COVID-19 & Cannabis Legalization: State-by-State Overview

States have long looked to cannabis taxes to fill coffers, create jobs and boost the economy. Even in places where conservatives have originally opposed cannabis, money seems to speak across the aisle. Now, as COVID-19 has pushed state income to unprecedented lows, and cannabis sales have remained somewhat steady, politicians all over are considering cannabis reform as a way to replenish state funds.

While enacting cannabis reform for the explicit purpose of gathering taxes is nothing new to the industry, doing so specifically in response to a health crisis is certainly another thing on the long list of experiences no one expected to happen in 2020. And yet, across the United States of America, legalization efforts and bills are being advanced in numerous states. Here’s a look at which states are considering opening up to cannabis sales in response to COVID:


New Jersey

The Garden State is nearly tied with New York for the record of “days it has been since a politician vowed to pass legalization in 100 days.” Governor Phil Murphy has stated his support for legalizing cannabis in New Jersey through his tenure in office, though he has been unable to pass the measure through the legislature. Still, he remains supportive of reform, and has gone on record to say that a functioning cannabis market would be a vital asset in helping the state bounce back from the pandemic.

New Jersey will vote on a referendum, known as New Jersey Public Question 1, to legalize cannabis in November in the 2020 election.

If passed, the referendum would amend the state constitution to legalize recreational cannabis effective January 1, 2021. The measure is likely to pass regardless of its relevance to COVID, so for the time being, it seems to be a simple waiting game for residents of New Jersey so long as everyone gets out and votes.

Next Year’s Cannabis Landscape Might Look Very Different

Beyond these COVID-specific reasons for legalization, numerous states have legalization measures on their 2020 ballot, and the year is far from over in terms of seeing how COVID will further affect state economies. As we’ve covered before, many states saw their legalization plans put on hold as the pandemic started, and may now be looking at reviving, or even accelerating legalization efforts. While COVID might not wind up being the extreme legalization accelerator that it appeared to be at the start of the pandemic, it’s clear that the economic fallout from the virus has brought legalization to the forefront of discussion for plausible solutions. Though many politicians may stand in the way, as other states have seen, when it comes to cannabis, the current question is “when” and not “if,” legalization will happen.

Which states are you hoping will expedite cannabis legalization? Give us your feedback in the comments.

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