Marijuana Legalization Going Into 2020

by Alfred van der Heide
marijuana plant

marijuana plantMany people see legalization as a potential domino effect for the cannabis, hemp, and CBD industries. Even for people living in areas where all of this is legal, added legality in other areas brings more money into the greater industry, which means more opportunity to build infrastructure and a greater audience for products. With this in mind, anyone with a connection or interest in the CBD/marijuana industries should have a close look at the progression of legalization efforts across the country going into 2020. Here’s what we know already.

State Efforts

In many ways, 2019 wasn’t quite the watershed year that many industry advocates had hoped for in terms of marijuana legalization. As of this writing, 11 states, as well as the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, with 33 states allowing medical marijuana use for qualified patients. Note that CBD products and hemp that meets set lows for THC content do not apply to these limits.

While only one of those 11 states legalized in 2019, it is quite an important one. Illinois marked the second-largest state to legalize adult-use cannabis (behind California) and notably, was the first state ever to have its legislature pass a commercial system. To put this in perspective, when Vermont legalized in 2018, it only legalized home possession, not commercial sales. In addition, almost all states to date have legalized marijuana via a referendum versus legislature. The Illinois measure is closer to the freedom that states like Colorado and countries like Canada enjoy. Here are a few key details on the subject:

  • Illinois state residents over 21 can purchase and possess up to 30 grams of marijuana at a time. Non-residents can purchase up to 15 grams
  • Counties and cities in the state of Illinois can ban cannabis businesses from setting up in their area. However, they can’t ban individual possession
  • Criminal records for past low-level offenders will be expunged
  • Potential vendors in areas with high poverty and drug convictions get preferential treatment
  • A portion of tax revenue from marijuana sales will be given to low-income communities

With this said, there were other states that were anticipated to make that step, and things appear to have stalled. Here’s a look at the three main states and what exactly went wrong:


New York: New York went the farthest of the three states listed when it comes to marijuana legislation in 2019. Decriminalization bills were quickly passed to expunge some cannabis related records and reduce criminal possession.


New Jersey: Ultimately, discussions on social justice aspects of the legalization bill caused legalization talks to stall, despite a governor in favor of it. However, New Jersey did pass a very strong expungement plan, giving a clean slate to past offenders convicted of possessing up to five pounds of cannabis.


Rhode Island: While a plan was introduced in last year’s budget to legalize, some limits in place drew the ire of the marijuana industry. Six medicinal marijuana dispensaries were created.


With all this said, legalization isn’t off the table in those states by any means. Illinois may very well serve as an example for these and other states that are mulling over a potential way to implement legalization that satisfies everyone. Time will tell if they make a leap in 2020, or if other states are going to get involved first.

Marijuana Legalization Going Into 2020 2

Legalization and The 2020 Election

It would be difficult to avoid news these days that doesn’t give some sort of discussion about the upcoming 2020 presidential election. Without getting into an overly political debate, it’s important that we discuss legalization’s role in this upcoming election, as it’s likely going to be more of a campaign topic than ever before.


Remember, the existing state laws on the book serve as exceptions to a greater federal designation of cannabis products as a controlled substance. As public opinion turns more in favor of legalization, though, we’re seeing more and more candidates supporting it, while it seemed like a taboo and unattainable goal before. Here are some of the key presidential candidates and their stances on legislation.

Joe Biden: The former vice president had a staunch anti-drug stance earlier in his career, and is the only Democratic candidate opposed to federal legalization. However, he has supported decriminalization efforts, as well as classifying cannabis as a federal schedule II drug. This would allow for scientific research.


Cory Booker: Notably, the New Jersey senator is the chief sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act. On top of legalization, he wants to put together social equity programs to repair the harm done prior to legalization.


Kamala Harris: Harris has taken a major shift over the past few years, from disregarding the notion of legalization to signing on with the Marijuana Justice Act and discussing her own cannabis use. She has also introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act.


Bernie Sanders: Sanders is notable for being a legalization proponent for longer than many of his competitors. In the 2016 election, he made history as the first candidate to openly support legalization. He is also a major sponsor of Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act.


Elizabeth Warren: Warren initially didn’t support a bill that allowed her state of Massachusetts to legalize for adult use. However, since then she has offered her support to a variety of cannabis reform bills, including ones that would end federal prohibition.Donald Trump: The current president’s stance over the past few years on cannabis has been a bit confusing for advocates. Originally, he believed it was a matter for states. However, most of his actions since taking office have blocked legalization reform. Most likely, this trend will continue if he is re-elected.


Aside from the presidential election, 2020 is poised to be a key year in terms of future state legislation as well. The following states have already begun to take steps to getting a legalization question on the ballot:


  • New Jersey
  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Nebraska


Other states may soon get on board as well. we’re certain to see some major ripple effects across the industry in the next year.

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