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A long list of states may become the next to make recreational marijuana legal. Some may do so through legislative action. Some may put the issue before voters. But the result is the same: Citizens in those states will get the right to possess and use cannabis (even if the federal government still says it’s a crime).
When the legalization movement started, states took the matter to the voters. That’s typical on controversial issues—voters take the lead, and politicians follow once they see which way the wind is blowing.
At this point in the United States, the winds favor legalization. More people than ever find marijuana use acceptable. It’s no longer that controversial in large swaths of the country. About a third of all Americans, more than 100 million people, already live in places where weed is legal for medical and adult use. Even Martha Stewart and Rick Steves – neither the epitome of hipster cool – are onboard.
Where we are now
Legislatures in four states made weed legal in 2021 – New York, Virginia, New Mexico, and Connecticut. They join 15 other states (and the District of Columbia) that previously legalized weed.
In order of when they legalized weed, those states are Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, District of Columbia, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Michigan, Vermont, Illinois, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota.
In South Dakota, the governor has backed a lawsuit seeking to throw out the voter referendum that made cannabis legal. The case is currently before the state supreme court. Cannabis advocates have prepared another referendum to put on the 2022 ballot if they lose before the high court.
States that may legalize weed in 2022.
The next general election is in 2022. Some states will put legalizing adult-use weed before voters, while others will go through state lawmakers during the 2022 legislative sessions. It’s worth noting that both red and blue states are represented.
Delaware. The state already has a medical marijuana program (since 2011), and a law to make adult-use weed legal was filed in 2021 but did not come to a floor vote. The legislature may take it up again in January 2022.
Maryland. State House Speaker Adrienne Jones has already promised to pass legislation to put legalization before voters on the 2022 ballot.
Missouri. There’s a lot of activity in Missouri right now on cannabis. They include a movement to modify the existing medical marijuana program and place a referendum before voters in 2022 on making recreational marijuana legal before voters.
Arkansas. The activist group Arkansas True Grass is collecting signatures to get adult-use legalization on the ballot in 2022.
Ohio. Legalization is currently being pursued through both channels. There’s a legalization bill in the state legislature, as well as a drive by advocates to get the signatures needed to place the issue on the 2022 ballot and let voters decide.
Oklahoma. Oklahoma marijuana advocates made a strong push starting in 2019 to get legalization on the 2020 ballot, but the pandemic cut short their plans. They already have said they will try again for 2022.
Wyoming. Lawmakers in Wyoming failed to pass legalization in 2020. Now, advocates have won approval from the state for ballot language on a referendum to put before voters. They still need to gather the necessary signatures to put it on the ballot.
While these states have received most of the media buzz about legalization, there are efforts ongoing in almost every state, from Rhode Island to Texas. While the above states seem the most likely to act, any state could suddenly move forward quickly on the issue and surprise the country (kind of like Montana in 2020).