We’ve made it. 2020 is officially behind us. The year that was supposed to be a huge hit for cannabis was overshadowed by COVID-19 and a roller coaster political cycle. Hopefully, as 2021 progresses and we’re able to regain a sense of normalcy, we will begin to see progression in the world of cannabis legalization and regulation once again.
Not all was lost in 2020…
2020 wasn’t a complete bust for cannabis progression. The states that had some sort of cannabis regulation/legalization on the ballots last November were all successful in passing their proposed changes. Arizona citizens voted in favor of allowing adult-use cannabis, alongside Montana, who’s residents voted for recreational use of cannabis and for a bill that implements a 20% tax on cannabis sales. Recreational cannabis use was approved by voters in New Jersey by a substantial margin however, the state is still lacking regulations when it comes to how cannabis-based businesses operate. The legislature will need to pass a measure to establish this. South Dakota is another state that was made green-friendly in 2020. The final state on the list to jump on the weed train in 2020 was surprisingly Mississippi, where 75% of voters decided that it was time to legalize medicinal cannabis.
In addition to cannabis law reformation, Washington, DC joined the growing list of cities to decriminalize psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and other psychedelic drugs. Lastly, Oregon, a state that is already seen as progressive in terms of cannabis regulation, voted to not only legalize magic mushrooms, but voted to also decriminalize small amounts of all drugs as well.
Looking forward to 2021
Although it may feel like we’ve cleared the hurdles simply by making it through 2020, 2021 doesn’t look like it will exactly be a walk in the park. One of the largest determining factors in the cannabis outlook for 2021 will be decided shortly after the new year begins. On January 5th, the state of Georgia will host a special run-off election for its senate seats. This run-off election plays an integral role in federal cannabis legalization. If democrats are able to win both seats during the senate run-off election in Georgia, this would give dems majority control over the senate.
This is important because currently, the senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell has made it very clear that any federal cannabis bill that passes congress, will not see the light of day in the senate. In other words, one person is currently blocking any cannabis related legislation from even being voted on in the senate. It is no surprise that cannabis legalization, specifically medical cannabis, has bi-partisan support, meaning that if a bill to change cannabis laws federally were presented to the senate for a vote, it may very well pass.
In the event that both democratic senators win the Georgia run-off election, this would take the power from Mitch McConnell as majority leader and he would no longer have control over which bills are allowed to be voted on in the senate…which can only mean positive progress for cannabis. In fact, congress voted on cannabis legislation in December 2020 and saw majority support with no problem. If the human-blockade has its power stripped in the senate, we could very well see support for cannabis reform on a federal level by the end of 2021.
As more states are pulled into the green-rush, it comes as no surprise that more businesses will be opening their doors. As business goes, this means more job creation. Jobs are not only something that the country desperately needs after 2020’s dismal output in the employment department, but they’re a necessity as urban sprawl and populations continue to grow.
It is easy to get into the mindset that a few jobs here and there aren’t a big deal, but let’s put the size of cannabis jobs into perspective. According to S&P Global, there were a little over 50,000 jobs in the coal mining industry near the end of 2019. On the flipside, there were more than 211,000 full-time jobs in the cannabis industry in 2019 according to Forbes, which was a 44% increase just from the previous year. The takeaway here is that the cannabis industry is creating employment opportunities at an astounding pace. 2021 is poised to continue this level of growth.
Out with the old opinions
2020 was a year that led to a lot of people reassessing their opinions of things, cannabis included. Now that well over two-thirds of the country has access to some form of legal cannabis, there’s no reason to believe that social acceptance will continue to grow. As these mindsets are changed and regulation is put into place, more and more Americans will, more likely than not, recognize the misinformation that the “war on drugs” has essentially brainwashed them with. Social movements like these are essential to normalizing things like cannabis. We have good reason to believe that 2021 will be the year of cannabis re-education.
The seven states up next
Outside of the federal stance on cannabis that could change if things go the way pro-cannabis folks hope, the fact remains that cannabis will likely be a “state decided” issue for a while. Each state has a different approach around how (and unfortunately “if” in some cases) voters can speak their views via electoral ballot. 2021 could top 2020 in terms of states that jump on the cannabis train.
We’ve just started 2021, but the states that have already signaled a vote or legislative move towards some sort of cannabis reform are, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia. The terms of these signals have a great deal of variation. Obviously, we don’t expect to see a politically conservative state like Texas implement the same measures as a more cannabis-friendly state like New York, but any form of prohibition removal is an excellent step forward.
We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re making some impressive strides. After nearly 100 years of unsubstantiated and unbridled prohibition, we are finally in a position where more Americans than not have access to legal cannabis. Of course, there will always be political and social players who feel they have a duty or right to decide which medical treatment options are available to patients. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t even be a conversation worth having, but we’re a far cry from a perfect world. Until we’re there, keep smokin’, tokin’, and votin’. Happy 2021!