Signs that more U.S. states could legalize cannabis next year

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

In the midst of a virus pandemic that has created division in belief systems and sluggishness in global supply chains, the U.S. cannabis industry is booming. So much so, in fact, that states are taking strides towards minimizing criminal penalties for cannabis consumption and possession.

At this critical point in human history, pot shops have been deemed essential business in numerous cannabis-friendly states like California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts and Minnesota; all of which have made the most out of a bad situation.

During mid-March, panic-buying mode hit its peak, with analytics firm Headset releasing data that showed sales jumped 26 percent in Washington and 46 percent in California — two of the biggest legal weed markets in the U.S.

Efforts to loosen the reins on weed prohibition are an indication that restrictions may ease further in the foreseeable future. Policy experts feel that cannabis legalization in the U.S. could even provide a financial safety net for cannabis business owners post-COVID-19.

Cannabis legalization in the U.S. has spread recently  

Advocates of cannabis legalization in the U.S. have been pushing hard for laws to be amended; for numerous reasons, including dismantling the black market, providing equality for the communities hardest hit by prohibition, undoing criminal justice flaws and, of course, to strengthen the economy.

Over the last few weeks, amendments have been made to cannabis laws in a handful of U.S. states. For example, Nevada recently excused over 15,500 people who had been previously convicted for carrying under one ounce of the plant on their person. 

In the State of Colorado, where a legal adult-use cannabis market launched in November 2012, a provision was recently enacted that granted Democratic Governor Jared Polis the power to expunge low-level cannabis convictions among residents. 

Over in Georgia, lawmakers have added decriminalization to a police reform bill, but it’s not gaining traction quite like the decriminalization legislation that is currently moving forward in New Jersey. 

Provisions made to Virginia’s decriminalization law – which is active as of July 1 – could even result in the development of a work group responsible for assessing the pros and cons of complete cannabis legalization.

Cannabis legalization in the U.S. is creating jobs and revenue spikes 

At the current time, 11 U.S. States have passed recreational cannabis laws, with an additional 33 having legalized the plant for recreational purposes. Cannabis legalization in these states has led to widespread acceptance of the plant and an influx of jobs — the U.S. cannabis market employed more than 240,000 people at the beginning of 2020.

The economic repercussions of legalization have been positive in states with legal medical and recreational cannabis; providing an insight into the sheer power that a fully legal market could have across the U.S. According to Democratic Governor Jared Polis sales in both categories – across all legal states – amounted to $15 billion last year. This figure is projected to blow up to $30 billion by the year 2024, based on the dispensary sale-tracking firm’s analysis. 

If states like Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota continue fighting for legal cannabis this year as expected– whether it is for medicinal or recreational purposes – a fresh surge of sustainable industries could be in the pipeline for 2020. Consequently, this is likely to encourage lawmakers to at least consider legalizing cannabis at the federal level. 

Then again, due to the coronavirus pandemic, delays in pushing forward with legalization efforts are inevitable. While it’s clear that people want their bud, the black market for cannabis in the U.S. is thriving and therefore states may need to wait until they can reap the rewards of a regulated industry; dismantling the illicit market won’t be easy.