If you thought 2016 was a big year for cannabis, 2020 is shaping up to be equally pivotal. As of late February 2020, a multitude of ballot measures—and, perhaps more indicative of future trends—legislative actions may come into play come November. While it’s far too early to make predictions, we can say this: This election is going to be a big one for cannabis.
Let’s run down the list of states where cannabis may be legalized. And remember, some voter-led initiatives may fall short of the signatures required to make it onto the ballot. We’ll keep you updated on that front later this year.
After narrowly rejecting recreational cannabis in 2016, Arizonans are trying again with the Smart & Safe Arizona initiative. Sponsored in part by dispensary chains including MedMen and Curaleaf Holdings, the measure would allow adult-use cannabis and create a process for those with prior cannabis-related convictions to have their criminal records expunged. Advocates have until July 2nd to collect at least 237,465 signatures.
Two initiatives are moving towards approval on the November ballot in Arkansas. One would allow adult use of cannabis. The other would allow for the expungement of cannabis-related criminal records a la Arizona’s proposal, see above. Led by the Arkansans for Cannabis Reform coalition, proponents of the bill have until July 3rd to collect 89,151 signatures.
Although legislation to legalize cannabis recently appeared to be making headway, Connecticut lawmakers weren’t able to reach an agreement about how to get a bill to Governor Ned Lamont, who supports legalization. This time around, there’s talk of lawmakers sending a referendum to the voters, though that would likely be a lengthy (and expensive) process, requiring significant resources of the legislature’s time and effort.
Of course, Connecticut’s legislators could go ahead and pass a legalization bill themselves, but given the failure of the last attempt to do so, observers aren’t exactly holding their breath that it will come to pass this year.
Though the state is known for an especially anti-cannabis legal environment, a group called the Idaho Cannabis Coalition is working to collect just over 55,000 signatures by April 30th. If they do, an initiative to bring medical cannabis to Idaho will appear on the November ballot, though whether it would pass in this “Prohibition Island” is anyone’s guess.
Like Idaho, Kansas has been staunchly anti-cannabis thus far; it’s currently one of the few remaining states that bans cannabis products of any kind. The state lacks the voter-initiative process by which Kansans might bring cannabis to the ballot themselves, but Governor Laura Kelly has been supportive of medical cannabis on the campaign trail.
Back in September, Mississippians for Compassionate Care filed a petition to put medical cannabis on the 2020 ballot. If approved by voters, it would allow patients with any of 22 conditions to possess cannabis for their personal use.
Montana already has medical cannabis, but because of the specifics of the state’s constitution—which defines legal adulthood as beginning at age 18—some fancy footwork has been required to try and get recreational cannabis to the ballot. A group called New Approach Montana is working with such national groups as the Marijuana Policy Project and New Approach PAC to get enough signatures to validate two separate measures, one to address cannabis itself and the other to raise the age to buy it to 21.
In recent years, medical cannabis has gotten nowhere in the state legislature. Now, two state senators have partnered with local and national cannabis advocacy groups to spearhead a voter-led initiative. Though the petition was approved last year, it’s not exactly clear where the signature-gathering effort stands. Needless to say, we’ll keep you appraised as we get closer to November.
As in nearby Connecticut, a legislative effort to handle cannabis legalization themselves fizzled. Instead, the state Senate and Assembly approved language for the 2020 ballot which will allow the voters to decide yea or nay. If the answer is “Yes!” lawmakers will still have to hammer out the details of how to administer its legal cannabis industry.
As in neighboring Connecticut and New Jersey, a legislative effort to legalize recreational cannabis narrowly failed in the Empire State. Now Governor Andrew Cuomo—who strongly supports legalization—has suggested turning the question to voters this November. It may be a bluff to spur the state senate to action, and it may not. Be sure to keep your eyes on this important front in the legalization fight.
After legalizing medical cannabis in 2016—a noteworthy development for this conservative bastion—residents showed no interest in legalizing adult-use cannabis two years later. Now, improving on some of the admittedly vague language of the 2018 proposal, a group called Legalize ND has submitted a measure to bring recreational cannabis to this heartland state in 2020. They have until July 6 to collect 13,452 signatures in support.
Although a 2015 effort to legalize adult-use cannabis failed rather spectacularly—and Ohio has since approved medical cannabis, with sales starting last year—now a new drive to include recreational cannabis on the November ballot is underway. Led by Cleveland attorney Tom Haren, the group has until July 1 to collect some 443,000 signatures from voters in at least half of the state’s 88 counties.
Solidly conservative Oklahoma surprised many cannabis observers by approving medical-use cannabis during an off-year midterm primary election. Now, backed by the national New Approach PAC, canvassers are seeking to collect the 178,000 valid signatures necessary to introduce an adult-use measure come November. Interestingly, this is actually something of a do-over. An initial measure was withdrawn last year in order to seek more input from the medical-cannabis community. Let’s hope the second try’s the charm!
The governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, is pro-cannabis. Last year, she even inserted legalization language in her budget proposal for 2020, though it was yanked by lawmakers. She tried again in her proposed 2021 budget and indicated that if she’s thwarted once again by the state senate, she may turn the question over to voters, a la New York’s Governor Cuomo.
While the advocacy group New Approach South Dakota has already collected sufficient signatures to put a medical-cannabis bill on the ballot this November, a separate group led by a former federal prosecutor is advocating for adult-use cannabis here. Given that South Dakotans rejected medical cannabis in 2006 and 2010, that may be a long shot, but given the change in attitudes over the last decade—with roughly two-thirds of Americans in support of at least some form of legal cannabis—it’s anyone’s guess whether it will pass in this historically conservative state.
If you’re in a non-rec state, be sure to check if there are any petitions to get cannabis on the ballot.