2019 A High Watermark for Marijuana

By FOCUS, a Leonine Business

States are swimming in green – both from the plant itself and the revenue it generates – and more are looking to mellow their restrictions to cash in on the movement. The past 23 years have seen a landslide shift in the social and political acceptance of marijuana, and the winds are continuing to blow in favor of marijuana. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Today, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana. Another 11, plus the District of Columbia, have authorized recreational use of marijuana. And some marijuana legalization in now starting to look like a reality in places where 20 years ago it seemed an impossibility.

In Deep-South Mississippi, enthusiasts have turned in signatures to the secretary of state to get medical marijuana on the ballot in 2020. The state is currently in the process of reviewing the signatures to see if they meet the legal requirement, though a support group claims that over 214,000 signatures were collected in total, well over the 86,000-threshold needed to get an issue on the ballot. Polling on the issue has shown support in excess of 77 percent, according to proponents of the measure.

While we are over one year out from the 2020 election, there are already at least 26 potential ballot initiatives relating to marijuana across 13 states. While not all of these will make the final cut, the number will certainly increase as November 2020 draws nearer and the push for legalization continues to gain steam.

Polls have shown that two out of three adults in the U.S. favor marijuana legalization, a number that continues edging upwards. While this level of popular support has been hugely successful for marijuana at the ballot, it has not translated into political support in state legislatures.

Of the eleven states where recreational use is legal, only Illinois and Vermont have legalized marijuana through the legislative process. The remaining nine states have done so by ballot initiative. Moving forward state legislatures will need to be the main proponent in changes to marijuana policy at the state level, as only 23 states allow such ballot initiatives.

Still, supporters of legalized marijuana have a lot to be hopeful for going forward. 2019 saw a record number of states – 27 in total – consider full marijuana legalization bills, many for the first time. Several of these bills gained a significant amount of traction, though only Illinois was successful in pushing a bill through.

With marijuana legalization – both medical and recreational – at such a high watermark for 2019, 2020 is shaping up to be a banner year for supporters, with a large number of ballot initiatives already in the pipeline, and another likely record-breaking year in state legislation. It’s anyone’s guess which state will be the next domino to fall.