New York lawmakers with support from the state’s governor seem to be on the track to recreational legalization in 2020.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged support to establish a program for regulated adult-use cannabis in 2019. Although work around the topic has been done under current state lawmakers, including passing decriminalization laws, recreational cannabis is still illegal in the state.
Now Cuomo has pledged to move legalization forward in a unified approach with neighboring states New Jersey and Connecticut. According to local news reports, the governor plans to unveil the proposal during the annual State of the State address, which is on Jan. 8, 2020.
North Dakota’s adult-use measure failed to pass in 2018 with 59.5 percent of voters rejecting it, but cannabis advocates are back to business attempting to place a recreational use measure on the next state election ballot. The measure came just two years after voters approved a medical marijuana initiative.
In December 2019 Legalize ND submitted a measure to the Secretary of State for review and it was approved. The measure would legalize possession of up to two ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older. It would also expunge past low-level cannabis charges and ban home cannabis cultivation.
If the group can submit 13,452 signatures to the secretary of state by Feb. 10, the measure will appear on the ballots of voters in the upcoming Nov. 2020 Primary Election. If they are unable to gather enough signatures before the deadline, there will be a chance to submit enough signatures from North Dakota voters by July 6 to place the measure on the 2020 General Election ballot.
The Underdog: Montana
Cannabis advocates in Montana had cause for celebration in 2019 when they gained access to big bucks from a national advocacy group called New Approach PAC. Montana-based pro-marijuana group Coalition406 joined forces with the national advocacy group to form the ballot initiative campaign New Approach Montana.
The group wants to place two ballot measures in the Nov. 2020 state election. The first of the companion measures would legalize marijuana use for adults. Because state law in Montana identifies the legal age of an adult is 18, the second measure would make a separate constitutional amendment granting the state legislature the right to restrict marijuana use to those 21 years of age and older.
The group is still waiting for state approval on the ballot package, then they can begin the signature-gathering process. The deadline to collect signatures is June 2020.
States that Could Legalize Medical Marijuana in 2020
In the deep South, the Medical Marijuana 2020 initiative would allow Mississippi residents diagnosed with one of 22 conditions to legally buy and use medical marijuana products. It’s going to be a tough sell to lawmakers in the conservative state.
For now, advocates are waiting to see if the petition clears the office of the Secretary of State, where it has been since September. If it is up to Mississippi voters, the odds are in favor of the measure passing. According to the Millsaps College/Chism Strategies survey, 67 percent of the state residents support the initiative.
The initiative needs over 40 percent of the total votes cast in the election. If approved, Mississippi would join neighboring states Arkansas and Louisiana in establishing comprehensive medical marijuana programs. The Mississippi Department of Health would be charged with regulation including where medical marijuana is grown, processed and made available to patients.
Idaho has one of the strictest cannabis policies in the nation, but that could change in 2020. The Idaho Secretary of State announced in August that the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act cleared all requirements to move on to the next phase in gaining a spot on the Nov. 2020 election ballot.
The Idaho Cannabis Coalition is working to gather the needed signatures to put the medical cannabis measure to a vote of the people. The measure proposes those with certain debilitating medical conditions or any terminal illness will be able to possess up to four ounces of medical marijuana.
Advocates need a little more than 55,000 signatures, collected from at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts and from at least six percent of registered voters from each district, by an April 2020 deadline.
While lawmakers in Nebraska continue to reject any bills related to medical cannabis, advocates have moved to let the people of Nebraska vote on the issue. Earlier this year, Nebraska’s Secretary of State approved language for an initiative that would legalize medical marijuana in the state.
Nebraskans For Medical Marijuana is the campaign behind the initiative. The group is collecting as many signatures as possible, with the support of two Democratic state senators. According to the advocacy group, the objective for the petition “is to amend the Nebraska Constitution to provide the right to use, possess, access, and safely produce cannabis, and cannabis products and materials, for serious medical conditions as recommended by a physician or nurse practitioner.”
In order to gain a spot on the election ballot, Nebraska state law requires advocates to gather the same number of signatures equaling ten percent of the registered voters at the time of submission. The deadline for signature submission is July 2, 2020.
The Undergo: South Dakota
Residents in South Dakota may have a chance to do what no other state has done before– legalize recreational and medical marijuana in the same election.
Medical marijuana advocates received good news in December 2019, having confirmed a spot on the Nov. 2020 state election ballot after gathering 25,000 signatures in support of the ballot measure. New Approach South Dakota supported the initiative, which would allow qualifying patients access to three ounces of cannabis and the freedom to cultivate up to three plants at home.
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws submitted more than 50,000 signatures to qualify for a spot on the state election ballot to legalize recreational marijuana. Advocacy groups are still waiting to hear if the initiative that would change the state’s constitution has been approved. The proposal would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and older in a similar way to alcohol. It would also require the state legislature to establish regulations on the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp.
Where is Marijuana Legal Now?
Find out what states already have legal access to medical or recreational cannabis by visiting our Where Is Marijuana Legal? page.
Follow along in the next decade by checking back in at out cannabis news page where we cover the latest developments in cannabis policy, business, and scientific research.