2022 Cannabis Legalization Watch: Which States Will Finally Legalize Marijuana?
Published on Jan 2, 2022
We're living in the golden age of cannabis. New types of weed, new ways to smoke it, and even research on its use in the general population have become so prevalent that many people no longer bat an eye at it. The Prohibition-era of cannabis, which began a century ago with the criminalization of marijuana, is slowly coming to a close as more and more movements pressure states to legalize weed. 2021 proved to be a strong year for states that legalized weed, with six in total. What states legalized weed? Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia all managed to take cannabis off the criminal books in 2021. With 2022 being an election year, there are many more potential states to legalize cannabis, potentially making the beautiful bud available in more states than not. Petitions are on the ballot in many states, while many more are collecting the signatures they need to amend their constitution or create specialized laws. These may be the states that will legalize weed by 2022, encompassing tens of millions of Americans.
Law and Order
While individual states like Oregon and Colorado have made history by being legal weed states where recreational and medical marijuana is free to purchase, it is worth remembering that cannabis remains a Schedule 1 narcotic under federal guidelines. This means that it is technically illegal for any person to possess it, even if the federal government also grows medicinal cannabis for some patients to use at the same time. Hypocrisy and government are two of the oldest friends in the world, and cannabis law remains byzantine due to this federal regulation: look no further than cannabis lounges where it is legal to buy and smoke but not take home. Marijuana law remains complicated at best, and the following states to legalize weed will have to maneuver through miles of red tape before the first dispensary can set up and start selling good bud.
One of the most conservative states in the union, legalization in Arkansas is an uphill battle at best. Arkansas is certainly not the favorite if you're betting on the next state to legalize marijuana. Nevertheless, cannabis activists are working to ensure a ballot measure will finally legalize recreational cannabis, with regulation for adults to be able to buy as much as four ounces of cannabis or grow as many as a dozen plants on their property. However, the ballot has to gather nearly 90,000 signatures by July of 2022 for Arkansas to join the ranks of legal weed states.
A state where the possession or consumption of any marijuana remains a felony, regardless of medicinal use, Idaho is another serious challenge towards the legalization of cannabis. Indeed, its residents are not pushing for legalization just yet, instead of focusing on decriminalization - or more accurately, depenalization, meaning that no criminal liabilities would land on a person found guilty of possession. The Idaho Secretary of State gave permission for a ballot initiative to collect signatures. If voters qualify the initiative, it will permit the possession of as much as three ounces of cannabis and four for patients with a doctor's recommendation, but only on private property. The initiative requires 65,000 signatures.
After legalizing medicinal marijuana in 2018, Missouri now sets its eyes on recreational cannabis and being one of the full weed legal states in 2022. One ballot initiative, headed by the same outfit that successfully legalized medicinal use, would legalize adult use of recreational cannabis. With a larger population than some of its neighbors, Missouri requires over 170,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot initiative by May 2022.
Proximity to Colorado's plentiful dispensaries has not had the thawing effect in next-door Nebraska that had been hoped, and many Nebraska police officers arrest cross-border buyers who hope to skirt the law. Nebraska couldn't get medicinal cannabis approved on the ballot in 2020, nor could the state legislature approve it outright. Nevertheless, two separate ballots have been submitted to the Nebraska Secretary of State office and should be approved before 2022 itself, requiring 125,000 signatures - nearly 10% of the state's total population.
Two separate groups, one of whom tried to push a legalization ballot measure in 2018, will try to get adult recreational use on the ballot in North Dakota in 2022. One ballot measure would permit not just the right to buy and use cannabis from dispensaries legally but to grow it yourself. As a smaller state, the North Dakota initiative requires just 27,000 signatures.
The Coalition to Regulation Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) initiative does just what it says it'll do: make cannabis consumption similar to alcohol consumption, allowing any Ohio adult to purchase cannabis for recreational use. However, the organization needs to collect 130,000 signatures by the end of the year to get it onto the ballot, and that's not a guarantee itself, as the state legislature would then have to enact the reform in just four months - ensuring plenty of time for gridlock. Should the legislature fail, the initiative must start all over, getting all the signatures again for the 2022 ballot.
Full legalization is on the ballot in Oklahoma, permitting the establishment and regulation of dispensaries, along with legal ownership of up to a dozen plants. A separate Oklahoma ballot initiative would address medical marijuana, expanding existing state law to update health services, law enforcement, and research funding. Both initiatives need 175,000 signatures by August of 2022.
Like North Dakota, full legalization may be on the ballot in South Dakota. Amendment A, a ballot measure overturned by a state court, would have permitted four separate cannabis initiatives, amounting to legal possession of up to four ounces. South Dakota has several pathways towards legalization: their state Supreme Court can overturn the lower court ruling. After that, proponents must gather 34,000 signatures for a constitutional amendment or 17,000 for a statutory measure by the conclusion of October 2021.
Both recreational and medicinal marijuana are illegal in Wyoming, meaning that proponents must start with decriminalization. Wyoming NORML has been approved to gather signatures for a proposal that eliminates jail time for possession of up to four ounces, replacing it with a fine of $50 to $200 for offenders. A separate signature collection effort would permit up to four ounces of medical marijuana per thirty days and the option to cultivate up to eight plants at home. Each initiative requires 41,000 signatures from Wyoming citizens.
Is your state potentially legalizing cannabis in 2022? What do you anticipate will change soon concerning state and national law? Let us know in the comments below if you are working in any capacity to get cannabis onto the ballot or off the law books!