We’ve heard 2020 described as “unprecedented” since the onset of the pandemic sent us lurching forward, ready or not, into an uncharted chapter of human history. While many record-breaking, unfamiliar and otherwise unexpected circumstances of the past year weren’t exactly positive, there were still a few wins worth celebrating. This is especially for the cannabis legalization movement. Last November, four U.S. states – Arizona, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota – voted to legalize cannabis for recreational adult use. A fifth state – Mississippi – legalized cannabis as a treatment option for approved medical conditions. This means that thirty-six states and the District of Colombia have now legalized medical marijuana, with sixteen of these legally granting adult residents aged twenty-one and older the right to recreational use.
For adults in states that haven’t yet crossed the threshold of legalized cannabis, it’s natural to be wondering when the time will come for your area. So far, the writing’s on the wall for these six states, with many saying they’ll next up to bring cannabis legalization to a vote next November.
At the start of 2020, Andrew Cuomo included an adult-use cannabis legalization proposal in his annual budgetary plans. Prior to the pandemic, Cuomo openly planned to tour legal cannabis states and speak with leaders within the industry to better understand the advantages and potential pitfalls of statewide legalization. However, Cuomo cut legalization efforts from his agenda last March. The unforeseen planning surrounding COVID-19 left Cuomo with too much to navigate without enough time before the April 1st budget approval deadline for the finalized proposal. Thankfully, his decision to scrap the measure was entirely circumstantial, and Cuomo’s still in office this year with plans to renew last year’s legalization efforts. Barring another unprecedented and untimely global crisis, New York state will legalize recreational cannabis for its adult residents this fall.
Last spring, Virginia state Governor Ralph Northam approved SB2/HB 972, a measure to decriminalize cannabis. Under this new law, posessing small quantities of cannabis is no longer punishable by jail time. The state’s maximum penalty for possessing an ounce of less is a fine of up to twenty-five bucks. Northam stated that he’ll be introducing a bill to legalize cannabis for recreational adult use this month.
The measure also launched the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group to further study the effects of legal cannabis on adults and communities at large. The committee consists of Virginian healthcare workers, public policy experts, and leaders within local communities and Northam’s administration. They recently released a 400-page report detailing the guidelines for criminal justice, licensing, regulation and more – hopefully laying the groundwork to legalize recreational use next November.
State Governor Tom Wolf voiced his support of cannabis legalization as a way to bolster Pennsylvania’s struggling economy. While his support has stirred some controversy among the state’s economic leaders, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman echoed Wolf’s support, as have a few other Pennsylvania state senators.. As a state with a largely conservative voter base and a Republican-led legislature, the fight for legal cannabis may be an uphill battle, but having these key players on the side of legalization means it’s certainly not a lost cause.
Governor Michelle Lujan pushed to legalize cannabis for recreational use last year, and state legislators got on board by drafting related measures. The bill they introduced got approval from the State Judiciary committee, but was temporarily put on hold last February. Advocates remain hopeful that state officials will resume their efforts in the coming months. Several prominent officials who opposed legalization were voted out of office last November, meaning that legalization efforts likely have a much better chance of making it to the ballot next term. Democratic Representative Javier Martinez plans to present a new legislation proposal during the sixty-day legislation session which kicks off this month.
Governor Ned Lamont previously worked toward legalization bill S.B. 16, which he continued to develop last year. The issue faced resistance on the state’s committee floor in 2020, but Lamont has vowed to try again this year. House Democrats in Connecticut are similarly committed to voting on the issue this year, hopefully succeeding later this year with legalized recreational weed.
Cannabis is currently legal in the Lone Star state as a physician-approved treatment option for a limited list of medical issues. Texas state lawmakers recently pre-filed several bills to expand the scope of medical legalization and lay the groundwork for recreational approval. One bill, S.B. 140, would allegedly yield over three billion dollars in state revenue and create thirty thousand new jobs statewide. Even for those who aren’t fans of cannabis, it’s hard to argue with benefits of that magnitude.
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We’re cautiously optimistic about the good things that could await us in the coming year. Hopefully among the changes to come in 2021, we’ll see greater progress on the cannabis legalization front at the state or Federal level. Whatever your stance or the state you live in, we’ll keep you up to date with essential updates as 2021 unfolds. In the meantime, why not calm your nerves with some retail therapy? 710 Pipes is proud to offer a quality selection of smoke shop products and accessories including hand pipes, water pipes, vaporizers and so much more! Our Northglenn and Denver head shops (on Colfax and near D.U.) are open seven days a week. Denver University students get 10% off with a valid student ID!
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