Pictured: Public protests for cannabis reform began in the mid-1960s. Today, festivals, demonstrations, and marches are still ways that grassroots activists make their voices heard.
2019 was a very big year for the cannabis reform movement and the emerging cannabis industry—and 2020 is looking even better.
The 2020 election cycle is sure to bring a number of initiatives and legislative referrals to state ballots. Most recently, the state of Illinois legalized adult-use cannabis at the start of the year. In the case of New Jersey, a legislative legalization referral is already scheduled to be on the ballot.
But, without federal backing, plenty of sweat and hard work lies ahead for activists in many states. Wondering what states will legalize cannabis in 2020? We’ve done our research, and compiled a list.
What States Will Legalize Cannabis In 2020?
To-date there are 11 states that have passed adult-use cannabis legalization measures either by voter or legislative action. Washington D.C. has also legalized cannabis for adult use.
2020 is virtually guaranteed to see one or more states join the list. Below are the most likely candidates by geographical region.
The Upper East Coast of the United States is likely to be the most active when it comes to efforts to legalize cannabis for adult use at the state-level. Here’s the scoop on the biggest contenders.
Ever since Massachusetts voters approved cannabis legalization in 2016, the pressure mounted for Connecticut to do the same. Already, consumers in the state are flocking to Massachusetts to make purchase cannabis and they have been since sales began.
So, unless Connecticut wants to keep seeing tax revenue, jobs, and boosts to local economies go across the border, lawmakers need to step up.
As previously mentioned, New Jersey’s legislature made promises about a legalization measure on the 2020 ballot. If everything goes according to plan, New Jersey voters will finally get their chance to approve legalization, after multiple legislative sessions have failed to yield a successful vote.
Here’s hoping for a win this time—a Monmouth University poll from 2019 found overwhelming support for legalization in New Jersey.
New York State
Governor Cuomo announced a plan for legalization on the New York ballot early this month—and the pressure is on. Like Connecticut, New York State shares a border with Massachusetts, leading to an influx of consumers to the Bay State. New York also shares a border with New Jersey, where legalization is on the ballot.
With so much activity in the region, Rhode Island is oft forgotten in regard to cannabis reform. The tiny state may not have as solid of a chance of legalization as other states in the area, however, it still has a solid chance of legalizing cannabis for adult-use in 2020; Gov. Gina Raimondo wants to attempt another pass at legalization in 2020.
Pennsylvania is home to an emerging medical cannabis industry, and lawmakers have had an eye on legalization for quite awhile. In September of 2019, Gov. Tom Wolfe expressed support for cannabis reform.
Should such reform happen, however, the legalization model in Pennsylvania would likely be more limited compared to other states; there is considerable reluctance from the current reluctance of the GOP-controlled legislature. But, the eventual policy change should be considerably better than prohibition.
Pictured: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo flirted with cannabis reform throughout his governorship, but recently made promise to legalize the plant in 2020. Credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com
The West Coast is where cannabis reform began in the United States, and so it’s likely not a coincidence that there are so many legal markets in the West now.
With that being said, there are still multiple states that have yet to legalize cannabis for adult use. Below are the states that the Green Flower team is keeping a close eye on in 2020.
Arizona was one of five states to vote on cannabis legalization during the 2016 Election. Unfortunately, it was the only state out of the five on the ballot to fail to pass a legalization measure. Anti-legalization groups in the state had substantial financial support; a pharmaceutical company, Insys Therapeutics Inc., contributed over $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, who opposed cannabis legalization.
Activists are working hard to put legalization back on the ballot in 2020 with an improved initiative.
New Mexico’s Legislature made cannabis legalization watchlists over multiple legislative cycles in recent years. In October of 2019, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released a plan to legalize in 2020. Unfortunately, a successful vote in both legislative chambers has remained elusive. With so many legal cannabis states in the West, New Mexico is overdue.
Hawaii is less likely to legalize cannabis for adult-use in 2020. However, the island state did just pass legislation that decriminalized the possession of fewer than three grams of cannabis. Plus, with so many legal adult-use states in the region, lawmakers in Hawaii will hopefully see it as a less-risky move compared to years past. Hawaii’s tourist population would greatly benefit from a legal adult-use market, as would local economies.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Midwest had no legal cannabis states.
In 2018 the state of Michigan rocked the boat. The Great Lake State approved a legalization measure. In 2019 Illinois followed suit, albeit via legislative action rather than a voter initiative.
Things are heating up in the Midwest, with the states below being potential candidates for legalization.
Montana has had a medical cannabis industry for several years now, and despite the State experiencing its ups and downs, by most measures, the industry is a success. Montana could potentially expand its industry to include adult-use sales in 2020; on January 13, activists submitted a ballot initiative that seeks to legalize the plant this year.
North Dakota voters defeated a legalization measure in 2018. Opponents to the bill were concerned more about the specific provisions of the measure versus legalization in general. In 2019, North Dakotans achieved a silent win on the cannabis front, decriminalizing the first-time possession of a half an ounce of cannabis. Activists are currently working hard to put an improved measure on the 2020 ballot.
Campaign organizers in Ohio were able to put a legalization measure on the ballot in 2015, however, that initiative was soundly defeated. Cannabis advocates have worked every year since to put a better initiative before voters, and 2020 could prove to be ripe for a successful push. Although, Ohio’s medical cannabis program has been slow to start.
Oklahoma is experiencing exponential growth by its medical cannabis industry, despite the fact that legal medical cannabis is a relatively new thing in the State. And there’s good news—after such a landmark achievement in the state, the sun still shines over Oklahoma. Now, activists and voters are turning their attention to a possible 2020 legalization victory.
Pictured: The Florida State Capitol. Cannabis reform in Florida has a difficult history. Currently, activists are fighting a tight deadline for petition signatures—they need over 500,000 more before February 01, 2020.
The South is historically the roughest place when it comes to cannabis policy.
Medical cannabis has made inroads in the region, which combined with evolving voter opinions regarding cannabis, puts the South in play when it comes to cannabis legalization efforts.
The Southern region of the United States is the last frontier for cannabis legalization, and 2020 could very well see at least one state in the South legalize cannabis for adult use. Below are the states with the best chance.
Cannabis advocates in Arkansas are making a solid push for adult-use legalization in 2020. Efforts are well-organized and well-funded. Arkansas is far from a lock when it comes to 2020, however, the State has a decent chance.
Florida is perhaps the most cannabis-friendly state in the South. Yet, even so, its relationship with the plant is rife with tension. Just recently, the state House, Senate, and Attorney General Ashley Moody urged the Supreme Court to reject a constitutional amendment that would allow adult-use cannabis.
Still, Florida is the most likely Southern state to legalize cannabis—eventually. A political group called Make It Legal Florida is currently collecting signatures to support the constitutional amendment, which the group introduced to the court. But, they’re still far behind in their numbers. The petition currently has just over 250,000 valid signatures, yet needs 766,200 before February 01, 2020, to make it on the ballot.
Make It Legal Florida is currently suing the court for an extended deadline.