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Unprecedented Number Of States Considering Cannabis Reform In 2022

January 18, 2022

With the dawn of another election year comes the prospect of state-level progress on cannabis reform. Although the last two years have yielded unprecedented results in terms of lawmakers’ willingness to enact legalization through the legislature, ballot initiatives have historically been the engine powering progress, allowing voters to circumvent recalcitrant officials. The goals vary based on current conditions, with advocates in holdout prohibitionist states aiming to grant patients access to medical marijuana, other states eyeing full legalization, and some looking to go even farther and decriminalize psychedelics.

The list of states considering some sort of drug reform this year is staggering. At least 26 states are in some stage of legislative process or signature gathering related to legalization and decriminalization for this year. As it stands, 35 states have enacted medical cannabis programs and 18 have approved recreational cannabis, though a number of those markets are not yet operational. This year, an additional eight states are considering medical marijuana, an astounding 13 are considering adult-use legalization, and four are considering some form of psychedelic acceptance or the wholesale decriminalization of drugs.

On the recreational front, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island are working on the issue. For states like Arkansas and Missouri, plans for adult-use cannabis are following swiftly after implementing medical programs, which went into place in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Rhode Island is a different case as it’s in the final stages of negotiating a legalization bill for the legislature as it feels the pressure from legalization in neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts.

On the medical side, the list includes Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wyoming. Successful campaigns in these states could push the number of U.S. medical cannabis markets past 40. One notable state here is Kansas, which is mounting campaigns for both recreational and medical legalization this year.

Finally, California, Colorado, and Michigan are working on laws to legalize the possession of psychedelics, with Colorado considering creating a system of licensed businesses to produce psilocybin, DMT, and mescaline, among others, for use in therapeutic settings. Meanwhile, Washington State is preparing to follow its neighbor Oregon’s lead with a ballot initiative that would broadly decriminalize drugs.—Danny Sullivan

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