November of 2020 was a time for cannabis users to rejoice, as there were many pro-marijuana policies that were met with the support by voters in the United States. As highlighted by director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, Karen O’Keefe, “November’s clean sweep of marijuana initiatives will help propel neighboring states’ legislatures to get their own bills past the finish line in 2021. These victories—in blue, red, and purple states—reflect the overwhelming popular support for legalization and a huge missed opportunity for states that fail to act.”
Many of the states most likely to legalize cannabis next are in the North East, trailing behind the progression on the West Coast.
Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York has tried to push for legalization of marijuana in the past, but all of his efforts have fallen short. However, this current political climate is different. New York’s neighbor, New Jersey recently just voted for complete legalization and tax revenue from legal marijuana could help make a dent in New York’s $4 billion budget deficient.
Additionally, 60% of voters in New York support legalization. Cuomo is pushing for the legislation with the economic argument to counteract the fiscal losses from COVID-19. There is a very high probability for legalization by the end of the year.
Similar to New York, there is pressure for Connecticut to legalize marijuana based on trends in the region and surrounding states. New Jersey and Massachusetts both have passed legislation, and with New York on the way, Connecticut is surrounded.
According to Governor Ned Lamont (D), he believes his state had has to “think regionally when it comes to how we deal with the pandemic—and I think we have to think regionally when it comes to marijuana as well,” which could lead to a decrease in cannabis tourism. With a democratic majority in the Connecticut state legislature, the legalization of marijuana is on the horizon.
Right next to Connecticut, Rhode Island is in a very similar boat. Their legislature has expressed significant interest in the legalization of marijuana, pushing for a state run model. Senate majority leader Michael McCaffrey (D) said that “the time has come to legalize adult cannabis use. We have studied this issue extensively, and we can incorporate the practices we’ve learned from other states.”
Most of the conversation in the state legislature is surrounding the logistics of legalization not whether or not they actually should. For Rhode Island, the hope is that the state-run model, that is proposed by Governor Gina Raimondo (D), “will allow the state to control distribution, prevent youth consumption, and protect public health.” All things considered, legalization looks very probable.