More states than ever before are taking steps to decriminalize and legalize cannabis. So far, 2019 is shaping up to be a massive year for marijuana reform and states that legalize weed.
States like New York, New Mexico, and Hawaii are decriminalizing cannabis. Illinois has taken it a step further by passing some of the most progressive cannabis reform the United States has seen. Other recent achievements in legalization include Nevada banning pre-employment drug testing and Oregon legalizing out-of-state cannabis exports. Georgia also expanded their medical cannabis program to include more people in need and North Dakota ended jail time for those convicted of cannabis possession.
It makes sense why so many states are choosing to legalize cannabis. The thriving marijuana industry has blossomed into a money-making juggernaut. Experts predict global cannabis sales will reach $15 billion by 2020 and the entire industry’s worth will swell to an astounding $66.3 billion by 2025.
States that legalize recreational cannabis see a massive influx of taxable revenue. That potential for profit is hard to pass up, and is a key reason why lawmakers across the country have proposed legislation for legalization. So far, 27 states have considered legalizing cannabis commercial sales, recreational use, or possession.
“Virtually every legislature in the country is taking a close look at its marijuana policies, and many have adopted significant reforms in 2019,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policy for the Marijuana Policy Project.
The Slow Road to Federal Cannabis Legalization
All of these steps are clear wins on the road to fully legalizing and decriminalizing cannabis as a nation. Despite the many successes and the obvious progress, however, there’s still a long way to go before this war is won. Currently, recreational cannabis is only legal in 11 states, with Illinois being the most recent to allow for it. Medical marijuana is available in some form in 33 states. Cannabis possession in controlled amounts is permitted in 26 states.
Although there have been some resounding wins via state legislation this year, many other pro-cannabis bills have failed. States like Connecticut, New York, New Mexico, Iowa, Tennessee, and Virginia all proposed recreational cannabis laws, but failed to pass them. While experts predicted that 2019 would be the breakout year for pro-cannabis legislation, progress has been slower than many had hoped.
“The reality is that public policy change rarely works that way. Slow and steady tends to be how change like this happens,” explained John Hudak, deputy director at the Brookings Center for Effective Public Management.
The Future of Federal & State Cannabis Legalization
When you look at the trend of cannabis reform in 2019, it’s hard not to be positive about the direction it’s going. According to recent polling, about 62% of registered voters support legalizing recreational cannabis. It’s clear which way public opinion on cannabis use is going. Nearly 3/4 of Millennials and well over half of Generation X polled in favor of cannabis legalization.
Now that more states than ever before are legalizing cannabis, it’s only a matter of time before the federal government makes the move too. Stay aware and involved with local elections and make sure your voice is heard during this historical period of legalization.