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News, Politics

Which States Have Cannabis Reforms On Deck in the Coming Year?

Kat Helgeson

by Kat Helgeson

December 30, 2020 11:30 am ET Estimated Read Time: 4 Minutes
Which States Have Cannabis Reforms On Deck in the Coming Year?

This year was a tough one in many regards. But in terms of cannabis legalization, 2020 was a big hit! Fifteen states started the year with cannabis legalization legislation on the table. Illinois started the year off with a bang—the state technically legalized in 2019, but the new law took effect on the first day of the new year. South Dakota finished the year strong, setting a groundbreaking record by becoming the first state to leapfrog milestones and legalize both medical and recreational cannabis at the same time. Legalization also came to New Jersey, Arizona, and Montana. Now, though, we look ahead to 2021. Everyone is holding out hope that the coming year will be better than the last one. Will that hold true in the area of cannabis legalization? There’s no way to be certain. But we do have some indication of what to expect from various state legislatures in 2021.


Legalization has been a long time coming in Connecticut, and the incoming State House Speaker estimates the chances of legalization at 50-50. Lawmakers acknowledge the fact that Connecticut is surrounded by states where cannabis is already legal and recognize the pressure that puts on the process—they don’t want to see people driving back and forth across state lines to get their herb. Currently, there are no bills on the table, but Speaker Ritter has committed to having lawmakers place a ballot referendum before voters in 2021.

New Mexico

New Mexico’s leadership is of a practical mind. Members of a legislative group presented estimates that legalizing recreational cannabis would create 11,000 jobs and boost the economy tremendously. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has indicated her support for legalization and has pledged to work with the legislature in an effort to get a bill to her desk in 2021. At present, no such bill exists, but the fact that the powers that be in New Mexico are dedicated to working together is a promising sign.

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New York 

Governor Cuomo feels the pressure after neighbor state New Jersey legalized recreational cannabis earlier this year. According to a statewide survey commissioned by Sienna College, 60% of New Yorkers favor the legalization of recreational cannabis—a record high for the state. At this point, legalization in New York is beginning to seem like a foregone conclusion. It’s just a matter of getting the paperwork done.

Rhode Island

After a hearing to discuss the issue in mid-November, Rhode Island lawmakers predict that the issue of recreational cannabis legalization will come to the table in the early days of 2021. Legislators and Governor Gina Raimondo are in agreement that legalization would be a good thing for the state of Rhode Island, and are already in talks about the practicalities of getting it done. We can expect to see action on this issue very soon from Rhode Island.


Virginia’s current legalization status is a little different from the others on this list. While medical cannabis is currently legal in Virginia, it’s legal in the form of CBD oil only. So what does the state have planned for 2021? The answer is that they’re ready to go big, just like we saw in South Dakota. Governor Ralph Northam has publicly announced his support for full adult legalization, both medicinal and recreational. He points out the economic and justice-based benefits of legalization. The House Majority Leader believes a bill such as the one the Governor describes would have a good chance of passing the House, and the Senate Majority Leader offers even odds of it passing the Senate.

As we ring in the New Year, we’ll keep our eyes on the progress these states are making!  

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