States That May Legalize Cannabis Next

In The News 9 mins

It can seem like the legal status of cannabis is constantly changing—and that’s not too far from the truth. Every state has unique laws regarding recreational and medical cannabis. The stigma that used to come with hemp and marijuana has faded significantly in recent years.

However, not all state laws have caught up with this altered perception. Let’s take a look at where laws currently stand with cannabis and what the next states to legalize weed will be.

The History of Cannabis Legalization

Since cannabis prohibition began in the early 20th century, legalizing weed has been a very slow process. For many states, the first step toward legalization has been decriminalization. Oregon led the way by being the first to state to decriminalize cannabis all the way back in 1973.

Decriminalization replaced the penalty of jail time for low-level possession with a simple fine. However, just because a state has decriminalized cannabis does not mean that it has legalized weed for recreational or even medicinal use. 

The process of actually legalizing weed in states has been even slower than decriminalization. In fact, it wasn’t until 2012 that Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational cannabis.

Overview of States’ Current Cannabis Laws

Before we discuss which states might legalize cannabis or weed next, you need to understand the current laws surrounding cannabis in each state. Here is a brief overview of the status of cannabis in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

  • Alabama—fully illegal
  • Alaska—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • Arizona—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use
  • Arkansas— legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use
  • California—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • Colorado—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • Connecticut—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • Delaware—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • District of Columbia—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • Florida—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use
  • Georgia—only legal for medicinal use in the form of CBD oil if it contains 5% or less THC
  • Hawaii—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • Idaho—only legal for medicinal use in the form of CBD oil if it contains 0% THC
  • Illinois—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • Indiana—only legal for medicinal use in the form of CBD oil
  • Iowa—only legal for medicinal use in the form of CBD oil
  • Kansas—fully illegal 
  • Kentucky—only legal for medicinal use in the form of CBD oil
  • Louisiana—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use
  • Maine—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • Maryland—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • Massachusetts—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • Michigan—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • Minnesota—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • Mississippi—fully illegal; decriminalized
  • Missouri—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • Montana—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use
  • Nebraska—fully illegal; decriminalized
  • Nevada—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • New Hampshire—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • New Jersey—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use
  • New Mexico—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • New York—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • North Carolina—fully illegal; decriminalized 
  • North Dakota—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • Ohio—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • Oklahoma—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use
  • Oregon—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized 
  • Pennsylvania—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use
  • Rhode Island—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use; decriminalized
  • South Carolina—fully illegal
  • South Dakota—fully illegal 
  • Tennessee—fully illegal 
  • Texas—only legal for medicinal use in the form of CBD oil
  • Utah—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use
  • Vermont—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • Virginia—only legal for medicinal use in the form of CBD oil; decriminalized
  • Washington—fully legal for medicinal and recreational use; decriminalized
  • West Virginia—legal for medicinal purposes, not recreational use
  • Wisconsin—fully illegal
  • Wyoming—fully illegal

Over half of the 50 states allow cannabis in one way or another. Residents in 46 states are free to use some forms of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Reasons Why More States May Legalize Soon

At a time when the economy is suffering from coronavirus, many states are seeing cannabis as a way to potentially generate revenue. This could result in more states seeking to legalize weed.

It might be interesting to note that when most businesses were shutting down in the middle of March, cannabis businesses were deemed “essential” in states where it is legal.

There will probably be an even bigger push for the legalization of marijuana in 2021. One major reason for this is the increased focus on racial injustice.

Lawmakers and citizens alike have honed in on racial inequality related to drug charges specifically. More legalization would mean decreased police-civilian interactions.

Factors Affecting Laws About Cannabis and Hemp

There are many factors that go into whether or not laws about cannabis change. The presidential election in November could impact some laws. For example, presidential candidate Joe Biden has supported the decriminalization of marijuana and believes that it should be legal for medicinal purposes at the federal level.

So, if elected, laws might loosen at the federal level. However, his past involvement in the War on Drugs does draw into question whether or not he would actually take action on the issue.

Trump, on the other hand, has supported stricter cannabis measures, even going as far as proposing an end to state medical marijuana protections. However, back in 2018, Trump signed the Farm Bill into law, which made hemp legal at the federal level.

Some states try to pass legislation directly relating to medical marijuana and/or recreational marijuana. Many states pass the issue along to voters through a ballot initiative. This process begins with advocates petitioning to gain support for the ballot initiative.

If they gather the proper number of signatures, the issue makes it onto the ballot in November.

At that time, the states that will legalize weed by 2020’s end will be obvious. For the ballot initiatives fail, we’ll have to wait to see the next states to legalize weed down the road.

States That May Legalize by 2021

Arizona

Arizona is one of the top states to watch. Over half of the state’s resident support legalizing weed with only a third of registered voters saying they oppose it, according to a poll from November 2019.

Back in the 2016 election, voters failed a ballot proposition on legalizing weed by a meager 3% margin. Since Arizona came so close to legalizing cannabis before, it seems likely they’ll be able to make it happen by the end of 2020.

South Dakota

Despite its current strict laws regarding cannabis, South Dakota is taking steps to change that this November. There are two proposals in question that qualified for the upcoming election. If it passes, the first proposal will legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over.

The second proposal will allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes for those who qualify. In a historic move, this makes the state of South Dakota the first to ever vote on both medical and recreational marijuana at once.

Mississippi

Mississippi is taking small steps toward legalization compared to South Dakota, beginning with a push for medical marijuana this November. If Mississippians are wanting to legalize recreational weed, they will have to wait until 2022 when the Mississippi Marijuana Legalization Amendment finally appears on the ballot.

Nebraska

Nebraska finds itself in a similar situation. The state is one of the harshest when it comes to cannabis use, not even allowing CBD use. Governor Pete Ricketts has been famously outspoken about shooting down efforts at legalizing weed.

However, the state is at least taking steps toward legalizing medical marijuana. Medical marijuana activists were able to gather the necessary signatures, and now they just need to authenticate them to get the issue on this year’s ballot.

New Jersey

New Jersey is another state to watch. Governor Phil Murphy actually used legalization as a major issue in his campaign. Despite this, legalization efforts were unable to pass the senate by 2020.

Because of a different resolution that was introduced in November, adult-use legalization will now be in the hands of voters during the November election. If the measure passes, New Jersey residents will see weed legalized at the beginning of 2021.

Montana

In spite of enduring setbacks with COVID-19, Montana was able to gather the 130,000 signatures they needed by their June deadline to get legalization on the November ballot. Montana was a fairly early adopter of legalizing medical cannabis back in 2004.

States That May Legalize by 2022 or Later

New York

New York is one of the states that we would have guessed would have legalized pot by now. In fact, Governor Cuomo told New Yorkers back in March that legalization was still a priority despite the outbreak of coronavirus.

In spite of his best intentions, Cuomo eventually admitted legislation on legalizing weed would have to wait until next year.

New Mexico

New Mexico is yet another state you should be watching for the legalization of weed. In February, the senate judiciary committee voted against a bill that could have legalized weed this year. However, politicians in favor of this legislation plan on introducing a new bill in 2021

Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s legalizing efforts had to stall when officials declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19. Oklahoma’s Secretary of State office said that the issue won’t be able to make it to the November 2020 ballot. However, since so many petitions are facing the same situation, it could end up happening in 2021.

Arkansas

Going into this year, there was hope that Arkansas would be one of the states that may legalize by 2021 through a ballot initiative. However, Arkansas for Cannabis Reform was yet another victim of COVID-19. They only ended up with half of the signatures they needed to gather by the deadline. There is still some hope that they might legalize in 2021. 

Ohio

Earlier in the year, Ohio advocates attempted to get legalization on the November ballot. Ultimately, they failed to gather the support they needed. So, Ohio will be another state to watch for Legalization in 2021 or potentially 2022.

Florida

Last year, we might have said that Florida was one of the most likely states that will legalize weed by 2020’s end. However, back in January of this year, the Make it Legal Florida campaign was suspended.

Now Floridians will likely have to wait two years to get their shot at legalization and become one of the states that may legalize by 2022’s end.

The initiative gathered more than 700,000 signatures in support of legalizing weed, but they needed at least 766,200 to get the initiative on the ballot.

Missouri

Missouri’s legalizing efforts were hit hard by COVID-19. In the middle of April, the Missourians for a New Approach called off their campaign for legalizing weed. They were struggling to gather the necessary 170,000 signatures.

Despite attempting to get state officials on board with online signature gathering, they were ultimately rejected. For now, the idea of legalizing weed in Missouri is on the backburner. Activists are now looking to the November 2022 election as their next shot at legalizing weed.

North Dakota

In North Dakota, trying to get legalization on the November 2020 ballot started early, back in 2019. Even so, they ran out of time and gathered less than half the necessary signatures.

Legalize ND has decided to pause its efforts for the time being given the unpredictable pandemic. The current plan is to try to get it on the ballot for the June 2022 primary.

Get Expert Consulting for Your Cannabis Business

No matter which of these predictions come true—if any—Gateway Proven Strategies will be on top of it. We always have the most up-to-date information about cannabis so we can help businesses remain compliant and run the best hemp operation possible.

No matter where you’re located and how your business might expand, we make compliance easy.

For expert cannabusiness consulting, contact GPS! Our extensive industry experience will be a tremendous asset to your business.