As legalized marijuana becomes more commonplace, longstanding resistance is diminishing. States that once seemed impervious to pressure from activists may be next in line to legalize cannabis.
Florida is among the most conservative states in the country but recently, attitudes around cannabis appear to be changing dramatically. A recent poll showed 64% of Florida voters support adult recreational cannabis use. Currently, a constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and older (which would also allow home growth of up to 18 plants) needs about 900,000 signatures to be brought before voters in 2022. Not to mention, the Sunshine State is home to one of the country’s premier cannabis universities.
Ohio, the conservative rust-belt state, has also recently shown signs of softening its stance on marijuana prohibition. In 2015, a ballot measure legalizing recreational cannabis while continuing restrictions on cultivation and sales failed on election day. Polling there now indicates 53% of Ohio voters are in favor of recreational adult-use marijuana.
In Ohio, there is a current proposal led by cannabis activists to legalize cultivation, manufacturing, and sales. The legislation would also impose a 10% tax on recreational marijuana in addition to local sales tax. The law would allocate income from that tax toward support for substance abuse education and social equity. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is currently gathering the 130,000 valid signatures for the state legislature to present the measure to voters.
Washington D.C. legalized recreational cannabis in 2014. That impact has been felt in nearby Maryland ever since. Legislators in Maryland legalized medical marijuana in 2017; since then, the program has brought in $100 million in sales. As of September 2021, Maryland lawmakers have begun discussing recreational cannabis legalization. A group in the Maryland House of Delegates is studying the requirements to legalize marijuana within the next 12 months. Almost 70% of Maryland residents approve legalized adult-use marijuana.
Neighboring states, New Jersey and New York, have legalized recreational use of cannabis recently. It seems predictable that Pennsylvania should follow suit. Pennsylvania Governor Wolf approved the legalization of medicinal marijuana in 2016 and now, legalized adult-use marijuana seems inevitable. Currently, Pennsylvania legislatures have multiple cannabis legalization bills in front of them. Of those, a bipartisan proposal includes provisions for equity and social justice, while a Republican-led bill lacks requirements for record expungement for nonviolent marijuana convictions. With 58% of Pennsylvania residents supporting legalization, either statement stands a good chance of passing.
Whether it’s cannabis as medicine, a recreational substance (akin to alcohol), or simply as big business, the topic has appeal for broad strata of voters. The 2022 midterms next November could signal the dying days of cannabis prohibition and possibly pave the way for federal legalization.