Politicians Catching Up to Voters on Mainstreaming Marijuana

Years from now, people may forget that strange time during which only the states of Colorado and Washington offered legalized adult-use marijuana.

What will be remembered is that the legalization movement started with the people. It’s taken years for politicians to feel safe enough to push forward on legalization without a voter referendum. It’s happening in a handful of states, all at once, in 2019.

For the cannabis curious and those who want to try marijuana for wellness and health benefits, the mainstreaming of marijuana offers them more chances than ever.

Mainstreaming Spreads Across the Country

Considering that only Colorado and Washington had legal adult-use marijuana sales in 2014 (voters approved them in 2012), it’s amazing that five years later there are now a total of 10. And that total looks to grow in 2019.

Here’s an overview of what’s happening in states around the country this year.

New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy and key leaders in the state legislature have agreed on the details of adult-use marijuana taxation and regulation. The full New Jersey Legislature must still approve the law, which could take many more months of debate.

New Mexico

The Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives has passed a bill out of committee allowing New Mexicans to possess two ounces or less of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home. The Republican-controlled state Senate also has passed a bill out of committee that legalizes adult-use sales, but with restrictions (like you can’t grow plants at home). Compromise is needed, but both sides believe legalization will happen.

Wisconsin

Gov. Tom Evers is asking state lawmakers to pass a bill that both decriminalizes marijuana and legalizes medical marijuana. Passage seems likely, especially considering that Wisconsin voters approved legalization in 16 separate non-binding voter referendums in the November 2018 elections.

New Hampshire

Hello, East Coast! Following the lead of Massachusetts and Maine, where voters approved legalized adult-use marijuana in 2016, state lawmakers in New Hampshire are expected to consider a legalization bill. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has vowed to veto the bill, but Democratic leaders in the state legislature believe they have the votes to override a veto.

Hawaii

In Hawaii, the state Senate leader has said that debating the legalization of marijuana is a priority for 2019. A Senate committee already has approved a bill to do so, which the full Senate is expected to take up soon.

Will all these states legalize recreational marijuana in 2019? It’s impossible to say. But the thing about 2019 is that the answer to that question is more likely to be “yes” than ever before.

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