WASHINGTON, D.C. — While efforts to legalize recreational marijuana have stalled in Connecticut, those same efforts have made progress around the country.
A new report from the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) released earlier this week details the cannabis policy reform efforts of 2019.
The report claims “unprecedented progress at both the state and federal levels,” calling 2019 a “historic year for marijuana policy and the movement.”
The report includes an in-depth look at the adult-use legalization effort in Illinois, which became the 11th state to legalize marijuana — and the first where the legislature legalized selling the drug. Vermont legalized marijuana in 2018, but only allows residents to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana as well as two mature and four immature plants.
The Illinois law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020, and it will allow for commercial sales like the state of Massachusetts.
In addition to Illinois, MPP lists the U.S. House of Representatives’ recent approval of a federal spending bill with protections for state marijuana laws, medical cannabis expansion in Georgia, and the elimination of jail time for marijuana possession in Hawaii, New Mexico, and North Dakota among its top 10 wins this year.
The report notes that 27 state legislatures, including Connecticut, considered bills to legalize cannabis for adults in 2019.
In Connecticut, the report notes that three different bills to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis passed committee votes but none of them received a vote in the House or the Senate.
One bill that would have legalized cannabis and allowed for expungement of criminal records passed the Judiciary Committee, another regulating the sales of cannabis passed the General Law Committee, and a third law that would have taxed cannabis with part of the proceeds benefiting distressed and underserved communities passed the Finance Committee.
The MPP reported noted that Gov. Ned Lamont and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, and Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, have indicated support for legalization, regulating, and taxing cannabis for adults 21 and older.
The report also provides a 2019 policy update for every U.S. state and Washington, D.C., along with major developments from U.S. territories.
The report lists legalization in Illinois as the number one achievement of the year; the U.S. House bill to prevent federal intervention with adult-use marijuana laws as number two; decriminalization in New Mexico as number three; approval of medical marijuana in Georgia as number four; dropping jail time for simple possession in North Dakota as number five; decriminalizing small amounts in Hawaii as number six; legalizing on-site consumption (such as in cafes) in Colorado as number seven; legalizing home delivery in Colorado as number eight; prohibiting pre-job drug testing in Nevada as number nine; and legalization in Guam as number 10.
South Dakota was named the “most stagnant” state for marijuana policy reform progress. It earned that ranking, according to MPP, because, among other things, no legislator even put forth a proposal on any legalization policies in South Dakota this year.
“Virtually every legislature in the country is taking a close look at its marijuana policies, and many have adopted significant reforms in 2019,” Karen O’Keefe, director for state policies at MPP and lead author of the report, said.
At the same time, “not a single legislature moved to repeal or roll back a medical cannabis or legalization law. Particularly with the first-of-its-kind legalization victory in Illinois, 2019 has been a milestone year for MPP and our movement,” O’Keefe said.
On the national level, Don Murphy, director of federal policies at MPP stated: “Our strategy of building pressure on Congress is working, and we’ve seen historic progress in 2019. Leaders in both parties are talking about the need for reform and giving this issue the attention it deserves.”
“The House’s decision to protect states’ legalization policies is a very encouraging sign. It’s possible that we’ll see the end of federal prohibition before the 2020 election,” Murphy said.