Cannabis Popularity on the Rise
At the start of this new year, cannabis will have become more popular than ever before. A recent poll found that 65% of Americans now support marijuana legalization, A number that has been steadily increasing year after year.
This poll reflects the current situation in the US, as more and more states are passing laws in favor of recreational and medical marijuana. In June of 2019, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana.
In this article, we're taking an in-depth look at the states that are looking to pass recreational or medical cannabis laws this year.
Arizona - Recreational Cannabis as Soon as 2020
In Arizona, marijuana laws have faced an uphill battle since the 1990s. Only in 2010 did the state finally allow medical marijuana, Proposition 203 passed with a razor-thin majority of 50.1% of votes.
Despite initial opposition, many residents in the state have embraced the new law. At the moment, the Arizona Department of Health Services has enrolled over 218,000 people into the medical marijuana program. It doesn't appear that the number of medical marijuana patients will slow down anytime soon.
With a higher influx in medical marijuana patients, the state is seeing an increase in tax revenue from a positive profit margin. Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics (AMRBA) estimate that the state received $705 million in profit in 2019 alone.
AMRBA predicts that the profit will increase by $100 million for the next few years before stagnating. However, if the state legalizes recreational use, then the profit will increase by a significant margin.
It seems natural that the state would want to gain benefits from the increase in tax revenue brought in by cannabis. However, it's not quite that simple. Many influential political figures and companies are working hard to keep recreational marijuana from becoming a reality.
In 2016, proposition 205 failed to kick start a recreational marijuana initiative. Its opposition was mainly funded by parts of the Arizona government, as well as certain pharmaceutical companies. Even though the bill didn't pass, it only lost by a slim margin, with 48.7% of the vote hoping for legalization.
This year, there is another new bill poised to bring recreational cannabis to Arizona. The law is being called the Arizona Marijuana Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation Initiative. The main objectives of the bill are to legalize the possession, consumption, cultivation, and sale of marijuana to persons 21 or older.
They plan to have a framework much like other recreational states, such as Colorado, with a purchase age of 21. It would also restrict where marijuana could be consumed, prohibit the operation of a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, and allow employers to limit the marijuana use of employees.
Most importantly, they're following the example set by Colorado and plan to create a public safety fund. This fund will go towards health services, schools, homelessness, police forces, and more.
For this law to pass, the ballot first needs valid signatures from at least 237,645 residents. If the bill has the necessary signatures by July 2nd, then the law will be voted on in the next general election on November 3rd.
The measure should have no trouble getting the required signatures, but it's still undetermined whether Arizona will pass the law at the end of the year. Those supporting the bill are confident it will pass due to the new strategy being implemented.
The Arizona Dispensaries Association (ADA) has hired Strategies 360 to run a campaign - the same company that ran a successful 2014 recreational marijuana initiative in Alaska.
With the way that cannabis has been increasing in popularity and proving its medical value, This could be the year that Arizona will pass its adult-use cannabis law.
Florida and Minnesota - High Hopes, Low Chances
"Proponents of the Make It Legal Florida bill have filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging that a new law has limited the ability of people to sign for the bill."
Both Florida and Minnesota are looking to take the plunge into full recreational cannabis this year as well. The only problem is that in both of these states, the possibility is looking less likely.
In Florida, they're attempting to pass the Make it Legal Florida bill. However, the law only has 219,290 verified signatures out of 766,200, and the deadline is February 1st, 2020. Proponents of the bill filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging that a new law has limited the ability of people to sign for the bill.
Currently, in Minnesota, there is no bill waiting to be voted on or gathering of signatures, but Minnesotans are expecting a bill to come in February. Ryan Winkler, a democrat and the majority leader of the state's house, stated, "Minnesota needs to have an honest conversation about how we will legalize cannabis." As such, he will be touring Minnesota with a 'be heard on cannabis' community conversation.
However, it's an uphill battle since the upcoming bill will need to get the approval of the Minnesota state senate. That could pose a problem as the state senate is currently controlled by the Republican party, who have generally opposed recreational cannabis laws. More than likely, they will kill the bill before it reaches the public.
Three States Still Have Complete Cannabis Prohibition
As of January 2020, only three states - Idaho, South Dakota, and Nebraska have complete marijuana prohibition. However, Idaho and Nebraska are already on the path with medical marijuana initiatives gathering signatures.
"South Dakota had a medical marijuana bill ready for 2020, but unfortunately, it didn't receive enough signatures by its deadline at the end of 2019."
Both states still need to get the required amount of signatures and then pass the law at the end of the year. Whether they do so or not is still up in the air, but both states could have medical marijuana laws by next year.
South Dakota had a medical marijuana bill ready for 2020, but unfortunately, it didn't receive enough signatures by its deadline at the end of 2019. So for at least another few years, South Dakota will remain cannabis free.
Federal Legalization A Reality?
Nearly every state in the US, except for the three mentioned above, has medical or recreational cannabis laws. With so much public support and research to back up the medicinal benefits of marijuana, federal legalization could be a reality in the near future.
"Last year, a bill named the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) was introduced, which looks to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level."
This year, the Secure And Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE, drafted in 2019) is hoping to allow banks to work with medical dispensaries, a process they haven't been allowed to do up to this point. This is a crucial step that will bring more legitimacy to legal cannabis.
Last year, a bill named the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) was introduced, which looks to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. Unfortunately, hopes are low for this law as the senate is controlled by a Republican senate firmly opposed to such measures. The good news is that these bills demonstrate that the federal government is starting to pay attention and are attempting to pass cannabis reform laws.
Individual states are still leading the way for cannabis reform laws, despite the apathy of the federal government. As more and more states go recreational, the federal government will be forced to respond, hopefully, sooner rather than later.