By LeeWEpstein

December 19, 2019

2020 could be the most important year for cannabis law reform in the United States. To date, 11 States have legalized cannabis and 33 allow its medical use. Next year, at least 18 states could legalize the medical and/or recreational use of cannabis.

Legalization by the State


The State of Vermont was the first to legalize cannabis in 2018, without setting up a distribution system. The law only legalized homeownership and cultivation for adults, while prohibiting sales and production. Activists continued to push to extend the law to regulate cannabis like alcohol, including commercial cultivation and sales to people over 21 years of age.

The Vermont Senate will have another chance to legalize when the legislative session resumes in early 2020. Vermont could thus become the second state to legalize through a legislative initiative after Illinois.

New Mexico

The New Mexico House of Representatives has already passed a bill to legalize cannabis. The President of the Senate has also announced his openness on the subject, the Land of Enchantment could quickly legalize cannabis. The legislative session is quite short, 30 days from January.

New York

New York legalized cannabis in 2019, but only decriminalized it for lack of time to develop a regulatory framework that achieves consensus. The foundations have already been laid, and discussions will resume quickly in 2020.

The other States to be monitored

In fact , the Governor of Connecticut has already expressed his positive opinion on the legalization of cannabis. In Pennsylvania, the Governor made the same observation but does not have a majority in the State Parliament. The lack of parliamentary traction in both states makes the possible passage of a law in 2020 uncertain.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has also expressed her desire to make progress on the subject. It had included in the 2019 finance law a proposal to legalize cannabis, but the General Assembly declined. Gina Raimondo has announced her intention to put it back in the budget in 2020. However the President of the Senate has already opposed the project, preferring better implementation of the medical cannabis program.

Legalization by referendum

New Jersey

New Jersey will vote for the legalization of cannabis on November 20, 2020. The State had failed to legalize much this year and decided to introduce the bill through a “constitutional amendment by legislative means”, a referendum whose text is carried by the legislator rather than by citizens.

A campaign will still take place to get the votes, even if 62% of the population is already in favor of the project.


Nevertheless, Arizona had failed to legalize in 2016, with 48.7% of the vote in favor of the project. The state will have a new opportunity in 2020, supported by the local association Smart and Safe Arizona. In addition to growing national support for cannabis, Arizona is surrounded by California, Nevada, and Colorado, which have already legalized cannabis, and New Mexico and Mexico, which are likely to legalize in 2020.


2 initiatives aim to legalize cannabis in 2020. They must file 766,000 valid signatures by January 1 to be able to access the referendum. If they both qualify, they will have to campaign against each other and win more than 60% of the votes in the referendum to be able to pass.


Kentucky is one of the last remaining American states without medical cannabis. A bill introduced by Cluster Howard MP hopes to legalize cannabis for adults over 21 years of age, with a regulatory and sales tax framework, in order to finance public pension funds and repair the damage caused by prohibition.


Montana legalized medical cannabis in 2004 and further opened its medical cannabis program in 2016. The financing of a pro-legalization campaign has already been secured by the New Montana Approach association.


In fact , Ohio legalized medical cannabis in 2016. 2020 will be a good opportunity to bring about legalization for adults to vote, especially with a majority of residents already in favor.


2 groups are presently trying to put cannabis legalization initiatives to a vote in 2020. Medical cannabis was legalized in 2016, with 53% of the vote. Basically, if both initiatives are put to the vote, the passage of 1 of them seems complicated.


The Idaho Cannabis Coalition indeed is collecting signatures for a medical cannabis initiative and needs 55,057 signatures by May 1, 2020, to appear on the ballot.


In fact , a group has submitted a request for a signature for a legalization initiative. Since the text does not appear to have any age restrictions or other regulations, the passage seems highly unlikely.


The Mississippians for Compassionate Care has therefore, submitted enough signatures to qualify a medical cannabis initiative for the November election, although they have yet to be verified by the state.


As in Idaho in Mississippi, Nebraska is one of the last American states without a medical cannabis program. Besides, 2 initiatives are being prepared, one for recreational and the other for medical.

North Dakota

A signature campaign has begun to legalize cannabis. Arkansas in fact legalized medical cannabis in 2016.

South Dakota

2 groups are trying to put medical cannabis to a vote, one for a constitutional amendment, but the other simply a change of status.


So , the game is not won in this state where the leader of the Senate majority opposes medical cannabis. Two legislators have nevertheless introduced a bill, as they have done in every legislature for the past 10 years. Therefore, 83% of the state’s population supports access to medical cannabis.

Decriminalization in Indiana

Indiana is one of the least developed states in terms of cannabis policy. Because the Governor blocked any legalization project, the senators prepared a bill to decriminalize cannabis. Possession of less than one ounce (28g) of cannabis would no longer be an offense punishable by a small fine and, most importantly, no prison term.

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