It’s no news the widespread attention cannabis attracts lately. The increasing cannabis-based awareness has inspired a remarkable spike in the plant’s acceptance, use, and in turn, sales globally. Yet, some political, social, medical, commercial factors – among others – have kept the cannabis licensing in check.

cannabis processingCannabis isn’t only illegal at the federal level; many states still criminalize possession, production, or use of the product. Legislators, despite interest in removal of prohibitory regulations on cannabis, insist that cannabis remains a Schedule I substance class.

With that said, in 2020, legalization continues to move forward. So far, 33 states, including D.C., have decriminalized medical marijuana, out of which 11 have legalized adult-use for recreation. Over 25,000 businesses are licensed to cultivate, grow, manufacture, process, distribute, dispense and sell cannabis and cannabis-derived products.

In 2018, Utah, Oklahoma, Vermont, Missouri, and Michigan increased user’ s access to cannabis-related products. More states are, in various ways, backing votes for cannabis – for medical and/or recreational purposes.

As we advance towards the much-awaited November 2020 polls, indicators suggest the following states will most likely effect laws to legalize marijuana use.

Wondering if your state would be on the cannabis-friendly list this year? Let’s find out:

1. Arkansas

Arkansas, has, at least, three constitutional amendment proposals currently at the signature-gathering level. These initiated amendments look to handle recreational marijuana or/and reported widespread social injustices, which has put many behind bars.

Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Initiative and the Arkansas Marijuana Legalization initiative seeks to decriminalize adult recreational use of cannabis.

These initiatives, however, comes with perceived widespread skepticism. Despite the ever-increasing support for adult use of marijuana, it took Arkansas over 24 months, following a 2016 approval of medical marijuana measures, before the actual commencement of medical cannabis sales.

Again, the remarkable influence of republicans – widely regarded as anti-marijuana — may be another barrier, for now.

2. New Jersey

In early 2019, hopes were high on the Garden State’s chances of legalizing and licensing marijuana for recreational use. But, it turned out differently.

While Democrat Governor Phil Murphy and his lawmakers had a mutual stand on the adult-use legalization, differing opinions on applicable taxes soon frustrated the legislative effort. Also, some legislators insisted on criminal record expungement for persons with previous cannabis-related convictions. This proposal was strongly resisted by certain lawmakers who are considered ‘more moderate.’ With that said, the marijuana Legalization Amendment may get into the ballot by a 60 percent votes from the two chambers of New Jersey’s legislators at a combined session or by majority votes in the two houses at two successive sessions.

New Jersey, like Arizona, are hungry to go ‘green’ in 2020 with state cannabis licensing to follow.

3. Missouri

Missouri is yet another state that seems close to medical marijuana legalization. The Missouri Marijuana Legalization and Expungement Initiative has gathered enough signatures for the production, use, and commercialization of cannabis. The bill also seeks to disregard past convictions for non-violent marijuana offenses, as in Illinois. And, if passed, the bill prohibits taxes on certified expert-recommended medical cannabis.

That said, a significant concern is that it’s barely a few months since medical marijuana found its way into licensed dispensaries, after it won a vote a year ago.

Considering its infancy, the kind of support its recreation use will attract in the Show-Me State is uncertain.

4. South Dakota

In South Dakota, the Marijuana and Hemp Initiative is currently at the signature-gathering stage. The bill seeks to decriminalize the use, transport, sale and possession of cannabis, for adults.

While licenses will be issued for testing, cultivation, retail, and distribution of cannabis, it would attract a 15% tax rate. The revenue from the tax will be used to governing the cannabis industry, and excess to General Fund and state schools. Since South Dakota is yet to legalize medical marijuana, it may be an extra task for the legislature, who would also need to institute medical marijuana laws and, as well, establish legislation on growing, processing and sales.

Since the state lacks marijuana-based infrastructure, it might be challenging moving from being entirely illegal to becoming widely acceptable – even for recreational purposes.

5. Florida

The Sunshine State, as with Arkansas, has a couple of cannabis-based constitutional amendment initiatives gathering signatures. They seek to either decriminalize recreational marijuana or review its existing medical cannabis program.

The Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative, for example, seeks to allow possession of no more than one ounce by adults, age 21 and older. The bill would also restrict each home to at most six plants, and not exceeding three flowerings per time. Also, planting must cannot be in an open field and must not for selling or resell.

For its medical marijuana program, Florida deserves accolades. we will continue to watch as they near recreational use legalization.

6. Arizona

Among the numbers, Arizona seems the most promising to enact a law for legalization of recreational marijuana in 2020.

In 2016, the state attempted a recreational marijuana initiative, a measure which was narrowly turned down by voters. As with Oregon and California, Arizona’s second attempt may be fruitful.

Arizona’s legalization initiative seeks to decriminalize the purchase and consumption of cannabis for persons 18 years and older. Taxes derived will be channeled to schools and healthcare schemes. The bill, if passed, will strike out previous marijuana-related convictions.

7. New Mexico

After passing the New Mexico House, the state’s marijuana legalization bill was stalled at the Senate. Most likely, state legislators will push for cannabis legalization, again, this year.

A roadmap to the legalization and sales regulation was published in October 2019 by a team inaugurated by the Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham – a faithful marijuana legalization supporter. With a cannabis-friendly governor and robust backing from state’s house, fate now lies in the Senate.

8. Connecticut

Ned Lamont, Connecticut governor, has always expressed his desire for marijuana legalization. In early 2019, legislation committees pushed bills to make legal, regulate, and tax marijuana activities. The law however, suffered set back as the legislators adjourned without a vote in June.

Lamont’s stand on marijuana laws reflects his New York counterpart’s, Governor Cuomo. They both also push for appropriate measures to check the excesses of the fight on drugs, of which minority communities are harmed more significantly. Marijuana legalization gets support from about 65% of Connecticut residents.

9. Mississippi

Mississippi, like South Dakota, are still steps behind in the fight for marijuana legalization. However, since cannabis is prohibited in the state, supporters may begin with medical cannabis as they make progress towards full legalization.

Marijuana-based activists have gathered and submitted relevant signatures to the state. Pending secretary of state’s confirmation, medical marijuana initiative may make the ballot this year.

10. Idaho

As Idaho brainstorms a diversification from potatoes, they may look cannabis’ way. But like South Dakota and Mississippi, they are still a ways away.

As they begin with the medical marijuana initiative, hopefully, activists may get over 57,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Of course, farmers would have to support the initiative and promote diversification.

11. Nebraska

Nebraska has had many failed marijuana legalization attempts. For not so apparent reasons, the state’s legislative chamber has resisted efforts to change legislation to entertain medical marijuana.

Activists seek to approach voters directly with a ballot initiative in 2020.

12. Maine

In 2016, voters approved the cultivation and sales of cannabis. But this development has been followed by chaos. While majority voters push for legal marijuana, there’s been conflicts between legislators and the drug-intolerant governor, Paul LePage. Only time will tell the outcome for cannabis licensing in Maine.

At Look at Federal Reform

The conflicting views between cannabis-friendly states and criminalization at the federal level causes significant concern for the marijuana community.

While cannabis companies are heavily taxed, too often, they do not have access to the U.S. capital market and conventional bank loans. This concern leads to different bipartisan cannabis reforms proposed by lawmakers. Amongst them, the Secure And Fair Enforcement Banking ACT 2019, got 91 votes from Republicans. It looks to protect banking institutions from penalties for transactions with cannabis companies. As these measures suffered set backs in congressional committees and Senate, lawmakers sought to include them in spending legislation. But the Senate quickly removed the riders. Democrats on Capital Hill seem to approach cannabis reforms with the backing of GOP newcomers. Nonetheless, it’s hard to say if the Republican-dominated Senate will change any time soon.

The Wrap

Cannabis legalization and state licensing are inherently embroiled in a political process. Nonetheless, legalization continues to move forward in 2020.

33 states, including D.C., have decriminalized medical marijuana, out of which 11 have legalized adult-use for recreation. Over 25,000 businesses are licensed to cultivate, grow, manufacture, process, distribute, dispense and sell cannabis and cannabis-derived products.  More states are close to further legalization, as cannabis continues to attract widespread attention.

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