Where weed is legal

MONA ZHANG - Politico

April. 07, 2021

State legislatures have been slow to catch up to the marijuana legalization trend as, time and again, they let voters decide what to do about decades-old weed laws. That’s changing this year.

Virginia’s Legislature passed a recreational legalization bill in February, becoming the first Southern state to fully embrace weed. Last week, lawmakers in New York and New Mexico legalized weed for adults, after years of failed efforts. New Jersey lawmakers also passed legislation implementing a voter-approved legalization amendment. And more conservative states like Kansas and Alabama are moving medical marijuana legalization bills forward.

More than 40 percent of Americans now live in states — 18 in total — that have embraced full legalization. Roughly two-thirds of Americans back legal weed, according to polls.


The acceptance of legal weed by governors and state lawmakers in 2021 — without the explicit blessing of voters — marks a turning point. Until this year, only two states had legalized recreational marijuana programs through the legislature: Illinois in 2019 and Vermont in 2020.

“The sky hasn't fallen in those states that have legalized,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for legalization advocacy organization Marijuana Policy Project. “It doesn't hurt that these laws generate a lot of economic growth in the way of new jobs, new small businesses and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that states could really use as they recover from Covid.”

While not all legislative efforts have been a success, with legalization bills dying in Maryland, Hawaii and Wyoming in recent months, the rapid spread of legalization across the country will further exacerbate the tension between state and federal laws. Marijuana continues to be classified as an illegal drug with high potential for abuse and no medical use under federal law. That disconnect will undoubtedly increase the pressure on Congress and the White House to take steps to loosen federal marijuana restrictions.

As some legislatures continue to debate the issue this spring, here’s a closer look at state legalization efforts across the country:Virginia
The state made history as the first in the Old South to approve a recreational legalization bill in February. But it also sparked sharp criticism from both legalization supporters and opponents by delaying implementation until 2024.

Last Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam called on the legislature to speed up the legalization timeline, proposing amendments to allow possession and home cultivation starting July 1.“Governor Northam’s amendments will stop the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws beginning this summer, while also focusing on public safety and educating our youth,” said Del. Charniele Herring, a sponsor of the legalization bill and the Democratic majority leader in the Virginia House. “This is a very important step for equity.”

The proposed changes heeded calls from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Despite decriminalizing marijuana last year, Black people are still disproportionately hit with fines for simple possession. Democrats wanted to see that disparate enforcement end sooner rather than later, and Republicans expressed dismay that the three-year timeline would confuse Virginians and result in people being punished for behavior that they thought was legal.

Northam also proposed stronger labor protections and increased funding for impaired driving training for law enforcement. Lawmakers will take up his proposals April 7. Recreational sales are still not slated to begin until 2024.New York
After years of near-misses, New York legalized adult-use cannabis last week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act” into law just hours after it cleared the Legislature. New Yorkers aged 21 and older can now legally possess and consume cannabis, but dispensaries are not expected to open until at least 2022 under the new regulatory structure.
“Today we are reversing 90 years of prohibition," Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who sponsored the bill, said in remarks from the Assembly floor. "The last time New York State did anything like this is when we were removing the prohibition from alcohol: that was in 1933. Here we are in 2021 — almost 100 years of prohibition on marijuana — and we’re removing it.”

The legislation establishes the Office of Cannabis Management to oversee New York’s recreational, medical and agricultural cannabis markets. Forty percent of revenues from sales will be dedicated to reinvestment in communities disproportionately affected by the state’s drug laws, with 40 percent going to public education and 20 percent to drug treatment and prevention.

The legislation allows for home cultivation of three mature and three immature plants, ends penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis, and calls for automatic expungement of records for people with convictions for activities that are no longer illegal.

The adult-use program is projected to bring in $350 million annually in tax collections when fully implemented and could create an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 new jobs. Cities, towns and villages would have the ability to opt-out of having marijuana businesses in their communities.
New Mexico
New Mexico required a special session to get marijuana legalization legislation over the finish line after three years of trying, but both legislative chambers ultimately passed a bill last Wednesday. Debate over scrapping old marijuana-related convictions and caps on plant counts dominated discussions, and Republicans dug in their heels at the end of the regular legislative session — ultimately leading Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to call the special session to address weed.In the end, two bills passed: One to legalize and regulate the adult-use cannabis industry, and one to expunge records for prior marijuana-related convictions. The legalization bill puts a temporary cap on the number of plants a producer can grow each year, in hopes of avoiding some of the oversupply problems that have plagued other markets like Oregon. It bans local jurisdictions from opting out of legalization and allows home cultivation.

"This is a significant victory for New Mexico and my signing pen is ready," Lujan Grisham tweeted just after the bill passed.

Sales are set to begin no later than April 1, 2022. Existing medical dispensaries won't be allowed to begin sales to non-medical customers ahead of new licensees — which will slow down the timeline for adult-use sales to begin. But some advocates argue that it will create a more equitable rec market where everyone can start on equal footing.In the end, two bills passed: One to legalize and regulate the adult-use cannabis industry, and one to expunge records for prior marijuana-related convictions. The legalization bill puts a temporary cap on the number of plants a producer can grow each year, in hopes of avoiding some of the oversupply problems that have plagued other markets like Oregon. It bans local jurisdictions from opting out of legalization and allows home cultivation.

"This is a significant victory for New Mexico and my signing pen is ready," Lujan Grisham tweeted just after the bill passed.

Sales are set to begin no later than April 1, 2022. Existing medical dispensaries won't be allowed to begin sales to non-medical customers ahead of new licensees — which will slow down the timeline for adult-use sales to begin. But some advocates argue that it will create a more equitable rec market where everyone can start on equal footing.