Sweeping legalization has taken place at the state level over the last several years, it’s been hard to keep up with the excitement. New Jersey, Montana, and Arizona legalized cannabis for adult use in 2020. New York, New Mexico, Virginia, and Connecticut passed initiatives in 2021.
2022 is poised to bring another wave of cannabis legalization to the United States, most especially with the general election in November. Activists and lawmakers are working to get legalization and other drug policy reform measures on ballots in over a dozen states.
Here are the states that are most likely to make progress on cannabis legalization in 2022:
Activists in Arkansas are working to legalize cannabis at the recreational level in 2022. Medical dispensaries are already up and running in the state, and have been since May of 2019.
Three bills might legalize cannabis at the recreational level in Arkansas. The Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2022 is proposed by Arkansas True Grass. This bill wouldn’t limit the number of licenses in Arkansas, which is oftentimes seen as a perk for consumers and businesses, especially solo operators without a lot of capital. Arkansas for Marijuana reform submitted its initiative to the secretary of state’s office last year.
A third ballot initiative, called the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment, was filed by Responsible Growth Arkansas at the end of January. This bill would enable medical cannabis operators who are already doing business in Arkansas to be first in line for adult-use licenses.
Together, the pair of bills would legalize up to one ounce of cannabis for adults over the age of 21 in the state and would be subject to a 15% tax. Thirty retail licenses would be issued and half of those would go to social equity applicants.
Delaware nearly legalized cannabis in 2021, but legislation lost steam over a disagreement over social equity funding. It would be interesting to see the pair of bills pass, requiring half of all distributed licenses to go to social equity applicants.
The Senate proposed three legalization bills in Hawaii last year and the House also proposed three. One bill passed the Senate but failed the House and it will continue to move through Congress in 2022.
Hawaii’s medical cannabis program is pretty open and even allows tourists to obtain a temporary medical cannabis card while they visit, so a recreational program isn’t out of place. In February of 2022, a Senate committee approved a bill that would allow residents 65 and over to automatically qualify for medical cannabis, whether or not they have a diagnosed condition.
And this bill wouldn’t be misplaced, either. Senior citizens are the fastest-growing cannabis consumer demographic in the United States. Consumers over 65 grew 75% between 2015 and 2018.
You won’t find medical or recreational cannabis in Idaho just yet. It remains one of the most restrictive cannabis states in the U.S. In April of 2021, Idaho’s Gov. Brad Little signed legislation that made getting initiatives or referendums on ballots a difficult task. Activists felt that was a direct attack on cannabis legislation. Thankfully, it didn’t become law.
Activists in Idaho are continuing to move to place medical cannabis on the ballot in 2022. Another effort gunning for the November ballot would decriminalize cannabis. Each petition needs approximately 65,000 voting signatures by May to qualify for the 2022 general election ballot.
Like Idaho, cannabis is fully illegal in Kansas. Only hemp-derived CBD products are permitted in the state. However, Senate Bill 560 would allow for and regulate a medical cannabis program. This bill wouldn’t allow smoking, and only oils, tinctures, plant material, edibles, and patches.
This bill passed the House in 2021 and will face the Senate in 2022. Kansas residents would be looking at a 2024 timeline for purchasing medical cannabis. Should this bill pass, revenue is predicted to generate $2.9 million in the first full fiscal year after sales start.
Kansas’ Democrats are also pushing a proposal to let voters decide on legalizing medical and recreational cannabis this year.
All cannabis possession remains illegal in the state of Kentucky, but the state’s House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize medical cannabis in March of 2022.
Republican-backed HB 136 would establish a medical cannabis program, but it would be fairly restrictive. Home cultivation and smoking flower are prohibited under the bill, but whole-plant products would be available to vaporize.
Qualifying conditions under this bill include cancer, epilepsy and seizure disorders, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, chronic nausea, cyclical vomiting, and chronic, severe, intractable, or debilitating pain.
Medical cannabis is currently legal in Maryland, and activists are ready to add recreational cannabis to the list. A new piece of legislation has been designated as House Bill 1, indicating that it will be a top priority for the state government early in the new year.
The companion bill alongside HB1, HB 837, would allow Maryland residents over the age of 21 to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis. It would also expunge non-violent cannabis crimes and release anyone in a Maryland state or local prison for cannabis crimes.
Medical cannabis sales started in the first quarter of 2022. In 2021, a bill was introduced to legalize recreational cannabis but stalled due to pushback from Minnesota’s Republican-controlled Senate.
Lawmakers will pick up where they left off and hopefully pass recreational cannabis in Minnesota this year. Adult-use cannabis sales could generate $1.12 billion in sales over a five-year period, serving as a massive economic boom for the state.
Mississippi legalized medical cannabis in February of 2022, becoming the 37th U.S. state to approve a medical cannabis program.
Senate Bill 2095 was finally signed by Gov. Tate Reeves, after back and forth about the amount of cannabis being made available to medical consumers. Ultimately, medical cannabis consumers in Mississippi will be eligible to obtain up to 3.5 ounces under this bill after medical cannabis products are made available.
Missouri legalized cannabis for medicinal use in 2018 and sales started in 2020. Recreational cannabis was planned for the 2020 ballot, but the coronavirus pandemic prevented activists from being able to gather the necessary amount of in-person signatures required to make the ballot.
Now, Legal Missouri 2022 and Fair Access Missouri are both working on campaigns to get their initiatives on the state’s 2022 ballot. Legal Missouri 2022 would impose a 6% sales tax on the retail sales of cannabis and allow for automatic expungement of cannabis crimes. Fair Access Missouri’s initiative would create an open market through unlimited licensure.
Nebraska has no medical or legal cannabis program. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) aims to legalize and regulate medical cannabis in the state under a pair of bills, called The Patient Protection Act and The Medical Cannabis Regulation Act.
There’s limited information about both initiatives, but the criteria for regulating and licensing the medical cannabis program in Nebraska would be established no later than July 1st, 2023.
New Hampshire’s House of Representatives has approved HB 629 on January 6th, 2022, but it may have a tougher time clearing the Senate. This bill would legalize adult-use cannabis and home cultivation in the state of New Hampshire, but no language about cannabis retail stores is included.
HB 1598 is another initiative continuing to move through Congress, but it doesn’t include home cultivation. Organizations like Marijuana Policy Project feel HB 1598 creates state-run cannabis monopolies, whereas HB 629 does not.
Legal and medicinal cannabis remain illegal in North Carolina. The state’s Senate Judiciary Committee approved revisions to SB 711 in August of 2021, but a full vote from the Senate is still needed before this bill can become law, which activists are hoping for in 2022.
SB 711 would allow patients in North Carolina to possess and consume medical cannabis for debilitating conditions, including terminal illnesses and conditions resulting in hospice care.
North Dakota legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2016, but regulations weren’t established until two years later. Now, there’s a push for recreational cannabis in the state.
The New Approach North Dakota campaign was filed in April 2022, and this initiative must gather 15,582 signatures by July 11th to join the November 2022 general election ballot. State lawmakers have also been working to legalize recreational cannabis in North Dakota, like HB 1420 which failed to pass all Congressional chambers last year.
Medical cannabis dispensaries are up and running in the state of Ohio, and recreational cannabis doesn’t seem to be too far behind.
A 2022 ballot initiative was filed in December of 2021. Ohio’s Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 206,943 signatures – well over the required amount to land this measure on the ballot. The next step is verifying signatures and then you’ll see this measure on Ohio’s general election ballot this November.
Oklahoma’s medical cannabis market is among the freest in the United States. There is no cap on licenses, and operators can open a cannabis business like traditional business owners.
For the 2022 ballot, there are two campaigns in the works. State Question 820 imposes a 15% excise tax on recreational cannabis sales in Oklahoma. It would also offer criminal justice reform for cannabis convictions. State Question 819 would legalize, regulate, and tax adult-use cannabis in Oklahoma.
These bills are identical and would regulate recreational cannabis at the state level. Adults over the age of 21 would be permitted to purchase and possess up to an ounce of cannabis from licensed dispensaries.
State lawmakers are in the final stages of a cannabis legalization deal, but one of the final sticking points for the state is determining which regulatory body will govern that state’s recreational cannabis program.
The South Dakota Supreme Court halted that historic moment in the summer of 2021 after Gov. Kristi Noem filed a lawsuit against Amendment A. Medical cannabis laws are continuing to unfold as intended, however, advocates remain committed to placing adult-use cannabis on the ballot again in 2022.
Medical cannabis sales are legal and regulated in Washington D.C. as of November 2014 with Initiative 71. This bill allowed adults over the age of 21 in Washington D.C. to possess and cultivate limited amounts of cannabis, but sales and tested cannabis remain prohibited.
D.C. lawmakers rejected a bill in April of 2022 that would effectively legalize cannabis sales in the District. It would also crackdown on shops “gifting” medical cannabis, which is allowed under the
Washington, D.C. is nearly ready to move forward with legal recreational cannabis sales as soon as the congressional appropriations rider is lifted.
Cannabis is illegal in Wyoming, there are no laws for medical or recreational programs in the state. Wyoming activists in Wyoming were unable to secure the required signatures to get decriminalization and medical marijuana initiatives on the 2022 ballot.
HB 143 would establish a medical cannabis program in Wyoming. Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cancer, glaucoma, and more are all considered qualifying conditions under this bill.
They will be turning their efforts to 2024 while continuing to push state lawmakers to advance reform this year and urge Wyoming residents to contact their representatives about cannabis in the state.
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