As state governors unveil their budget proposals for 2023, cannabis consumers and activists pay close attention to how governors addressed marijuana in their State of the State speeches and budgets. Here is a dive into several governors’ efforts to implement cannabis legalization, implementation, and reform.
Governor Tim Walz (D) of Minnesota presented $25 million to launch the “Cannabis Management Office,” a state authority to oversee a recreational marijuana plan. This has come as a surprise to many, as Minnesota does not legally allow recreational use of cannabis. Walz is using this significant chunk of funding to encourage and call on lawmakers to make strides to legalize on the 2022 ballot.
The Cannabis Management Office would oversee the “safe and responsible legalization of cannabis for adult use in Minnesota.” In essence, should cannabis be legalized, this office would develop the framework for how the cannabis sector would function in Minnesota. According to Walz, funding would also be used to provide grants for “individuals entering the legal cannabis market.”
Walz also plans on the money to be used to fund substance abuse prevention and treatment and an education program to help combat cannabis use among children and pregnant women.
Gov. Phil Murphy ( R) also outlined upcoming budgetary cannabis provisions for New Jersey. Voters approved legalization in 2020, yet the first sale may still be months away. Murphy expects a substantial economic upswing in 2023, as the N.J. cannabis market takes off. In his State of the State speech, he said, “Many jobs await in the cannabis industry ready to take off,” He is also allocating funds for “businesses in the new cannabis industry that we are setting up in the name of social justice” to “continue growing the innovation economy that will power our future and make us a model for the nation and the world.”
Last year Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed a legalization bill into law. As the State is looking to gear up the rollout, Grisham said in her State of the State address, “We’re expanding our economic footprint into every single community. Legal cannabis is going to create thousands of jobs and serious tax revenue for local governments to support local services in every corner of our State.”
For the second year in a row, Governor Dan McKee (D) proposed the legalization of cannabis in his annual budget plan. McKee also added new language that would automatically delete records for cannabis use in the State. According to the governor, adults 21 and up could purchase and possess as much as a one-ounce bag and store up to five ounces in their residence. In an executive summary, it was stated that, “The governor recommends creating a strictly regulated legal market for adult-use cannabis in the State. This proposal would create a weight-based excise tax on marijuana cultivation, an additional retail excise tax of 10 percent, and also apply sales tax to cannabis transactions.”
Rhode Island had the eighth highest number of cannabis uses per capita just with a medical marijuana market, so the demand from the public will be vital. However, the executive office and legislators have had a long disagreement about what organization would regulate a legalized cannabis program, which McKee did not address in the budget proposal. If a bill is presented to the Rhode Island legislature, that may be the main hold up and passing legalization.
Wisconsin’s governor also introduced recreational cannabis as part of the State’s budget. Governor Tony Evers (D) said in a release, “Legalizing and taxing marijuana in Wisconsin—just like we do already with alcohol—ensures a controlled market and safe product are available for both recreational and medicinal users and can open the door for countless opportunities for us to reinvest in our communities and create a more equitable state,” He continued, “Frankly, red and blue states across the country have moved forward with legalization, and there is no reason Wisconsin should be left behind when we know it’s supported by a majority of Wisconsinites.”
Evers’s office expects $165 million to be generated annually if Wisconsin legalizes.
As Evers said, both “red” and “blue” state governors have acknowledged the rising support behind cannabis legalization, and several have thrown their weight behind that support. Hopefully, cannabis consumers will see many of these governors’ ideas and projections come to fruition in the next several years.