For the last decade, there have been a lot of discussions about cannabis legalization across all US states. At the federal level, cannabis remains illegal, but at the state level, 37 states plus the District of Columbia allow cannabis for medical use. 22 of those states allow cannabis for recreational use. As of the end of November 2022, nearly 73% of Americans were living in a state where either cannabis for recreational or medical use is legal. In early November, five states went to the ballot, and only two voted for legalizing cannabis for recreational use.
Progress of cannabis legalization at the federal level
The federal government has been slow in legalizing cannabis, although it has been progressing. There has been a push by legislators for the president to sign the bipartisan Cannabis Research Bill. It was a victory for the cannabis industry after President Joe Biden signed the bill on December 2, 2022. The signing officially allowed the expansion of the Medical Marijuana Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act. The research will focus on the potential health benefits of cannabis.
This is the first standalone cannabis reform witnessed at the federal level for over 50 years of the drug war in the US. The White House was quick to state to thank the legislators who sponsored the bill. The statement noted that the bill set the pace for a new registration process that will allow the processing of marijuana products for the research and development of drugs. The bipartisan Medical Marijuana Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act was passed by the U.S. Congress, and the Senate voted on November 16.
There have been overwhelming support and opposition at the state level
The process was not easy among the 37 states that have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use. The states had to overcome opposition from politicians, lobbyists, and residents. Campaigns from stakeholders in the cannabis industry helped increase support from residents. The millennials were quick to offer their support by nearly 70%, and they were instrumental in the passing of legalization during the voting process.
The most recent cannabis legalization voting was done in early November and involved 5 states. If all of them passed for legalization, almost half of US states would become recreational cannabis legal states. Unfortunately, this did not happen, and only two states voted in support. The states that went to the ballot were Maryland, Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The voters were asked whether they supported recreational marijuana being legalized.
Missouri and Maryland have now joined the list of cannabis-legal states after residents voted in support of legalization. Residents of South Dakota, North Dakota, and Arkansas rejected legalizing cannabis.
Why the three states voted against legalizing cannabis
The three states are considered deep red states due to the stiff opposition that has come from influential people in the states. Although there has been considerable support from the millennials, the midterm vote for recreational marijuana use recorded a low voter turnout. There were loud opposing voices from the influential conservative wing.
In Arkansas, the strongest opposition came from opposing groups such as the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee. The group worked closely with former Vice President Mike Pence to discourage residents from supporting the vote. The influential Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota actively used video campaign ads to lure the residents against voting. He warned them that there are many dangers of marijuana. He warned them it is not good for kids, and neither will it improve the community in any way.
Another voting setback was because there was not enough presence of other competitive races. Their presence would have attracted younger voters in large numbers, and they would have overwhelmingly voted in support. It is crucial to note that it is harder to convince voters to turn out in large numbers when it is not a presidential election year. When speaking with TIME, Alex Kreit said that during a presidential election year, the millennials turn out in large numbers, and they would have voted in support.
Alex is the director of the Center on Addiction Law & Policy. He is also an Assistant Professor of Law at North Kentucky University. So far, only 19 states, including the District of Columbia, allow marijuana for recreational use. It is entirely illegal in 13 states. All the other states are medical cannabis-legal states. This includes North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas. About a decade ago, only 50% of Americans supported marijuana legalization. Today, over 2/3 of Americans are in support.
Is your state a cannabis-legal state?
It is harder to keep up with cannabis laws due to the way there have been constant shifts in all the states. Each state is free to pass cannabis legalization laws, but you need to stay up to date with the latest developments. Visitors across the states need to understand which states are cannabis legal states and the laws they are required to follow. For example, some states that allow cannabis for medical use allow CBD oil only. These are states such as Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Here is the latest updated list as of December 2022.
|State||Legalized Medical Cannabis||Legalized Recreational Cannabis|
|District of Colombia||Yes||Yes|
Disclaimer: Check the local guidelines and laws of your state to ensure compliance.