If it seems like a new state is legalizing cannabis nearly every week, don’t worry, you’re not high — states are indeed allowing adult-use of the drug at an unprecedented pace. If the wave of green legislation is slowing to some degree now, that’s only because so many states have already taken action. That doesn’t mean the wave will stop. Since our last update two years ago, numerous states have passed recreational or medical laws. At the same time, setbacks have come as ballot initiatives have been rejected. In other instances, lawmakers and certain governors remain steadfast in their opposition to pot.
It’s now a question of when, not if, politicians in Washington, D.C., will get with the program and decide to do what the majority of Americans support by passing legislation to end federal prohibition once and for all. In 2022, Politico reported that over 155 million Americans lived in a legal cannabis state after the November 2022 Election Day results — inching closer to 50 percent of the population. In the meantime, states are continuing to prime themselves to legalize the drug, either for medicinal use, recreational use, or both. Here’s where things stand is all 50 of them:
In 2021, Republican Governor Kay Ivey in May signed a bill legalizing cannabis for medicinal use, although the program will be one of the most restrictive in the nation. Medicinal THC will only be available in capsules, lozenges, oils, suppositories, and topical gels and patches — so no smokeable flower, no vaping, no edibles — to treat the list of approved conditions. Patients will need to wait a bit longer even if they qualify. The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) has stated that dispensaries will open in late 2023 at its earliest.
But even a restrictive medicinal bill is a major step forward in a state that has been called out by the Southern Poverty Law Center for having “draconian” cannabis laws. An ACLU study found that in 2018 Black people were over four times more likely to be arrested for possession than white people.
Legislative efforts have been taken in 2022 and 2023 to change the medical program. Additional efforts include SB 42. Introduced in March 2023, the measure would remove felony possession charges and instead levy $200 fines against offenders. Three additional bills are currently in committee.
Alaska was one of the first states to allow medical marijuana, legalizing in 1998 — but the measure didn’t allow for sales, so it wasn’t much of a program. Then, the state became one of the early adopters of adult-use recreational marijuana, with voters passing a ballot measure in 2014. But rollout also came with some setbacks: dispensaries were slow to open, and getting product to remote parts of the state — accessible only by air travel, which is governed by federal law — proved difficult.
But after the first dispensary opened its doors in 2016, things picked up — Anchorage, home to 40 percent of the state’s population, had $9 million in pot sales in 2020, a 25-percent increase from 2019. In 2021, Alaska added $28.9 million to the state general fund via cannabis excise taxes. That figure was supported, in part, because Alaskans pay the highest adult use flower taxes in the country. In December 2022, the Tax Policy Center reported that Alaskans paid $57.50 on an ounce of cannabis.
Medicinal cannabis has been legal in Arizona since 2010, and in 2020 the state voted overwhelmingly to legalize it for recreational use, too. The measure that passed that November allowed for adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, grow up to six plants, and provided an opportunity for people to have their criminal records expunged for certain cannabis-related crimes. It also called for a quick turnaround time for lawmakers to sort out the market rules and dole out licenses. As a result, the first recreational cannabis sales were made in late January. In 2022, Arizona registered over $1.4 billion in total cannabis sales — and adult use accounted for almost 70 percent of the purchases.
Arkansas voted to legalize cannabis for medicinal use in 2016. Qualified registered patients and caregivers are permitted to carry up to 2.5 ounces to treat qualifying conditions. Since the first dispensary opened in Hot Springs in 2019, residents have spent over $250 million on medical cannabis. In 2022, the state set a new sales record for medical cannabis, generating over $273 million, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
In November 2022, Arkansas rejected its first initiated constitutional measure on legalization, known as Issue 4. It was defeated with more than 56 percent of the vote.
California is the OG of weed legalization — since they approved medical marijuana with Prop 215 in 1996 (largely on the backs of LGBTQ activists advocating for AIDS patients, but that’s a different story) the state has been at the forefront of legalization, introducing non-profit cooperatives in 2003, and allowing a proliferation of retail dispensaries for medical product — many with dubious credentials — in 2010. But in 2016, when voters passed an adult-use legalization measure, the state made a crucial mistake: high taxes and expensive licenses discouraged existing retailers and customers to make the switch, and the established gray market just, well, stayed put. Though the legal market hit $5.3 billion in annual sales last year, the figure marks a roughly eight percent decline from 2022.
The state’s mistake has since inspired other legalizing states, like New York (more on that below), to put an emphasis on turning unlicensed operators into legal ones — and making sure the customers can afford what they’re selling. As California attempts to correct its costly decisions, operators across the legal and unlicensed markets continue to fear extinction. Flower prices are plummeting while licensed shops attempt to compete with unlicensed operations offering cheaper products tax-free and often not lab tested. In October 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom’s office announced its task force had “eradicated” over 11,000 illegal plants, or roughly 5,200 pounds of pot, totaling more than $15 million in cannabis.
Colorado, which passed a ballot initiative in 2012, was the first state to establish a recreational marijuana market. They got some things right — like having 12.59 percent of retail cannabis tax collected deposited into the State Public School Fund. The state has collected $2.3 billion in retail tax revenue since the launch of the market, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. Colorado has also gotten critical things wrong (i.e., no social equity measures to speak of, resulting in an overwhelmingly white industry). Consequently, the laws surrounding legal cannabis are a work in progress.
In March 2021, Governor Jared Polis signed a bill to establish a social equity program to provide loans, grants, and education for communities hardest hit by the war on drugs. The state also faced attacks from anti-marijuana activists, pushing for potency caps, particularly on extracts, which have long been popular in Colorado. The potency cap bill was enacted in June 2021.
Even if these issues get worked out, the state’s industry has faced criticism from climate activists: a 2021 study found that indoor grows in Colorado have more greenhouse-gas emissions than the state’s coal industry. In February 2023, state officials began a program aimed at minimizing the ongoing energy problem among Colorado cultivators. All the while, sales are falling, with 2022’s roughly $1.7 billion in sales marking a decline from $2.2 billion in 2021.
In June 2021, Connecticut’s legislature passed a bill to legalize cannabis for recreational use, allowing adults 21 and over to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis. The commercial market bested expectations for a May 2022 opening, with sales beginning in January that year. Half of the available business licenses were earmarked for social equity applicants, with the first social equity joint venture, Fine Fettle, opening the following month. Per regulations, the state allocates up to $50 million for social equity ventures during their initial startup. In January 2023, adult-use sales began after the state’s Social Equity Council approved all medical operators for expansion into the adult-use market. Nineteen dispensaries are open as of April 2023. Starting July 1, 2023, 60 to 75 percent excise tax revenue will go toward the Social Equity and Innovation Fund.
Connecticut has maintained a medical marijuana system for nearly a decade, with roughly 47,000 patients currently enrolled in the program for a wide range of reasons. It came as no surprise when the state legalized recreational use, especially considering nearby New Jersey and New York had done so the year before. “This measure is comprehensive, protects our children and the most vulnerable in our communities, and will be viewed as a national model for regulating the adult-use cannabis marketplace,” Governor Ned Lamont after the legislature passed the legalization bill.
Adding to the state’s 2023 milestones, earlier this month, prosecutors dropped more than 1,500 cannabis convictions while modifying another 600 where cannabis was involved with other crimes.
Delaware is heavily Democratic and the party has a supermajority in the state legislature, but Governor John Carney isn’t a fan of legalization. After a recreational use bill made it through a state House committee in March 2021, a spokesperson stressed that Carney’s position “hasn’t changed” and that he still has “concerns” about legalization. Delaware legalized cannabis for medicinal use way back in 2011, although home cultivation is not allowed. In March 2023, the state Senate sent two legalization and sales bills, HB 1 and HB 2, to the Governor, who has spent the following weeks not answering if he will sign them.
Floridians can pick up cannabis from medicinal dispensaries with a doctor’s recommendation but the pickings get slimmer in certain areas of the state, including parts of North Florida. Making matters more difficult, medical patients are not permitted to grow at home. Then there’s the THC limits. In August 2022, the state placed THC caps on edibles (60 mg), vaporizers (350 mg), capsules (200 mg), tinctures (200 mg), topicals (150 mg), and other product types.
Yet progress may be on the horizon. Democrats are pushing a bill to legalize recreational use, although it’s yet to make it onto any committee agendas. In March 2021, a poll by medical cannabis advocacy group Florida for Care found that 58 percent of Floridians are in favor of the state legalizing the drug for adult use. Several attempts to force a ballot initiative have been undertaken in recent years. In early April 2023, an industry-backed reform effort had accumulated over 70 percent of the needed signatures for a ballot initiative. The initiative needs more than 891,000 signatures and a state Supreme Court review of the measure’s language before qualifying for next year’s ballot.
High-CBD/low-THC cannabis is legal for medical use in Georgia, but don’t let that fool you. With a five-percent THC cap on medical products, the state fails to meet most qualifications as a medical cannabis market. Meanwhile, other THC products remained very much illegal. In 2018, over 50,000 cannabis arrests were made in the state, which had the 5th-highest cannabis-related arrest rate in the nation. The numbers have dwindled in years, but not enough. Nearly 21,500 arrests were made in 2021, according to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and FBI data.
Efforts have been made but continue to hit roadblocks. In 2020, Democrats in the state legislature introduced the Georgia Justice Act, which would decriminalize low-level possession. Lawmakers in both chambers attempted to pass various reform bills in 2022, but once again fell short. A January 2023 poll conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that 53 percent of Georgians polled support adult-use legalization. However, with the legislature still controlled by Republicans, the will of the slim majority may not be factored into the laws anytime soon.
Medical cannabis is legal and possession of less than three grams of cannabis was decriminalized in 2019, but Hawaii does not have a recreational program. Lawmakers have been trying to change that for some time. In February 2021, two bills were approved by a Senate committee, one to increase the decriminalization threshold from three grams to an ounce, and one to legalize cannabis for adult use. Neither were successful.
Hopes are that legalization could come with a legalization-friendly governor, Josh Green, M.D., in office as of last December. But old politics could still stall progress. Efforts in the 2023 Senate failed to pass. Still, with a two-year legislative window, there is hope that some of the 70 bills already filed this year could be revived before the session’s end in 2024.
Things are not moving in the right direction in Idaho. Not only is anything with a trace of THC illegal, the state has been doing all it can to keep it that way. In early 2021, for example, Idaho’s Senate voted to write cannabis prohibition into the State Constitution, which would have effectively prevented residents from voting to legalize it. (While the Senate approved, it failed in the House.) In 2023, Senate Joint Resolution 101, which would have increased voter-signature requirements for ballot initiatives, was ultimately shot down in the House. A similar measure was struck down by the state Supreme Court around this time.
In November 2022, a ballot initiative effort was announced by activists, seeking its inclusion in the 2024 ballot. Few updates have been made since. Of the three cannabis-related bills introduced during the 2023 session, just one has passed so far. The bill, ID H0095, clarifies that animal-based hemp remedies for certain animals aren’t considered adulterated or lessened in quality. There’s still hope, though — a measure introduced in March by House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman John Vander Woude, a Republican, could bring medical reform to Idaho.
The fight over legalization in Illinois came down not to if, but how. Chicago, perhaps the most segregated city in the U.S., was a ground zero for the war on drugs; for decades, whole swaths of the city had been torn apart by draconian drug laws that seemed to apply only to Black residents. Legalization was coming, but if it didn’t address that history, it was not going to get anywhere. The result was one of the most progressive legalization plans of its time when it was signed in 2019. Not only did it legalize for adults, it guaranteed expungement or pardons for anyone with a low-level nonviolent conviction (nearly half a million people were able to have their records cleared as of December 2020). Some jurisdictions have taken it a step further, funneling pot revenue directly into the communities that were targeted. In March 2021, Evanston, a suburb just north of Chicago, approved what is believed to be the country’s first reparations program, offering housing grants to black residents, funded in part by marijuana tax revenue. (The program has been slow going.)
The region has become a hotbed for cannabis applicants, with equity and non-equity ventures alike applying to operate within a few blocks from one another. In April 2023, the state Senate passed a bill prohibiting police from searching cars due to the smell of cannabis. As of February 2023, the state has expunged nearly a half million cannabis criminal records. Despite its attempts, the state’s cannabis market remains scrutinized over its lack of equitable license holders.
Meanwhile, the state sold a record number of cannabis in 2022, totaling more than $1.5 billion.
Indiana is very Republican, and cannabis is very illegal there. Though Governor Eric Holcomb signed a bill to legalize CBD in 2018, penalties are still harsh for anything containing more than .3 percent THC. Lawmakers have brought cannabis reform bills to the state’s General Assembly, but Holcomb has said he’s blocking any efforts to legalize it. It’s much of the same as of late. Indiana is still under the Holcomb administration, and despite 17 bills filed during the 2023 legislative session, according to Marijuana Moment, no cannabis measures made it out of committee.
Medicinal cannabis is legal in Iowa, but the program is pretty limited. Only around 5,000 Iowans have medical cards, and patients are not permitted to use flower. It doesn’t look like there’s much chance the state’s Republican-controlled legislature is going to expand the program, either, even though a Des Moines Register poll released in March 2021 found that a whopping 78 percent of residents are in favor of it. That support has gone down slightly, according to a 2023 Morningside University poll, which found 58 percent of respondents supporting adult use legalization.
Reform attempts have been underway for some time. In late 2021, Democratic lawmakers said they had a plan to get legalization on the ballot by 2024 at the earliest. In 2022, Democratic lawmakers filed a legalization bill, while also putting their focus towards efforts to exempt medical cannabis sales from taxes. Of the 11 bills introduced in 2023, nothing passed committee.
All cannabis is illegal in Kansas, but in February 2021, Democratic Governor Laura Kelly proposed legalizing it for medicinal use to help fun a Medicaid expansion. Weeks later, lawmakers introduced a bill to do just that. “By combining broadly popular, commonsense medical marijuana policy that will generate significant revenue with Medicaid expansion, all logical opposition to expansion is eliminated,” Kelly said. “This bill just makes sense.” Despite the assertion, Kelly’s efforts to expand Medicaid has failed numerous times, whether cannabis was included in the equation or not. A fifth attempt was launched in January 2023. Described as “dead on arrival,” medical cannabis was not really discussed in the proposal.
As of April 2023, CBD containing less than .5 percent THC is all that’s legal, and can only treat certain medical conditions. Medical legalization efforts have continued to stall. After a failure to pass such a bill during the 2022 session, Governor Kelly urged the public to let their lawmakers know how they feel.
Until recently, CBD was all that citizens could legally obtain in Kentucky. That changed on March 31, 2023, when Kentucky became the 38th state to approve medical cannabis. Governor Andy Beshear signed the bill, SB 47, but citizens will have to wait some time to see it take effect on Jan. 1, 2025.
The law permits registered patients to keep a 30-day supply at home, and carry a 10-day supply on their person at any given time. Specific figures for the supply limits and pricing are still being determined by the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Home cultivation is not permitted.
Two-thirds of Louisiana voters were in favor of recreational cannabis in the state as of 2021. A year later, a University of New Orleans poll found that 58 percent supported the measure. The dip in support still marks a majority support for reform in an oft-conservative state.
Public desires be damned, legalization efforts remain slow going. The state enacted medical cannabis laws way back in 1991, but it took until 2016 for a comprehensive program to be established. Even then, patients were only allowed tinctures for a limited number of conditions. Gummies and some other extracts have since been allowed, though, and in June of 2021 Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill legalizing smokable cannabis for medicinal purposes. A week earlier, he signed a bill decriminalizing possession. “I believe deeply that the state of Louisiana should no longer incarcerate people for minor legal infractions, especially those that are legal in many states, that can ruin lives and destroy families, as well as cost taxpayers greatly,” he wrote. Progress continued in 2022, with nine cannabis-related bills receiving the Governor’s signature. The measures spanned a variety of topics, including medical reciprocity, allowing certain state employees to partake in the program, and expanding the number of allowable dispensaries (or pharmacies as they are called in Louisiana). All 13 bills introduced during the 2023 legislative session remain in committee. Still, the Governor has signaled towards crackdowns on unlicensed THC products while reaffirming he isn’t in favor of further legalization.
Though weed was legalized in Maine in 2016, it took a while to get a retail industry set up — it wasn’t until October 2020 that recreational dispensaries finally opened their doors. Already, though, some in the state — which has had a medical program since 1999, reliant mostly on small growers — worry that change is happening too fast. Big, multi-state cannabis companies are targeting Maine (brand names like Keef are already on dispensary shelves) leaving some to worry that the mom-and-pop legacy will be lost. In August 2022, a federal appeals court ruled that the state’s non-resident business prohibition violated the Constitution. With 31 bills filed in 2023, more change could soon come to Maine, as measures like on-site consumption come up for debate. Meanwhile, state cannabis sales doubled in 2022, backed by local, high-quality cannabis products.
Maryland took a while to get to adult-use legalization, because it was stuck at the crossroads — as are many states that were hotspots of the failed drug war — of figuring out how to implement it fairly. Two bills, both focused on social equity, progressed through the state legislature in 2021, but after each getting a single committee hearing, neither advanced. But after voters approved 2022’s constitutional amendment Question 4, lawmakers were on the hook for passing adult-use reform. After an early April passage in Senate, legalization now awaits the signature of Governor Wess Moore, who is expected to sign the bill soon. Sales are slated to begin on July 1, 2023.
Despite its reputation as a liberal state, Massachusetts’ legislation can often feel stuck in the past — you can’t buy booze before noon on Sundays, and tattooing was illegal until 2000. So it wasn’t surprising that when Massachusetts became one of the first East Coast states to legalize in 2016 (along with Maine), officials took their time talking out the details; retail sales didn’t begin until July 1st, 2018. Even then, rollout of retail shops were slow, with only 77 licensed recreational dispensaries open as of October 2021. It didn’t help that when the pandemic hit, medical dispensaries were considered essential, but recreational ones were shut down from March until May 2020. As a result, the number of patients in the program grew to over 100,000 that year up from 67,000 the year before.
After the long delays, momentum has certainly picked up. As of January 2023, total adult use sales in the state topped $4 billion. As of November 2022, more than 225 retail dispensaries had opened across the state.
Michiganders voted overwhelmingly to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2018, with the first dispensaries opening up a little over a year later. Possession of up to 2.5 ounces and 15 grams of THC concentrate, and the cultivation of up to 12 plants, is legal for adults 21 and over. Public consumption, however, is not permitted. In October 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer was able to sign legislation that allows residents with low-level cannabis convictions to have their records expunged. “For too long, criminal charges have created barriers to employment, barriers to housing and others for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders,” Whitmer said at the time. “These bipartisan bills are going to be a game changer.”
They have been game changers. In December 2022, Michigan bested its single-month sales record, earning over $221 million that month. Banking bills could be on the horizon too. However, a recent dark cloud on the market was cast when the former chair of the state licensing board, Rick Johnson, was charged for allegedly taking part in a multi-year license bribery effort. Johnson served as Republican House Speaker from 2001-2004.
Minnesota, which has had medically legal weed since 2014, has been putting adult-use legalization bills through the ringer for years. “We seek to provide criminal justice reform and make sure that those adversely affected through the criminal sanctions of the war on drugs have an opportunity to have their records expunged,” then-Democratic House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said in April 2021, according to Marijuana Moment, ahead of a legislative vote. “And to have an opportunity to participate in the upside, the opportunity of a new cannabis market — to right past wrongs.” That bill, however, did not pass.
There has been some progress, though. In 2022, as part of an approved omnibus package, lawmakers green-lit production and purchase of edibles made with hemp-derived THC, imposing a 5 mg cap — which had many lawmakers wondering if they’d just passed adult use laws. (In 2023, former Majority Leader Winkler announced the start of his own edible brand, Crooked Beverage Company.) While these types of edibles are now allowed, other recreational rules and products remain prohibited. With the state hovering around full-scale legalization, the state Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party introduced a recreational cannabis bill, HF 100, in 2023. If passed, HF 100 would permit adults 21 and over to possess up to five pounds of cannabis flower, or up to eight grams of concentrated oil. Home-grow would be permitted as well. On April 4, the bill was re-referred to the Ways and Means committee.
Mississippi became the 37th state to legalize medical cannabis. Signed into law on Feb. 2, 2022 by Governor Tate Reeves, SB 2095, passed with veto-proof margins. The bill came after voters were faced with two different medical bills on a 2022 ballot initiative. Initiative 65, the broader reaching legalization bill, received 74 percent of voter support.
The bill signed by the Governor is considered a middle-of-the-road between the two 2020 passed ballot initiatives. Under the law, patients can purchase and possess up to 3.5 grams of flower, 100 mg of infused products, and one gram of extracted oil. Flower cannot exceed 30-percent potency and home cultivation is prohibited.
Missourians voted in 2018 to legalize cannabis for medicinal use. Despite its conservative Senate majority, the will of the citizens has continued to push legalization further. After making it onto the ballot, voters approved Amendment 3 on Election Day 2022, passing by a 53-percent margin. Under the law, adults 21 and over can take part, purchasing up to three ounces per transaction. Sales began in February 2023, with sales booming early. State data from March noted that Missouri cannabis sales reached $126 million, with $1 billion in sales expected for the year.
Montana was one of the five states that voted in favor of cannabis ballot initiatives in November 2020. Adults 21 and over are allowed to possess up to one ounce of flower and eight grams of THC concentrate, and four plants per individual (max eight per household) may be cultivated at home. Dispensaries opened in January 2022. Since then, the state’s conservative lawmakers worked to water down Initiative 190 — and haven’t stopped since. In February, Governor Greg Gianforte sought to steer the reported $8-$9 million in cannabis revenue away from environmental efforts and instead towards police and correctional officers. Meanwhile, lawmakers sought to kill adult-use dispensaries and install THC caps via SB 546. The measure was tabled in March 2023, saving the industry in the minds of many legalization advocates. Among other parameters proposed in the bill, SB 546 would have increased medical product taxes from 4 percent to 20 percent, and decreased home growers to just one mature plant.
Cannabis is illegal in Nebraska, but in March 2021 the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to legalize the drug for medicinal use. However, nothing passed from the effort. After almost making the ballot in 2020, advocates pushed for a medical ballot question in 2022, but the effort fell short by a few thousand signatures. In January 2023, Sen. Anna Wishart (D) refiled a medical legalization bill from 2021, serving as one of three cannabis reform bills introduced this year. LB 588’s latest activity came in February, when a notice of hearing was announced for February 9, 2023.
Nevada legalized cannabis for recreational use through a ballot measure back in 2016, with sales starting the following year. Adults over 21 are able to possess up to an ounce of flower and 3.5 grams of concentrate. Nevada is also beginning to make strides on the restorative justice front. In June 2020, Governor Steve Sisolak pardoned over 15,000 people who had been convicted of cannabis-related offenses that are now legal.
The market has continued to expand and be revised. In 2021, AB 341 approved consumption lounges. The following year saw 40 lounge licenses granted to standalone shops and existing stores. Lounges have not opened yet, but appear close. Meanwhile, cultivators continue to push lawmakers to revise tax codes they claim could threaten the viability of their businesses.
New Hampshire may be known as a libertarian bastion — Live Free or Die, after all — but the state has held firm on traditionally conservative notions of weed. Medical marijuana is legal, and as of late May 2021, there were nearly 12,000 patients in the state. No updates have been made since. A limited number of dispensaries exist, and personal cultivation is prohibited. In January 2021, Democrats introduced legislation for recreational weed. It was an optimistic bill — it had a low tax rate, home-grow, and retail sales — but unfortunately, it didn’t make it through the session. “Eventually it will get passed,” one sponsor of the bill told Marijuana Moment. “But I don’t think it will happen until we get a new governor.” That Governor, Chris Sununu, remains in power. But progress seems close. The House passed two legalization bills this session, with HB 639 being sent to the Senate last week. Under the bill, adults could buy or possess up to four ounces but could not grow at home.
It’s been a long road for cannabis in New Jersey, which had been this close to legalization for years before it finally tipped in 2020. Back in 2010, then-Governor John Corzine signed medical marijuana into law, but when Republican succeeding Governor Chris Christie came into office the following year, he stymied the initiative, keeping the list of conditions short and the barrier for entry high.
That all changed in 2018, when incoming and current Gov. Phil Murphy signed a huge expansion into law, allowing for a range of conditions, and making it easier for patients to get the plant. Recreational pot passed via ballot initiative in 2020, and sales began on April 21, 2022. In December 2022, the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission reported a $100 million sales increase during Q3 2022, totaling over $177 million for the period. The state’s next efforts may help legitimize cannabis businesses while providing operators with critical state tax relief. Last March, lawmakers sent Murphy a bill allowing state operators to claim business deductions on state taxes. The measure would not have an impact on federal tax rules.
New Mexico officially became the 17th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use in April 2021, less than two weeks after state lawmakers passed the Cannabis Regulation Act. The law allows adults 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of flower, permits the home cultivation of up to six plants, and automatically wipes the records of those convicted of low-level cannabis offenses. “New Mexico is a state, like most other states, that has experienced disproportionate arrests for cannabis,” Emily Kaltenbach of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico told Rolling Stone. “This bill is going to change lives in New Mexico, not only from the automatic expungement and re-sentencing components, but to help create some equity in the industry and protection for users.” Retail sales began in April 2022.
Expungements weren’t as automatic as originally envisioned, with some cases stalled on technical issues. The hold up led lawmakers and Governor Lujan Grisham to sign HB 314 into law earlier this month. The bill allows anyone affected to apply for expedited processing under a system the courts now must develop. Meanwhile, sales have been strong, with over $300 million in recreational sales during year one.
In March 2021, New York became the 15th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use, passing some of the most progressive legislation in the nation. The law allows adults 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of flower, grow three plants per person and six per household at home, and to smoke weed just about anywhere cigarettes are permitted (a first for any state). While medical home-grow laws have taken effect, personal recreational grows are still waiting approval. Rules under the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) state that the Office of Cannabis Management must issue home grow regulations within 18 months of the first adult use sales taking place, which happened in late December — so we can probably expect that sometime in 2024.
The MRTA also includes a host of restorative justice provisions, including the automatic expungement of records for those convicted of low-level offenses and ear-marking tax revenue for a community reinvestment fund. Some have speculated that then-Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed to some of the measures he’d resisted in the past because of the rash of sexual assault allegations he was facing. But however it happened, it happened, and the nation’s fourth-most-populous state legalizing cannabis — and doing so in a way that aims to make whole the communities most affected by the war on drugs — is a landmark achievement. Since Cuomo’s ousting, Governor Kathy Hochul has ramped up efforts to launch the market. However, the state’s rollout of cannabis laws allowed a plethora of unlicensed shops and sellers to open. Some speculate that New York could find itself in a situation California has long battled.
Cannabis is largely illegal in North Carolina. In April 2021, Sen. Bill Rabon, one of the top Republicans in the state Senate, introduced the Compassionate Care Act, which would have legalized cannabis for certain medicinal uses. Meanwhile, popularity seemed to grow among the public. A poll conducted by Elon University in February 2021 found that a majority of residents support legalizing cannabis for adult use, while 73 percent support legalizing the drug for medicinal use. (The number held firm in 2023, when a Meredith College poll resulted in the same figure.) But in 2022, for the first time ever, Senate members passed a measure, SB 711, focused on patients and veterans. It was not discussed by the House, killing the bill’s momentum in June 2022. This year could see progress for the state, as several bills are up for consideration. SB 3, or the NC Compassionate Care Act, is headed for a House vote. Another bill, SB 346, would go further, permitting small amount possession for adults over 21 while automatically expunging possession records by July 1, 2026 or sooner. The bill passed its first hurdle in the House on March 22, 2023.
It took a couple of tries for North Dakota to get medical marijuana — a ballot initiative failed in 2012 before one finally passed in 2016. For recreational pot, it’s proving to be even tougher. An initiative made it to the ballot in 2018, but it was rejected by almost 60 percent of voters. Earlier this year, some were optimistic that HB 1420, which passed the House, might bring full legalization, but the Senate shut that plan down just weeks later. Days later, the body also blocked an effort to get legalization onto the 2022 ballot. Maybe a fourth time will be the charm? Since the latest setback to legalization, the state has made small changes to access, such as allowing hospice patients to partake in the program, becoming law in March 2023.
Since Ohio legalized medical weed in 2016, 322,486 people have purchased cannabis as patients. Weed is technically decriminalized in the state — less than 100 grams is a misdemeanor — but local jurisdictions (including Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland) have reduced the penalties even more, or gotten rid of them all together. Full legalization failed on a ballot initiative in 2015, but a new bill, which would fully decriminalize both the possession and cultivation of pot, was introduced in March 2021. A day after its introduction, the bill was referred to the criminal justice committee, where it never progressed. In November 2022, five additional jurisdictions voted to decriminalize. Adult use could be on the ballot in 2024 but remains uncertain. Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering overhauling a medical program some have called ‘dying.’
For the past few years, the award for hottest cannabis market in the country has gone to… Oklahoma? Though the western state may not seem like an obvious choice — it doesn’t have California’s rolling farmland, or New York’s sheer demand for the product, and it does have a history of seriously harsh drug laws — its medical marijuana market, which was established after a 2018 ballot initiative, started strong and didn’t slow down until it got critically saturated. Just about anyone could set up shop, with no license caps and fees only costing $2,500. Procuring a recommendation from a doctor is still easy — about one in 10 adults in Oklahoma have a card. “They’ve literally done what no other state has done,” one dispensary owner told Politico in 2020. “Free-enterprise system, open market, wild wild west.”
Patients can still reportedly obtain medical permits with ease. Operators are a different story. A two-year license freeze went into place in August 2022. More recently, the state sent a surprise through many who expected a March 2023 adult use ballot initiative to pass with ease. With just 25 percent of voters taking part, the measure was defeated by almost 62 percent of the vote.
Pennsylvania has seemed primed for legalization for a few years now. The state has had a medical marijuana program for seven years, which has 712,421 patients and 37,221 caregivers as of July 2022. Polling in recent years continues to suggest that two-thirds of voters support adult-use. In addition, Lieutenant Governor turned Senator John Fetterman has become a national, vocal advocate of legalization. “I actually don’t use marijuana,” he told Rolling Stone three years ago. “But I think any adult should be able to — legally, safely, taxed — and not label them a criminal. We need to expunge all criminal convictions. If there is anybody serving jail time for a marijuana conviction, get them out immediately.” This March, new Governor Josh Shapiro (D) reignited the debate, calling for legalization in his annual budget request. Four bills have been introduced during the 2023 legislative session. None have passed through committee at this time.
In March 2021, leaders in the Senate put forward a bill, and days later, Governor Dan McKee announced his proposal as part of the 2022 budget. They both called for the legalization of marijuana for adults 21 and over, establishment of licensing procedures, and both address giving back to the communities torn apart by the war on drugs. The big difference is when it comes to home-grow: The legislature’s bill would allow for six plants per adult; the Governor’s bill allows for none. In May, legalization arrived, with a six-plant home grow cap included in the legislation. Sales began in December 2022, selling $2.9 million in products during the first 20 days.
All cannabis is illegal in deep-red South Carolina, but one Republican lawmaker is doing all he can to pass a medicinal marijuana bill. In April 2021, Sen. Tom Davis threatened to hold all other legislation hostage if his colleagues tried to block his medicinal bill. The effort didn’t work, but Davis continues to champion medical reform. In January 2023, he introduced the S.C. Compassionate Care Act, a new version of the bill that stalled last year. The bill would not allow for smokable cannabis or home cultivation — only edibles, vape oils and topicals. If passed, the bill would likely reflect the desires of the citizens. A mid-April 2023 Winthrop University poll indicates medical legalization support continues to grow, with 76 percent of South Carolinians approving. The results follow a 2021 poll that found 72 percent favored medicinal cannabis reform.
South Dakota may be one of the most conservative states in the nation, but in November 2020 its residents voted in favor of an initiative to legalize cannabis for medicinal use and an initiative to legalize it recreationally. It’s not that easy, though. Republican Governor Krisi Noem filed a lawsuit contesting the recreational provision, and the state Supreme Court ultimately struck it down by a 4-1 margin. In 2022, a new adult-use ballot measure fell short by roughly 20,000 votes. This March, Noem stuck to her anti-cannabis agenda, vetoing a bill that would have increased THC limits in hemp.
Things aren’t going great for pot in Tennessee. A medical marijuana bill passed in 2014, but because of stringent requirements — basically, the involvement of federally funded institutions that couldn’t legally be involved — the program fell apart. A year later, they changed it to allow qualifying patients to bring products in from other states (which is, of course, also against the law) and in 2015 modified it again to specify those products had to be extremely low-THC — essentially just CBD products. Republican Governor Bill Lee in May signed a bill to expand the program, although not significantly, and to create a commission to study the possibility of a more comprehensive medicinal program.
No cannabis bills made significant movement in 2022. Now, with the state embroiled in the controversial expulsion of two young black lawmakers, it is unlikely that cannabis gets much traction during the legislative session.
Texas is tough on cannabis, but arrests are declining. The state made over 22,500 pot arrests in 2021, a sharp decline that began in 2019. However, criticism persists, as 34 percent of arrests include Black individuals, marking an eight percent increase since 2010.
There have been some recent efforts to bring about reform, most notably a 2021 bill to decriminalize that passed through a House committee. Texas does allow for the medicinal use of low-THC products, but only for a narrow set of intractable conditions. In June 2021, Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that added PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions, while doubling the amount of THC concentration allowed in medicinal products. By 2023, Texas voters were once again saying they wanted fewer pot restrictions. That may come in the form of HB 1805, a House bill facing a mid-April vote. If approved, chronic pain would be added to the list of qualifying conditions, and THC caps would be replaced by a 10 mg dosage. On April 11, the House passed the measure by a 127-19 tally. It now moves to the Senate where its future remains unclear.
Though Utah has legalized medical weed, it was a hard road getting there — and it ended in a more conservative bill than advocates had hoped. The Church of Latter Day Saints, a powerful entity in the largely Mormon state, wasn’t sold on medical marijuana. The plant was added to their list of banned intoxicants in 1915, and it wasn’t until 2016 that they even came around on CBD oil. In 2018, as a voter initiative made its way to the ballot, the church stepped up with a counter offer, striking things like home-grow from the deal. Voters passed the initial version, but lawmakers enacted the more restrictive law. At least 20 dispensaries have since opened across the state, but don’t expect adult-use pot anytime soon — the church remains staunchly against the recreational use of basically any substance, including marijuana.
In 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize cannabis for adult use via the state legislature. Adults 21 and over are permitted to possess up to one ounce of flower, five grams of THC concentrate, and grow six plants. Sales officially began in October 2022, allowing adults to purchase up to an ounce of THC in any product form.
In April 2021, Virginia became the first state in the South to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Initially, the bill was expected to go into effect in 2024 — but Governor Ralph Northam pushed that up to July 1st, 2021. Don’t expect any dispensaries cropping up anytime soon, though — and that’s been the plan all along. Part of this has to do with the bill’s strong emphasis on social justice, so it will take time to dole out the licenses fairly. In July 2021, residents received the right to grow up to four cannabis plants and legally possess an ounce of weed. Medical patients can go to one of four dispensaries in the state. Cannabis can be shared but not purchased for adult use. Sharing rules have allowed some unlicensed pop-ups to open across the state under confusion around gifting laws. In February, a bill to start adult use sales by 2024 failed to pass the House of Delegates subcommittee, falling short in a 5-3 party line vote.
Cannabis has been fully legal in Washington state since 2012. By 2021, Governor Jay Inslee was touting how well the program had been doing. “Our experience in Washington has been uniformly positive on any way you score this — from a reduction of unnecessary law enforcement and criminal activity that really wasn’t benefiting our community, on creating jobs in a new industry, on giving people more freedom in their personal decision making with no demonstrable, horrendous health impacts,” he said. “By any measure, it’s been a very successful enterprise.” Efforts to legalize home-grow were defeated in 2022. More recently in March of this year, the state has focused efforts on passing protections for job applicants and interstate commerce.
Cannabis is fully legal in Washington, D.C., but some restrictions limit its application. It’s still illegal on federal land, of which there is a lot in the nation’s capital, and it’s still illegal to sell it. This loophole is created by a rider in the federal budget, which prohibits the regulation of sales in the District. The rider was once again included in the 2022 budget. The small handful of dispensaries in the district only sell to medicinal patients. With adult-use sales on ice, local lawmakers have turned to expanding the medical program; with Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) signing the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 this past February. The bill allows people 21 and over to self-certify as patients, essentially skirting the adult use laws while eliminating the need for a doctor’s confirmation.
West Virginia had three bills introduced in the 2021 session — two to legalize pot, and one to decriminalize it. None of them made it to the floor. In the meantime, lawmakers rolled out a medical program that year— though it was signed into law in 2017, patients only became eligible to register this February. Growers, processors, and dispensaries received licenses. However, little other progress has been made, with no cannabis measures passed in 2022. Twenty-three cannabis bills have been in committee in 2023.
Wisconsin may be a swing state, but cannabis is fully illegal and the laws prohibiting it are strict. Democratic Governor Tony Evers has pushed for full legalization, but the largely conservative state legislature, so far, hasn’t been having it. A bipartisan effort has been discussed for the 2023 session, but ‘serious limitations’ will be needed for it to happen.
Cannabis is fully illegal in Wyoming, and the penalties for violations are strict. The state’s cannabis-related arrest rate is perennially among the highest in the nation. An ACLU study found that in 2018 black people were 5.2 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis, the ninth highest rate in America. Wyoming is also the only state to make being “under the influence” of cannabis illegal. Legalization has begun to generate some bipartisan momentum, though. In 2021, HB 209 would have legalized adult use but did not pass. In March 2023, two ballot initiatives failed to qualify for the 2024 ballot by failing to meet minimum signature percentages in various counties.
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