Marijuana Legalization Considered in Record Number of States in 2019

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27 state legislatures considered adult-use, or recreational, marijuana bills in 2019, a record number according to a report from the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

Illinois became the first state to legalize adult-use marijuana via legislation (rather than by ballot initiative) on June 25, 2019. US territory Guam legalized marijuana use in Apr. 2019. Most of the other bills have died in legislature. At least three will roll over into the next legislative session: Delaware, New Hampshire, and Tennessee. Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 11 states.

14 states considered medical marijuana bills this year. While some states updated existing laws, no new states were added to the tally of the 33 states with legal medical marijuana in 2019. The US Virgin Islands legalized medical use on Jan. 17, 2019, joining US territories Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands in legalization.

Related bills were also considered. A new law in Alaska allows on-site marijuana use in approved and regulated locations, making Alaska the first state to create rules for cannabis cafes. And many states considered decriminalizing marijuana use or possession.

Karen O’Keefe, JD, Director of State Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana legalization advocacy group, stated, “Virtually every legislature in the country is taking a close look at its marijuana policies, and many have adopted significant reforms in 2019. Not a single legislature moved to repeal or roll back a medical cannabis or legalization law.”

Kevin Sabet, PhD, President and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization, stated, “This [MPP] report is an attempt to mask what was by far the worst year for legalization advocates since 2011. Parents, teachers and public health practitioners defeated bills in more than half a dozen states, including New York and New Jersey, despite being outspent by an average of 30 to one.”

 

Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. Should recreational marijuana be legal? Why or why not?

2. Should medical marijuana be legal? Why or why not?

3. Why is marijuana legislation taking place at the state level instead of federally?

Sources:

Rachel Frazin, “Guam Legalizes Recreational Marijuana,” thehill.com, Apr. 4, 2019

Marijuana Policy Project, “2019 Marijuana Policy Reform Legislation,” mpp.org, July 10, 2019

Marijuana Policy Project, “Marijuana Policy Progress Report: 2019 Legislative Update,” mpp.org, July 22, 2019

Marijuana Policy Project, “Nation’s Largest Marijuana Policy Reform Group Publishes Report on Legislative Progress in 2019,” mpp.org, July 22, 2019

Reid Wilson, “Record Number of States Considered Marijuana Legalization in 2019,” thehill.com, July 22, 2019