The 2018 midterms saw three more states join the marijuana revolution. Michigan legalized recreational cannabis, while Missouri and Utah voted to legalize medical marijuana.
The U.S. now has 10 states with recreational weed and 33 with medical cannabis. And 2019 is set to be an even bigger year in the movement to end cannabis prohibition.
Here are the states most likely to legalize recreational marijuana in 2019 (and the path they’ll need to walk to get there).
Most Likely to States to Legalize Recreational Weed in 2019
Connecticut governor-elect Ned Lamont pledged to decriminalize cannabis in his first 100 days in office. The Progressive Caucus in the state’s House of Representatives has declared that legalizing and taxing recreational cannabis is part of their legislative agenda for the upcoming session starting Jan 9.
According to State Representative and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus James Albis,
“We are talking about creating a brand new industry, taking something off the black market, creating jobs. Frankly I can’t think of a bill that would create more jobs in a short amount of time as a bill to regulate marijuana. So I think it’s one of the most important job bills we can do.”
Even the Republican House deputy minority leader thinks the vote will pass, noting that many of those who opposed marijuana reform have left the legislature.
Now that Michigan has legalized recreational cannabis, the first domino has fallen in the Midwest. Illinois is poised to be the second state in the Midwest that chooses legalization.
The Illinois governor-elect J.B. Pritzker prioritized cannabis reform during his campaign. After the 2018 midterm election, Pritzker said he wanted to legalize as soon as the new state legislature convened in 2019.
With Democrats increasing their majority in both the House (67 to 51) and Senate (37 to 21), marijuana reform is expected to pass in Illinois, potentially as early as May. But there are a few hurdles that could delay the measure.
Even with 10 states to learn from, it won’t be easy for the Illinois legislature to agree on the policies for how to regulate and tax cannabis. What should the tax rate be? Where will the up to $1 billion in tax revenue go? Additionally, a medical marijuana pilot program ends in 2020, and opponents of legalization could push for a delay so the state can assess the full results of the program.
New York is well on its way to legalizing recreational pot. Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a task force with the goal of drafting legislation to legalize cannabis. The Health Department was directed to study the effects of legalization, and their report concluded the positive effects outweighed the potential negative impacts.
Cuomo said that ending prohibition is one of his top priorities for 2019, and with Democrats taking control of the Senate, one of the last remaining hurdles has been removed.
Gov. Phil Murphy has pushed for an end to marijuana prohibition throughout his campaign and first months in office. And the Garden State already has momentum on its side. Legislation to legalize cannabis was approved by Senate and Assembly committees late in 2018, so the state can focus on the details that will allow marijuana reform to pass.
Vermont has already legalized possession of marijuana in small amounts. But there’s no without legalized commercial production or sales. And that means the state is missing out on thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Governor Phil Scott has expressed reluctance to fully legalize recreational production and sales until the state has a better way to assess impaired driving. But pressure from state legislators could be enough to get a bill passed that legalizes commercial cannabis sales.
Less Likely to Legalize… But Still Possible
Incoming Governor Tim Walz (D) is committed to cannabis reform, and he has the political acumen to make it a reality. As a member of the U.S. House, Walz authored the first-ever standalone cannabis bill to pass a congressional committee. And Walz isn’t alone. The midterms saw the Democrats claim the House majority, which could bolster any push Walz makes for legalization.
Gov. Chris Sununu has expressed vehement opposition to legalizing cannabis, presenting a major hurdle to legalization in New Hampshire. But with Democrats taking a majority in both the House and Senate, the state legislature could have enough votes to override a veto from the governor.
Recreational cannabis may not be New Mexico’s highest priority, but it may be on its way in 2019. Newly elected Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham supported cannabis reform in Congress and has commented that legalization could bring “hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy.” And the state’s House speaker noted a bill would probably pass if it made it to the floor.
There’s been a recent shift in rhetoric in Rhode Island. Several prominent politicians have commented on the risks of not legalizing, and neighboring states may be effectively peer pressuring Rhode Island into considering legalization.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said, “I’m not sure at this point it is practical to say we’re not going to legalize and regulate.”
Let the Great Experiment… Continue!!!
The march toward nationwide legalization could turn into a sprint if these states all legalize recreational cannabis in 2019. And we didn’t even look at the states that may legalize medical marijuana!
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