Photo by Pixabay Published December 31, 2018 Updated May 13, 2020
Currently, in the USA there are 10 states, including Washington D.C., that have legalized recreational cannabis and 33 states with legalized medical marijuana. These numbers are poised to reach new heights in 2019 due to the steady growth in public support of marijuana across the country from both marijuana supporters and lawmakers.
Here is the list of states most likely to fully legalize recreational marijuana in 2019 thanks to the marijuana supporters who hit the polls and voted for pro-marijuana state lawmakers and governors.
Gov. Ned Lamont (D) took a logical stance for marijuana reform stating, "It's something I would support, and I don't want the black market controlling marijuana distribution in our state..." He reiterated his pro-marijuana stance again after his win on Election Day by pledging, during a transition press conference, that making progress on the issue will be one of his top priorities in 2019.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) used marijuana legalization as the center of his campaign, this dude even went as far as to hold a press conference outside of a medical cannabis dispensary. After his election win, he announced his intent to get the legalization moving as soon as possible.
Gov. Tim Walz (D) took the place of an anti-marijuana Democrat in this past election. He argued in favor of bringing in new tax revenue from the sales of marijuana as well as reducing the number of people incarcerated for drug-related offenses. The biggest hurdle Walz faces, in his plan of legalization, is the Democratic and Republican split in the Minnesota Legislature.
Elected in 2017 with a campaign focused on marijuana legalization, Gov. Phil Murphy (D), has continued to push for an end to prohibition in the state of New Jersey. After some issues with lawmakers and governors over tax rates and regulations, the Senate and Assembly Committees have approved the marijuana legalization legislation last month. The new year should bring some momentum behind it, ending marijuana prohibition in New Jersey.
With the Election Day win for Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) as New Mexico's next governor, the legalization of recreational marijuana will most likely pass if the bill makes it to the floor. Grisham supported marijuana legalization as a member of Congress and during a political debate for the governor seat she was quoted that legalization would bring “hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy."
One time enemy to marijuana legalization, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will legalize recreational marijuana in New York in a few short months. Governor Cuomo has created a task force whose only responsibility is to create cannabis legislation for lawmaker consideration in 2019. He has also directed the Health Department to study the effects of marijuana legalization; the result report showed that the positive effects greatly outweigh the potential negative effects of cannabis prohibition.
Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has previously proposed expanding the number of licensed medical marijuana shops, however, the legislature increased the fee medical marijuana dispensaries are required to pay. Due to the legalization from Massachusetts and the strong chance of legalization in Connecticut this year, Gov Raimondo has suggested, "remaining open" to changes in Rhode Island marijuana laws.
In 2018, Gov. Phil Scott (R) and Vermont lawmakers legalized the possession of marijuana, as well as small home grows. The lawmakers did not allow for any form of commercial cultivation and sales which does not allow for Vermont to receive any marijuana tax revenue or allows for any state cultivation regulations. The state Senate has already approved marijuana sales legislation and the House seems to be more likely to pass the legislation as well. However, Gov. Scott is still reluctant to sign any further legislation regarding the legalization of marijuana until there is a system in place to detect driving under the influence of marijuana so it remains unclear if he would veto a legalization bill or if lawmakers can gather enough support to override his decision.
Legalization Progress in Other States
While the above states seem ready to go fully into legalization this year, the following states are putting themselves into position for other cannabis related legislation this coming new year or have intention to have marijuana reform of some kind on their 2020 ballot votes.
Arizona will likely be backed into a corner due to their pot friendly neighboring states, California and New Mexico, forcing them to expand their medical marijuana regulations into recreational legislation over the next 5 years.
Newly elected Gov. Ron DeSantis does not support recreational use marijuana, though he does have plans to expand the restrictive regulations regarding medical use marijuana.
Gov. Laura Kelly (D) supports legalizing medicinal marijuana, which would allow patients to use marijuana with a doctor recommendation.
In 2014, state Legislators made a very small exception in the state law allowing for a study of cannabidiol, which has claims of being able to reduce seizures in children. The study was faced with the obstacle of getting approval from the federal government for the last 4 years. The study will be done at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and will last for 6 months. Advocates are pushing for a 2020 referendum on Mississippi ballots.
With Nebraska's surrounding states passing medical marijuana, advocates are pushing for a measure to be presented on the 2020 ballot, as well as having medicinal marijuana written into the State Constitution.
The voters of North Dakota rejected the Measure 3, a ballot that proposed recreational marijuana legislation this past Election Day. The voters rejected the initiative that would have set no limit on the amount of marijuana a person could cultivate or possess, a system of legal marijuana production and sales, included no rules and regulations. They did this so that lawmakers could have full control over the taxes and regulations over the marijuana market. The ballot would have also expunged convictions for marijuana convictions.
While Ohio has passed medical marijuana legislation there are many issues surrounding the marijuana regulations. It's said that in 2019 the Ohio state lawmakers will revisit the driving under the influence laws regarding marijuana levels in a medical marijuana users blood and urine.
Gov. Tom Wolf (D), supports the decriminalization of cannabis possession in 2019. He also intends on taking a deeper look into recreational cannabis use legislation.
Senator Greg Hembree has filed a bill asking the federal government to remove the restrictions to conduct research on the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Medical cannabis will also be on the table for South Carolina lawmakers when they return for the 2019 legislative session.
A proposed initiated measure is likely to be on the 2020 ballot which would allow those over the age of 21 to grow, possess, and use marijuana. Those under the age of 21 would be permitted to use marijuana with permission from a doctor. The petition must have signatures from 5% of the states registered voters.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is considering some form of marijuana decriminalization as well as the legalization of medical marijuana.
Gov. Tony Evers (D) has suggested the decriminalization of marijuana as well as allowing for medical marijuana. He also supports allowing voters to vote on a recreational use referendum.
Like a burning fire going across the entire country lawmakers are coming to the realization that legalization is necessary. These lawmakers are becoming more aware of the many benefits of ending prohibition. Whether the lawmakers reasons be to decrease the black market and organized crime, to protect our Constitutional liberties to safe and effective health care, improve community and police relations, for the betterment of national security, to decrease the welfare system through expunging records of those with marijuana charges who are currently unable to find sustainable employment, to help reduce racial justice, for the benefit of the tax revenues or for the absurdity behind the reasons why marijuana is illegal. The lawmakers are listening to the people and the people have been speaking loud and clear to end the ineffective war on marijuana.