In 2021, 9 separate states in the United States legalized cannabis, either for medical or recreational use. What does 2022 hold in store? Turns out, with many things already in motion, there’s quite a lot to watch out for. Here we take a high level overview on a state-by-state basis to find out what’s already happening, what’s in the near-term future, and where it looks to be all headed.
Reform of US cannabis laws is gaining momentum. At the federal level, a trio of senators unveiled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) this summer to declassify, tax and regulate cannabis, and the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act was passed for the fifth time by the US House of Representatives in September as part of a defense spending package.
Evidently, a lot of change is taking place in the U.S. with respect to cannabis legislation, both at the level of its numerous states, and at the higher federal levels. We will be covering it all as it happens via our free Hemp.IM cannabis news app.
Cannabis legalization by state
At the state level, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota legalized adult use in the 2020 election (although the South Dakota legislature is currently grappling with its own legalization proposal while the state’s Supreme Court deliberates whether the ballot measure is unconstitutional). As of 2021, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia have all legalized adult-use cannabis by law.
This leaves only 14 US states without full legalization of medical or adult-use cannabis. With all traditionally Democratic states out of the way, Republican states are now weighing their options, perhaps seeing the inevitability of change.
Arkansas – Recreational
Arkansas True Grass, a group advocating for cannabis legalization in Arkansas, is working to collect signatures to place an adult-use cannabis legalization measure on the state’s ballot in 2022.
The group’s proposed constitutional amendment would charge the state Department of Agriculture with overseeing the recreational market, allow residents to purchase up to four ounces (112 grams) of cannabis for personal use, grow up to 12 cannabis plants at home and expunge previous cannabis-related convictions.
The group has until 22 July to gather enough signatures to qualify their initiative for the 2022 ballot.
North Carolina – Medical
Although the North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.B. 711 twice in 2021, the medical cannabis legalization bill has not made much progress.
“There are a lot more moving parts to this than I thought when we started,” Senator Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth), a sponsor of the bill, said in September. “We want to make sure we get it right. Because of some unresolved concerns about the bill’s specific regulatory language, lawmakers speculated that it could remain on the table until the next legislative session early next year.
North Carolina has had a rocky road so far, with many false starts and a very pro-medical cannabis electorate. 80% of voters were already calling for it in 2017.
South Dakota – Recreational
It’s been six months since the South Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of a voter-approved adult-use cannabis amendment in the November 2020 election. As of October 27, the state’s high court has yet to issue a final ruling on the fate of Amendment A, which passed with a 54.2 percent majority.
Without the Supreme Court’s decision, Amendment A is currently considered unconstitutional. While the voter-approved initiative is on hold, South Dakota lawmakers are pushing a compromise effort for adult-use legalization through the state legislature.
The Adult-Use Marijuana Study Subcommittee, a cross-party group of lawmakers, has recommended a bill that would allow adults 21 and older to purchase up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of cannabis, decriminalize up to 4 ounces and ban public consumption. It would, however, ban commercial outdoor cultivation as well as home growing operations.
On the civil society side, the cannabis advocacy group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws is currently collecting signatures for an initiative to put adult-use legalization back on the ballot for 2022. Unlike Amendment A, the proposed 2022 initiative does not include licensing, sales, or regulation.
If the Supreme Court upholds Amendment A, the group will abandon its campaign for the 2022 initiative.
Delaware – Recreational
On March 24, 2021, the Health and Human Development Committee approved House Bill 150, the Delaware Cannabis Control Act, legislation to legalize, tax and regulate adult-use cannabis in the state.
The legislation would establish the regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis in Delaware, allow adults 21 and older to purchase up to one ounce (28 grams) of cannabis for personal use, provide the opportunity for small businesses to receive licenses, and provide equal access to individuals living in areas disproportionately affected by prohibition.
The legislation was scheduled for a vote in the House in early June but was delayed after a debate over a social equity fund included in the bill. Prime sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski said he plans to reintroduce a substitute bill in early January, in time for the 2022 legislative session.
Florida – Recreational
Sensible Florida has filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize cannabis for adult use in the Sunshine State after the Florida Supreme Court struck down an earlier version of the amendment.
The group’s original initiative, titled “Regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol to establish age, licensing and other restrictions,” was headed for the 2022 ballot before the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the words “for limited use” were misleading.
The new proposal would legalize cannabis use for adults 21 and older and allow adults to grow up to 18 plants at home for personal use.
Sensible Florida must collect more than 891,000 valid signatures by February 1, 2022, and receive Supreme Court approval to qualify the initiative for the 2022 ballot.
Hawaii – Recreational
The Hawaii State Senate passed a cannabis legalization bill, SB 767, by a 20-5 vote in 2021, and the measure will be taken up by the House of Representatives after being stalled last year.
Idaho – Medical
Idaho cannabis advocates are working to place medical and decriminalization measures on the state’s 2022 ballot.
The Idaho Way is currently collecting the nearly 65,000 signatures needed to place the Personal Adult Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2022 (PAMDA) on the Idaho ballot in 2022. The initiative aims to end arrests for personal possession of 3 ounces or less of cannabis in private by adults 21 and older.
Meanwhile, Kind Idaho is collecting signatures to put the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act for 2022 (IMMA) before voters in 2022. IMMA would legalize possession of up to 4 ounces of cannabis (112 grams) for medical purposes, as well as home cultivation of up to six plants for patients with a “hardship exemption”. The initiative would also create a system of dispensaries to sell medical cannabis to qualified patients.
Maryland – Recreational
The Maryland House of Delegates is expected to introduce a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use in the state in early 2022, allowing it to be added to the November general election ballot. A proposal was previously made in 2017 for the 2018 elections but failed to gather support.
Mississippi – Medical
Mississippi has crossed the finish line to fully legalize medical cannabis, but the state Supreme Court in May struck down a voter-approved ballot initiative in 2020.
Going against the two-thirds of Mississippians who voted in favor of legalization, six of the nine justices ruled the measure unconstitutional due to a technicality related to the signature gathering.
The 2020 citizens’ initiative prevailed over Alternative 65A, a competing measure proposed by the Mississippi legislature, which industry advocates called a cynical effort by lawmakers to deceive voters. But legalization is now in the hands of those same lawmakers.
Republican Senator Kevin Blackwell, chairman of the Senate Medicaid Committee, announced in late July that he was working on legislation to restore the will of their constituents.
Missouri – Recreational
Voters could face competing adult-use legalization measures next year, with Fair Access Missouri and Legal Missouri 2022 working on similar initiatives.
The situation could very well end up echoing the state’s legalization of medical cannabis in 2018, which saw three competing measures presented to voters. In the end, only one of them passed, avoiding the legal headache of a conflict at the ballot box.
Nebraska – Medical
The group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is trying again to put medical cannabis legalization before voters after the Nebraska Supreme Court struck down the group’s 2020 ballot measure on the grounds that it violated the single-subject rule in the state constitution.
Medical cannabis advocates filed two new initiatives with the secretary of state in September and must collect 250,000 signatures by July 7, 2022, to qualify the measures for the 2022 ballot.
The first initiative would ask the Nebraska Legislature to enact laws to protect doctors who recommend cannabis to their patients, as well as patients who possess and use medical cannabis, from criminal penalties. The second measure would ask lawmakers to pass legislation to establish a regulatory framework that protects companies that produce and sell medical cannabis.
Ohio – Recreational
A group of Ohio cannabis advocates has revived its efforts to “regulate marijuana like alcohol” after the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the campaign to place an adult-use legalization measure on the Ohio ballot in 2020.
The Coalition’s proposed legislation to regulate cannabis like alcohol would legalize and regulate the cultivation, processing, testing, and sale of adult-use cannabis to adults 21 and older, and allow adults to grow up to six plants at home for personal use. The proposal would levy a 10% tax on adult-use cannabis sales, in addition to regular state and local taxes, to support social equity, host communities, education, and addiction treatment, and a cannabis control division to oversee the industry.
The proposed legislation would allow existing medical cannabis operators in Ohio to expand their cultivation area and open additional dispensaries to serve the adult-use market. It would also authorize new adult-use cannabis licenses with a preference for social equity applicants.
Oklahoma – Recreational
In early October, Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action filed initiatives to legalize adult-use cannabis in the November 2022 election.
As it stands, Oklahoma is in a unique position with its medical cannabis market: The state legalized medical cannabis in 2018 and has adopted a free-market approach to licensing with over 200,000 patients receiving a prescription for cannabis in the first year.
Pennsylvania – Recreational
A trio of initiatives to legalize cannabis for adult use in 2022 in Pennsylvania has joined the efforts of neighboring states, neighboring New Jersey and New York, which have already legalized cannabis.
In the Pennsylvania House, Democratic Reps. Jake Wheatley and Dan Frankel formally introduced their adult-use measure, the Cannabis Regulatory Control Act, which seeks to legalize the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis (28 grams) or 5 grams of concentrate for personal use by adults 21 years of age and older.
The bill, House Bill 2050, places social and criminal justice at the forefront of reform and would facilitate access to capital, remove barriers to entry, and create pathways for small businesses to participate in the industry.
H.B. 2050 is competing with two GOP-backed initiatives in the Senate.
Rhode Island – Recreational
On June 22, 2021, the Rhode Island State Senate passed an adult-use bill, 29-9, which seeks to allow people 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of cannabis or 5 grams of concentrate and grow up to six plants for personal use. It also speeds up the disbarment process for people with a criminal record for cannabis offenses.
Since then, the state’s lower house has focused on passing a budget and has postponed cannabis legalization until a special session that could be held in 2022.
Wyoming – Medical
With pressure from states like Montana and South Dakota, new entrants to the adult-use landscape, Wyoming advocates are pushing for medical cannabis legalization in 2022. The signature-gathering process is underway.
(Featured image by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash)
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