We’re a little over the halfway point of the year where everyone emerged from quarantine ready to turn the party up and get back to living some sense of normalcy after a roller coaster year of Covid, elections, and push after push for improved civil rights. As some, in fact, the majority now argue, cannabis fits comfortably into that civil rights category. For nearly 100 years now, the subject of legal cannabis (both medically and recreationally) has been the punching bag for a sundry of poorly structured, illogical, and oftentimes racist “arguments”, preventing not only adults from consuming what has shown to be a relatively safe compound in their free time, but keeping the medical benefits of this naturally occurring plant from the hands of those who need it, including very sick children in some cases. Let’s take a look at cannabis legality in our mid-year update.
United We Stand…?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you are likely well aware that even though we call ourselves the United States, there’s very little unification when it comes to cannabis legalization. Each state has taken upon itself the decision of legalizing cannabis in some capacity, or in the case of about 14 states, living in the past and not legalizing at all.
At the time of writing, there are 36 states in the US which have decided to implement cannabis in a medical capacity. This means that these states all recognize the medical potential that cannabis brings to the table as well as the outrageously false foundation that cannabis prohibition and the failed war on drugs were originally built on. Additionally, 19 of these 36 states recognize the recreational or adult-use aspect of cannabis and have created programs allowing most adults to come out of hiding to enjoy their weed with the rest of the modernized world without the fear of a potentially life-ruining (or as things seem to go these days, life-ending) rendezvous with the strong arm of the law.
Slowly, but surely the tides are turning in favor of those who support cannabis legalization. On a federal level, proponents have been a little disappointed so far this year. Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer has become the focus of countless memes given his promises of federal cannabis reform that is “happening soon”. Federally, there has been little to no progress and when questioned, Schumer continues to tout the same old “it’s happening soon” narrative. Additionally, on the federal level, cannabis proponents have also found themselves sorely disappointed in the Biden administration’s approach to not only the lack of promised cannabis reform, but also how the admin is treating cannabis in general. Cannabis advocates haven’t been very pleased with the administration’s handling of cannabis reform ever since five White House staffers were suspended or placed on remote work roles after admitting during background checks that they have a history of cannabis use. Fortunately, things are still progressing on a state level. Let’s take a look at the newest members of the club.
The east coast domino that everyone has been patiently waiting to fall. As of March 31st, 2021, Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, officially legalized cannabis for recreational use by adults. Many people believe that New York’s decision to finally legalize adult-use cannabis was expedited due to the controversial hot water that Governor Cuomo found himself in around the same time this year. Controversy aside, New York’s adult-use cannabis laws are seen by many as a precedent for other states to build from. Not only did the new regulation give adults 21 and older the ability to possess up to 3oz of flower or 24g of concentrate, but it also implemented home grow regulations, something that most thought would be pulled from the final version of the bill. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) has a cultivation provision allowing for canna-fans to cultivate up to six plants/person or up to 12 plants per household. It should be noted that this provision will not go into effect until 2022. New York’s cannabis regulation is far from perfect, but given the size and influence of this state, we are pleasantly content with the progression of the state’s stance on adult-use cannabis.
Another shocker for adult-use legalization reform in 2021 was the support of SB1406 by the VA General Assembly and Governor Ralph Northam. Virginia’s cannabis legislation permits adults 21 and older the ability to possess up to one ounce of cannabis flower for recreational purposes as of July 1st, 2021. Additionally, and to the surprise of many, Virginia’s cannabis program also permits Virginians to cultivate up to four plants for home grow. There has been a bit of pushback from citizens because the new cannabis legislation lacks structure or guidance for retail cannabis sales licenses.
As of June 29th, 2021, residents of New Mexico who are over the age of 21 can indulge in recreational cannabis and possess up to two ounces of flower in public thanks to House Bill 2 (HB2) signed by Governor Grisham. New Mexico’s adult-use cannabis program also allows each household to grow up to 12 plants.
The most recent state to join the 21st century in terms of cannabis reform is Connecticut. In late June, Governor Lamont gave his signature on SB1201. The bill creates a legal environment for Connecticut residents over the age of 21 to maintain up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis flower on their person and up to five ounces in the home or vehicle (though this must be stored in a container) as of July 1st, 2021 (only eight days after it was signed by Gov. Lamont). It seems that regulation guidance around home grown plants and retail dispensary licenses will come at a later date, with projections estimating next summer (2022) as the target date.
Your State Wasn’t Listed? Don’t Give Up Hope!
With 36 medical states and 19 recreational states, we’re on the home stretch. We still need to push for federal legalization, but at this rate, most states will have implemented programs before that happens. If your state wasn’t mentioned in our mid-year update, don’t fret! There’s still time remaining in the year, and we expect to see a few more additions to our list by the end. In terms of adult-use, Rhode Island and Delaware could very well join the club. On the medical cannabis program side of things, North Carolina’s proposed legislature remains a coin toss and Alabama (we couldn’t believe it either!) could very well implement a medical cannabis program by year’s end. Until then, keep fighting the good fight and letting your state representatives know exactly where you stand in this battle! We can see the light at the end of this 100-year tunnel and we’ve got to push harder now than ever before.