A review of U.S. governors finds that support for marijuana legalization among state leaders is on the rise.
Each year, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) grades state lawmakers on how they rank on cannabis policy. The cannabis advocate organization released the 2020 Gubernatorial Scorecard and the findings reveal an increase in support for cannabis legalization over previous years.
NORML utilized an extensive database to assign a letter grade ‘A’ through ‘F’ to states’ governors based on comments and voting records in 2019 specific to matters of cannabis policy. The results showed an increase in passing grades with 32 state governors receiving a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (22 Democrats, 10 Republicans) compared to last year when only 27 governors received a grade of ‘C’ or higher.
While public opinion in support of cannabis legalization is at an all-time high, the political divide that is apparent in public opinion polls over the last several years extends to state governors as well. NORML found that no Republican governors “are on record in support of adult-use legalization and few are in favor of regulating medical cannabis access.”
At the beginning of 2020, Medical Marijuana, Inc. News released a list of 11 states that could be next up to pass cannabis reform laws. Let’s take a look at how those states’ governors stack up when it comes to their cannabis scorecards.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (A-)
“It’s hard to do it legislatively (legalizing recreational cannabis), I admit,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at a 2019 event. “It’s always been a default to go to a referendum and ask the people.”
Phil Murphy (Dem.) received an A- on his scorecard, with evidence of strong support of decriminalization and expanding medical marijuana access and workplace protection. Murphy stood on a legalization platform in his election and has been consistent in his push for state lawmakers to approve recreational cannabis legalization, but efforts have not been successful.
It will be up to the voters of New Jersey to decide if recreational marijuana will become legal in the Garden State in 2020. Find out more about New Jersey marijuana laws.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (A)
“Recreational cannabis is an economic game-changer. It is an incredibly important opportunity. We are serious about getting it passed.” Gov. Lujan Grisham said during a recent event.
Michelle Lujan Grisham (Dem.) received an A on her scorecard after signing several cannabis-reform bills in 2019 and a continued effort to bring legal recreational cannabis to her state. She created a marijuana task force in 2019 focused on creating the nation’s best recreational cannabis program.
New Mexico Democratic lawmakers are pushing the Cannabis Regulation Act for the state’s short legislative session. With Democratic control of both state chambers and strong support from the governor, New Mexico is in position to be the first state to legalize recreational cannabis in 2020.
Find out more about New Mexico cannabis laws.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (C-)
“Not while I’m governor,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis. “I mean look, when that is introduced with teenagers and young people, I think it has a really detrimental effect to their well-being and their maturity.”
Ron DeSantis (Rep.) scored a C- on his report card after his first year in office showed minimal support on medicinal marijuana, approval of expanding access to medical dispensaries, and a strong stance on legalizing recreational cannabis.
Although enthusiasm was centered around a campaign to place a recreational cannabis measure on the 2020 ballot, not enough signatures were verified by the deadline. According to reports, the group behind the effort Make it Legal Florida has set its sights on 2022 instead.
Find out more about Florida marijuana laws.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (D)
“I don’t think any state ever got stronger by being stoned,” Gov. Doug Ducey said.
Gov. Doug Ducey (Rep.) was given a D on his scorecard with a continued attitude of opposition to legalizing recreational cannabis in the state. He did show some signs of support by signing a bill that lowered fees for medical marijuana cards, which may have kept him from a failing grade.
A new group has filed a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in the 2020 Arizona election, but Ducey is sticking with his same stance from 2016 when he opposed a cannabis reform ballot initiative. The cannabis advocates have until July 2, 2020 to gain enough signatures.
Find out more about Arizona marijuana laws.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (A)
“Let’s legalize adult-use cannabis, working with neighboring states to coordinate a safe and fair system,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted.
Andrew Cuomo (Dem.) was awarded an A for his commitment to cannabis decriminalization and record expungement in 2019, in addition to proposing the creation of a global cannabis research center during his State of the State address in early 2020.
Cuomo pledged support to establish a program for regulated adult-use cannabis in 2019. Now in 2020, he has committed to follow through with the recreational cannabis legalization with a proposal in place in the state’s budget plan.
Find out more about New York cannabis laws.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (C+)
Doug Burgum (Rep.) received a C+ on his scorecard after signing several marijuana-related bills in 2019 including reduced penalties for cannabis convictions and expanding the state’s medical marijuana program.
While he has not made any public comment on his stance on recreational cannabis legalization in 2019, he has granted 16 pardons already in 2020 to individuals convicted of low-level cannabis offenses.
“These pardons are consistent with our recent efforts with the Legislature to reduce the penalties for low-level marijuana offenses and eliminate barriers to employment created by often distant past offenses…,” Gov. Doug Burgum said.
Learn more about North Dakota marijuana laws.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (C+)
Gov. Steve Bullock (Dem.) was awarded a C+ on his scorecard after signing a cannabis law that expanded access to the state’s medical marijuana program. While he has been outspoken on his stance on medical marijuana, his views on recreational cannabis are unclear.
Bullock made it known through public statements that he believes decisions involving legalizing marijuana, “should be left up to the states. … I think the federal government should get out of the way.”
Learn more about Montana marijuana laws.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (D)
“As a father of three girls, I’m going to vote against the amendment that’s on the ballot next year [to legalize medical cannabis access]. If I am elected governor and the people of Mississippi decide to vote a different way than I do then I’m going to uphold the will of the people,” Gov. Tate Reeves said.
Newly elected governor, Tate Reeves (Rep.) received a D score for his cannabis policy in 2019. With a medical marijuana initiative confirmed to be on the upcoming state election ballot, it will be up to Mississippi voters whether or not medical marijuana will be made legal in the state.
Find out more about current marijuana laws in Mississippi.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little (F)
When asked if Idahoans wanted legal marijuana, Gov. Brad Little responded, “If they did, they elected the wrong guy as governor.”
Brad Little (Rep.) was given an F for his cannabis policy in 2019. The governor has even gone as far as opposing industrial hemp production.
Find out more about Idaho marijuana laws.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (F)
“As Governor, I have a duty to promote public safety. I want Nebraskans to be informed of the dangers of marijuana and to know where I stand on the issue. I firmly oppose legislative legalization and will veto any legislation that attempts to make marijuana use lawful in the Cornhusker State,” Gov. Pete Ricketts wrote.
Pete Ricketts (Rep.) scored an F on his cannabis policy report card with a pledge to veto any cannabis legalization measures. Is there any more to say?
Learn about current marijuana laws in Nebraska.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (F)
Kristi Noem (Rep.) received an F on her scorecard after not only opposing marijuana legalization but taking it a step further vetoing legislation to license and regulate commercial hemp production in the state.
According to Gov. Kristi Noem cannabis is “always the gateway drug to getting people more addicted, getting into stronger drugs, then they end up committing crimes, and it just opens the door to bad habits and behaviors that aren’t going to be beneficial.”
Read more on South Dakota’s cannabis laws.
Cannabis Scores of Governors in Other States
So how to the governors in the other 39 states score when it comes to their stance on marijuana? Find the grades the governors of other states recently received from NORML below.
- Alabama: Gov. Kay Ivey (R) – Score: D
- Alaska: Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) – Score: C
- Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) – Score: D
- California: Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) – Score: B
- Colorado: Gov. Jared Polis (D) – Score: A
- Connecticut: Gov. Ned Lamont (D) – Score: B-
- Delaware: Gov. John Carney (D) – Score: B-
- Georgia: Gov. Brian Kemp (R) – Score: C-
- Hawaii: Gov. David Ige (D) – Score: D+
- Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) – Score: A+
- Indiana: Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) – Score: F
- Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) – Score: D-
- Kansas: Gov. Laura Kelly (D) – Score: B-
- Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear (D) – Score: B-
- Louisiana: Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) – Score: C-
- Maine: Gov. Janet Mills (D) – Score: A-
- Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) – Score: C
- Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker (R) – Score: C
- Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) – Score: B+
- Minnesota: Gov. Tim Walz (D) – Score: B+
- Missouri: Gov. Mike Parson (R) – Score: C
- Nevada: Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) – Score: A
- New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu (R) – Score: D+
- North Carolina: Gov. Roy Cooper (D) – Score: D
- Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine (R) – Score: F
- Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) – Score: B-
- Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown (D) – Score: A
- Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf (D) – Score: B+
- Rhode Island: Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) – Score: B-
- South Carolina: Gov. Henry McMaster (R) – Score: F
- Tennessee: Gov. Bill Lee (R) – Score: F
- Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) – Score: D
- Utah: Gov. Gary Herbert (R) – Score: C-
- Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott (R) – Score: C
- Virginia: Gov. Ralph Northam (D) – Score: B+
- Washington: Gov. Jay Inslee (D) – Score: A
- West Virginia: Gov. Jim Justice (R) – Score: D
- Wisconsin: Gov. Tony Evers (D) – Score: B+
- Wyoming: Gov. Mark Gordon (R) – Score: F
Find the complete NORML 2020 Gubernatorial Scorecard, here.
NORML is a nonprofit public-interest advocacy group founded in 1970. It is the oldest and largest cannabis legalization organization in the country. NORML has chapters across the U.S. with a mission to change cannabis policy by lobbying state and federal legislators. In addition, the organization serves as an informational resource to the national media on cannabis-related stories.
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