These States Are the Most Likely to Legalize Marijuana in 2021

Discussion on legalizing marijuana has been going on for years in the United States and across the globe. Many believe that legalizing weed is overdue and keep asking when is marijuana going to be legal? Today, many states in the US have legalized weeds for medical use, recreational use, or both. More states are expected to follow suit in the next few months. Facts and figures from the states that have allowed regulated sales of marijuana show clearly that legalizing cannabis will boost the economy, create employment opportunities, generate income for businesses and more tax for the government, and open up research areas for companies and institutions that may want to study cannabis. These are enough reasons to legalize marijuana. However, while we wait for more states and the federal government to legalize marijuana, let’s look at the states that have already permitted its use. 

What is the status of marijuana legalization?

Presently marijuana is still illegal by federal law. The federal government classified it as a schedule I drug. This is the same category as cocaine and heroin. According to the federal authority, it has little health benefit and may induce criminal acts. This means you cannot use it anywhere under federal control. However, many states have legalized it for medical or recreational use. Some states allow marijuana for both. In this situation, you may not be able to travel by air with marijuana in your possession. Also, you cannot be with cannabis in other federal government facilities like the national park or the national museum. However, it is very unlikely that the federal government will disturb anyone complying with its state’s regulation on the use of marijuana. Instead, the federal government appears to be more interested in people using money made from cannabis sales to fund gang activities, those committing crimes under the influence of marijuana, transporting it from states that have legalized cannabis to those that still prohibit it, and using cannabis business to launder money. The federal government will also be watching out for the use of cannabis on its properties. Hence, states looking to legalize marijuana may not have to worry about federal prohibition.

What is Congress doing at the federal level to address marijuana issues?

Although cannabis is still prohibited by federal law, Congress is busy discussing many features of it. On January 19th, 2021, the Republican legislator Greg Steube proposed that cannabis be rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule III. Two days later, he also proposed an act to stop the Veteran Affairs Secretary from using participation in marijuana programs that are legal according to the state to deny a veteran his benefits. The safe banking Act that focuses on repositioning the funds gained by the cannabis industry was reintroduced on March 17th and passed about a month later. Also, the Hemp Economic Mobilization Plan (HEMP) Act was reintroduced in March. The act sought to increase allowable THC from 0.3% to 1% in Schedule 1-exempt. On the 12th of May 2021, two republican representatives, David Joyce and Don Young proposed Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act. The act sought to deschedule cannabis and legalize it under federal law. Other attempts at the Congress on legalization of cannabis include the FY22 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill that tries to protect the states that have legalized the medical use of cannabis.

Connecticut

Connecticut is among the states that have legalized marijuana use for both medical purposes and recreational use. The legalization of cannabis for recreation came to effect on July 1st this year. The state is the 19th to legalize cannabis for recreation. There is also a medical program for people who need cannabis for treatment.

The state set up a commission to handle licensing for businesses that may want to deal in cannabis. This commission will prioritize communities with financial challenges and those affected by the War on Drugs. By 2023, anyone with criminal records for possessing cannabis that was less than 4 oz will have their record deleted. It is expected that other criminal cases related to cannabis may be expunged by July 2022.

The state planned to have three types of taxation on marijuana. These include:

  • 6.35% tax that is the standard practice in the state.
  • 3% tax which will go to the community where the revenue is generated
  • 10% – 15% tax that will be calculated according to the THC content of the cannabis

However, an individual cannot be in possession of more than 1.5 oz of marijuana at a time. The state expects to start retail sales in late 2022. Applications are available from the Department of Consumer Protection.

Also, individuals are not allowed yet to grow cannabis at home. However, from October 1st, 2021, citizens who require marijuana for medical use will be allowed to grow a maximum of three mature plants and three immature ones. A household may not be able to grow more than 12 plants. By July 1st, 2023, this permission will be extended to all adults in the state.

For business people interested in the industry, there will be nine categories of licenses. They include recreational cannabis, hybrid retailers that deal with both recreational cannabis and medical cannabis, cultivators, and micro cultivators. Other permits include ones for product manufacturers, packagers, transporters, delivery service providers, and food and beverage manufacturers. The license fees vary from $2750 to as high as over $3 million.

New Mexico

Both medical and recreational cannabis are legal in New Mexico. The legalization of medical cannabis has been in effect in the state since April 2007. The decriminalization of cannabis took place in July 2019. The state governor then signed the act that allows recreational use of cannabis by adults into law in April this year. However, sales of marijuana may not start in the state until April 2022. The act allows an individual at least 21 years of age to possess a maximum of 2 oz of cannabis and cultivate a maximum of six mature cannabis plants.

New York

Both recreational and medical marijuana are legal in New York. Even though the process was delayed, the state governor eventually signed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act on March 31, 2021. However, sales of cannabis in the state may not start until 2022. Then adults from 21 years and above can be in possession of a maximum of three oz of cannabis flower and a maximum of 24 grams of concentrated cannabis. These can only be purchased from marijuana dispensaries that are licensed by the state, and consumers must present identification to prove that they are at least 21 years old. If the purchased cannabis is to be stored at home, the consumers are responsible for keeping the cannabis away from minors.

The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will license cultivators, processors, distributors, and dispensaries to grow and sell cannabis in New York. There will be laboratory testing and packaging and labeling requirements for cannabis products to protect consumer safety. The Office will create a social and economic equity program to encourage small businesses and communities disproportionately harmed by disparate drug enforcement to participate in the new industry. The state plans to invest 40% of the revenue generated through tax from the marijuana sales into rebuilding communities harmed by the War on Drugs.

While cannabis for recreation is allowed in New York, it is not permitted to consume it in places where tobacco consumption is prohibited. Individualsare advised to consume it in their private space or dedicated zones for the use of tobacco and cannabis. Property owners also have the right to ban the consumption of marijuana on their premises. However, they cannot refuse to rent their property to a person based on their cannabis consumption. Employers also have the right to control the use of cannabis on duty. 

Home cultivation of marijuana will be permitted once the retail sales licensing has been concluded. An adult interested in planting cannabis can cultivate a maximum of three mature plants and three immature plants, while the maximum that a household can grow is 12, irrespective of the number of members of the household. Marijuana plants must be cultivated in a place that will keep them away from people under the age of 21. The local authority may modify the regulation on the cultivation of marijuana but may not stop the act.

There will be three taxes on the recreational use of marijuana. These taxes are charged at the distribution level according to the proportion of THC in the product. The tax varied from $0.008 per mg of THC charged on concentrates to $0.03 per mg of THC on edibles. The other taxes are the 9% excise tax that goes to the state and the 4% excise tax to the local government. 40% of the tax generated will be spent on education, 40% on community grant reinvestment, and 20% on drug treatment and other related expenses.

Rhode Island

The crucial actions that led to the legalization of marijuana in Rhode Island began around 2006 when the state’s General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto to enact the Medical Marijuana Act. The lawmakers later amended the law in 2009. The amended law allowed business owners to get state licenses to deal with medical marijuana. The lawmakers also approved the establishment of a commission that will study the effect of cannabis prohibition. Marijuana was decriminalized in the state in 2012, and the medical marijuana program in the state was reformed in 2016. By 2020 plans to legalize cannabis in the state had been concluded. In June this year, the lawmakers voted in support of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the state. The Department of Business Regulation will regulate it. However, there is still a lot to iron out in the regulation of the industry.

The state cannabis law allows citizens with conditions that can be treated with cannabis to register as medical marijuana patients. Such patients must be certified by a medical practitioner to be suffering from any of the diseases listed by the regulatory body to require cannabis for treatment. Such conditions include Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure, and epilepsy. If certified by a medical professional, a medical cannabis patient can then grow a maximum of 12 mature flowers and 12 immature non-flowering plants. marijuana must have tags from the Department of Business Regulation. If the patient cannot or does not want to cultivate marijuana, they can appoint someone to cultivate it for them. A state-licensed dispensary can sell marijuana and marijuana products to adults at least 21 years of age.

Virginia

Virginia was the first southern state to initiate the legalization of marijuana for recreation. The process began on April 7th, 2021, and was concluded on July 1st, when the legalization became effective. The state set up a new commission for regulating the cannabis industry. It allows anyone from the age of 21 to be in possession of a regulated quantity of cannabis. Adults can also cultivate a limited number for recreational use. However, the resale of cannabis will not be allowed until January 1st, 2024. In the meantime, the Cannabis Control Authority will be busy issuing licenses to businesses interested in the sector.

Delaware

The legislators in Delaware passed a vote to legalize adult use of marijuana and expand the cannabis medical program in March this year. The law is to allow individuals above the age of 21 to have up to one ounce of cannabis. Licenses will be given to businesses who want to sell recreational cannabis and those that may want to grow it for commercial purposes. However, individuals will not be allowed to grow marijuana at home. Also, driving under the influence of cannabis will remain a crime. With the state regulating the use of cannabis, the lawmaker believes it will generate more funds for the state. The license will be renewed every two years at a cost between $1000 and $10,000, depending on the scale of the business. A tax of 15% will be imposed at the retail point. The bill legalizing the recreational use of cannabis in the state also implies expungement of a conviction for people who had previously been convicted for being in possession of marijuana.

Maryland

The medical cannabis program in Maryland was extended on May 7, 2020, when the state governor approved Connor and Raina’s law, even though he did not sign it. The law stipulates that medical marijuana can be administered to students during school hours if there is a medical report that the cannabis can be helpful to their condition. Also, in the same year, lawmakers passed a bill that shielded people convicted for possession of cannabis. The bill, however, stipulated that those that want full record expungement must apply for it. However, the waiting period, which was initially ten years, was reduced to four years. Unfortunately, the state governor vetoed the law, but the legislators overrode the veto when they sat in 2021. The legalization of adult use of cannabis is still pending in the state, and lots have been done to actualize it.

The house made a plan to formulate a group that will study the effects of the legalization of cannabis for recreational use in the state. The workgroup is tasked with the responsibility of formulating licensing procedures, taxes, control and regulation, and how to avoid misuse. According to the house speaker, the house will pass a bill that will put the issue of legalization of cannabis into vote in 2022. But the senate president believes that the legalization is beyond pass due, and the framework for it should be concluded this year. Research shows that 67 percent of the citizens of Maryland are for cannabis legalization. 

Minnesota

The Minnesota legislation on recreational use of cannabis is similar to those of other states with little variation. The law allows adults who are 21 or above to be in possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis when they are outside. The maximum concentrate allowed is 8 g, while edibles must not contain more than 800 mg of THC. At the same time, a household can keep up to a maximum of 10 pounds of cannabis. A household can grow up to eight plants which can include four flowering ones. However, the plants must be cultivated in an enclosed space shielded from the public view and from minors. Marijuana is not allowed to be used in public vehicles, anywhere where smoking is not allowed, or in correctional facilities.

The law makes provision for several licenses. These include licenses for cultivation, retail, wholesale, manufacturing, testing facility, delivery services, and medical cannabis business. Other licensing includes licenses for event organizers, microbusinesses, and transporters. The business must comply with certain restrictions on the advertisement, safety measures, health regulations, and security. Cannabis products must not be modeled after any existing products made for children like a lollipop, and they must not have more than 10 mg of THC per serving or 100 mg of THC per package. The business must report its equity by submitting an annual diversity report. 

While licensed retailers can sell both usable cannabis and plants, they must not sell to intoxicated people. They must have surveillance cameras and store their products securely. Retail of cannabis is only allowed between 8:00 am and 02:00 am on Monday to Saturday, while it can only take place between 10:00 am and 02:00 am on Sundays. People younger than 21 are not allowed in a cannabis dispensary except for medical patients. 

The History of Cannabis Legalization

For decades, many states have been pushing for the legalization of cannabis and cannabis products. The first state to make a real success in the fight for the right to use cannabis was Oregon, which successfully decriminalized possession of cannabis in 1973. Many states followed its footsteps afterward. However, decriminalization of cannabis does not mean people can use marijuana. In many states, the punishment was only reduced to a mere fine and other lesser punishments.

People keep pushing for complete legalization. While there are more facts that cannabis can be used to treat many medical conditions, the argument in support of the legalization of recreational use of cannabis has centered majorly on its economic advantage. Supporters claim allowing the cultivation and retail sale of cannabis in a regulated industry will increase state revenue and create jobs. They also argue that people who want to smoke marijuana will still smoke it whether it is legalized or not. Hence, it is better for the government to regulate its sale than to let gangs and criminals do it.

Because of the medicinal importance of cannabis and its products, legalizing cannabis for medical purposes was seen to be more important by the government of most of the states thinking of legalizing marijuana than for recreational purposes. Even though the process was slow, more than half of the states in the US have legalized medical cannabis. However, the federal government insists on the prohibition of it. The legalization of cannabis for recreational use, also called adult use of cannabis, was pioneered by the states of Colorado and Washington. Today, more than ten states have also legalized it. In all the states where marijuana is legalized for recreation, only adults that are at least 21 years old can possess and use it. Also, only licensed dispensaries are allowed to sell it. The quantity that a person can possess is also limited. Some states allow an individual to grow cannabis in their private home, but the number allowed is usually limited to 6 per person and 12 per household. Cultivators of cannabis for commercial purposes must first obtain a license. However, the slow process makes it difficult to know for certain what will be the next state to legalize marijuana or when it is going to be legalized in all states of the U.S..

Reasons Why More States May Legalize Soon

The call for the legalization of cannabis today is similar to the call for gambling legalization many years ago. Many countries and governments that were initially against it reconsidered their position on the argument that money from gambling could help resolve many economic challenges. Today, the economic point of view is among the major arguments for the legalization of cannabis. This becomes more important as COVID 19 pandemic has affected many states financially, and they are looking for ways to supplement their income. States that had legalized recreational use of marijuana prior to the pandemic greatly benefitted from the income from the industry. As other industries were shutting down, the cannabis industry was thriving. The COVID 19 effect is still very much around, and the legalization of marijuana may just be an effective way to generate more income. Next, states to legalize recreational cannabis may just base their reasons on the economic impact of COVID 19.

With all these facts, there is no doubt more states will soon legalize cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use. We also know that some states are close to legalizing marijuana. They are  Arizona, South Dakota, Nebraska, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Montana.

Factors Affecting Laws on Cannabis Legalization

Many factors play significant roles in legalizing marijuana. Among the important factors are the political situation of the states and the country. While the Obama administration promised not to interfere in the protection of the state on the legalization of cannabis, Trump threatened to remove the protection. The present president, Joe Biden, is a supporter of the legalization of cannabis, but he had previously opposed drug use vehemently. Hence, he may not want to be seen with a double standard.

At the state level, many states prefer to put the decision to legalize cannabis or not into votes. There must first be enough signatures to call for a vote. If that is obtained, then the people may go to the poll. The decision to legalize or not will then rest in the hands of the people. While it is obvious that many people will agree that medical use of cannabis is essential, the same may not be the case with recreational use.

In general, the economic impact of the legalization of cannabis cannot be ignored. States that are in dire need of a financial boost will likely support it. While it may be difficult to predict the exact number of states that will legalize cannabis for either medical or recreational use or both by 2022, it is obvious that more states will join those that have already permitted its use.     

Conclusion

More than half of the states in the US have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use. About a dozen legalized it for both. The process has been a long and challenging one, but those in support of decriminalization and legalization are winning the contest. 

However, at the federal level, cannabis still remains illegal. The federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug which has little or no benefit but can trigger violent acts. Hence, it is illegal to use cannabis in any federal facilities or on interstate transportation. Even though federal agencies can still prosecute people using marijuana in states that have legalized it, it is unlikely that they will intervene in the state program.

Most of the states that have legalized marijuana require people who want to go into the cannabis business to obtain licenses. They must also adhere to regulations on advertisements, security, and tax. Only adults of a minimum age of 21 can use cannabis for recreation, and there is a limited quantity that one can possess. Those who want to grow it at home are also limited to growing a few numbers. It is expected that most of the states that have not legalized cannabis use will soon change their position. States most likely to legalize marijuana are already discussing it in the house.