With the results of last month’s midterm elections rolling in, Marijuana basically won – grabbing ten states who have legalized cannabis for adults, while 33 states allow medical use. These victories capped a year in which the fight to reform prohibitionist cannabis policies advanced significantly at state, federal and international levels.
The number of states that allow the use of marijuana is expected to jump in a significant way again in 2019, mostly due to a slew of pro-legalization candidates for governor, which also won at the ballot box on Election Day. By winning, it gives cannabis reform bills a huge jump toward being signed into law more quickly.
“2019 could be a banner year for legalization via state legislatures,” Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an email. “Several states across multiple regions of the country are strongly considering ending prohibition and regulating marijuana for adult use. A growing number of state lawmakers and governors are either getting behind these efforts or coming to the realization that they cannot hold them up much longer. The steady growth of public support we’ve been seeing around the country will likely translate into some major state-level victories for marijuana policy reform.”
In alphabetical order, here are the states most likely to legalize marijuana next year:
Gov.-elect Ned Lamont (D) stated that marijuana legalization is “an idea whose time has come,” during his campaign. He continued on this topic after his win on Election Day, pledging that the move will be one of his ‘priorities’ in 2019. The House Republican deputy minority leader (who opposes legalization) even stated that he “would think it would pass” when it is brought to a vote on the floor. “Many of those opposed to legalization have left the Legislature.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) supports legalizing marijuana, and made it a centerpiece of his campaign, beginning in the primary race against fellow Democrats. He even held a press conference outside of a medical cannabis dispensary. Soon after Election Day, Pritzker confirmed he wants to pursue legalization “nearly right away” once the new legislature convenes.
The state House speaker, who continued to be noncommittal on ending cannabis prohibition until now, says he’s on board with the incoming governor’s plans for marijuana.
The Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois conducted a study, in which they discovered last month that legalizing cannabis would create 24,000 jobs, generating more than $500 million in tax revenue, while also infusing nearly $1 billion into the state economy overall by 2020.
Incoming Gov. Tim Walz (D) will be taking over for an outgoing Democratic governor, opposed to legalization. Walz pledged to “replace the current failed policy with one that creates tax revenue, grows jobs, builds opportunities for Minnesotans, protects Minnesota kids, and trusts adults to make personal decisions based on their personal freedoms.”
He also supported marijuana issues as a member of the US House, demonstrating his knowledge on how to advance reform by authoring the first-ever standalone cannabis bill to pass a congressional committee.
Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy (D), elected in 2017, campaigned on supporting marijuana legalization. Since being inaugurated earlier this year, he continues to push for an end to cannabis prohibition. Though the governor and lawmakers still have details to catch up on, including tax rates and regulatory structures, progress is already underway on getting a bill to Murphy. Last month, Senate and Assembly committees approved marijuana legalization legislation, showing momentum does exist to pick up this issue in the new year.
The state’s next governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said legalization will bring “hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy.” She also supported cannabis reform measures as a member of Congress. The state’s House speaker also commented, saying if the legalization bill were to make it to the floor, “it would probably pass.”
A Republican senator, personally opposed to legalization, publicly admitted that it is quite likely on the way. “I don’t want recreational marijuana, but I understand the political reality that it is here.”
Just a year ago many observers believed the Empire State would be one of the next states to legalize marijuana, though in that time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) went from calling cannabis a “gateway drug” to saying it’s time to “legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all.”
He also created a task force that is responsible for creating a draft legal cannabis legislation for lawmakers to consider in 2019. In addition, he directed the Health Department to study legalization, concluding that the “positive effects” of ending cannabis prohibition “outweigh the potential negative impacts.”
While Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) remained cautious regarding marijuana legalization over the years, her rhetoric shifted recently – even going as far as suggesting the state might be effectively peer pressured into ending cannabis prohibition by neighboring states. “I’m not sure at this point it is practical to say we’re not going to legalize and regulate,” she said.
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D), who has been reluctant about legalization, is also pointing to other states as the reason to a more serious consideration of legalizing.
“I am mindful that Massachusetts has legalized it, I believe Connecticut is going to legalize it,” he said. “I think we’re probably going to end up with more social costs without the revenues and that would probably be the worst situation of all.”
Vermont lawmakers already legalized the possession and home cultivation of small amounts of marijuana in 2018, though the law does not allow any form of commercial production and sales. Without this, it leaves the state without any recreational cannabis tax revenue or mechanism to regulate its trade, as Forbes reports.
Gov. Phil Scott (R) signed the less ambitious legislation into action reluctantly, expressing concerns about going further until the state can utilize a better system to detect impaired driving. Advocates believe the Democratic-led legislature is likely to send a bill adding legal cannabis commerce to his desk anyhow.
The state Senate already approved legal marijuana sales legislation in past sessions, while the House appears to be more open to doing so now that possession is legal. It is still unclear whether Scott would veto a broad legalization bill or if lawmakers would be able to gather enough support to override him if this were to occur.