This guide is going to take a look at the changing legality of Cannabis in America, including what to expect from the five states that legalized cannabis on Election Day 2020.
We will outline what cannabis legalization means for states like Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi, New Jersey and Montana.
As well as provide you with a full chart outlining the legal status of cannabis in all 50 states with information on the rules and regulations surrounding cannabis in each state.
A Brief History Of Hemp
Sometimes it’s just best to start at the beginning, before we look at the changing legality of cannabinoids in America, let’s take a quick historical glance at cannabis, and understand why it is illegal to begin with.
For thousands of years humans have used marijuana. The flowers for cannabis have always been coveted for their intoxicating effects.
Did you know that hemp is much more historical than that? Hemp rope was used on ships and sails.
Cannabis is one of the 50 fundamental herbs of traditional Chinese medicine and use to be prescribed for many health and religious reasons.
Chinese archaeologists have even discovered a 2,800 year old mummy buried with marijuana.
In Russia, scientists uncovered cannabis use dating back to the ancient Scythians (440 BC), and ancient Indian textbooks detail use of cannabis for a variety of reasons.
Cannabis came to the New World with many settlers, including those on the Mayflower.
Hemp rope and cloth was vital to shipping, industry, hunting, and daily life.
Many Founding Fathers grew hemp, and after the Revolutionary War, hemp was an acceptable form of tax payment.
Most paper was made from hemp in colonial times, as well as many types of fabric, including the first US flag.
Cannabis became sought after for its psychoactive effects by many creatives from writers to musicians.
Cannabis Becomes Illegal
So how can a plant with so many uses and benefits become outlawed?
In 1911 Massachusetts became the first state to make laws against cannabis.
Fueled by racial motives Harry J Anslinger, who was on the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, demonized the plant, and would continue to unleash false propaganda about marijuana.
See, Harry J Anslinger scrambled to keep himself in a job after the prohibition of alcohol ended.
To this day cannabis activists still have to fight false propaganda that Harry J Anslinger spread, including the ideas that children are in danger from cannabis.
Sometimes, I very much wonder if believers of this false propaganda really don’t know any better or simply refuse to wake up and smell the cannabis flowers.
I mean, it is 2021 after all, and almost everyone in the entire USA has access to google.
The good news: combating this false propaganda and spreading factual based research about cannabis & hemp is working!
Case and point: the changing legality of cannabis that is sweeping not only the nation, but the entire globe.
While there is still much work to do, involving federal legalization and restorative justice (where records are wiped because cannabis crimes have been proven to be racially motivated arrests), the legal landscape of cannabis is evolving.
During election week, five states had cannabis measures on the ballot and all five passed.
Hemp, “Cannabis’s Cousin” became federally legal via the farm bill in 2018.
Marijuana is now legal for adult use in 15 states and D.C., and 36 other states have some kind of law that legalized medical marijuana (although some of these laws are literally slaps in the face to those seeking cannabinoid treatment, I’m looking at you Georgia).
For Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi, Montana, and New Jersey: congratulations!
You beat the racial fueled propaganda! But- you can’t just go celebrating with some fire weed just yet.
Medical Cannabis has been legal in Arizona for a little while but passing prop 207 will allow for some changes.
Residents 21 and over may now posses up to an ounce of cannabis or 5 grams of concentrates.
They will still allow the medical provision of 2.5 ounces every two weeks to qualified medical card holders.
Arizona has laws that require you to use cannabis privately, with the exception of edibles.
Marijuana related convictions will also begin to be overturned in July of 2021. It is expected that the first recreational sales will go live in April of 2021.
Yes legalization is incredible but the true win in Arizona is the fact that cannabis related convictions will be overturned!
December 1, 2020 became the first day that Arizona residents could possess and smoke recreational cannabis under the new laws.
South Dakota citizens approved BOTH recreational and medical cannabis initiatives on the ballot in 2020!
Their recreational law will allow adults 21 + to posses and distribute up to one ounce of cannabis, and cultivate up to 3 plants.
Legalization becomes law July 1, 2021 and the states will be developing license regulations by April 1, 2022.
The state will begin licensing for medical cannabis by October 2021.
Unfortunately, South Dakota’s bills did not contain much as far as a solid, fast acting plan to get cannabis into the hands of consumers, so residents here will have to wait until the state fleshes out these laws.
A word of caution to South Dakota voters: you have several elected officials who are trying to undo this legalization.
Fact: any representative who directly ignores their constituents legalization is not a representative of the people. Keep an eye on your elected officials. They work for you, not the other way around.
Continue to keep in touch with your representation in South Dakota, urging them to not undo this socially smart, financially responsible decision.
Passage of initiative 65 establishes a medical marijuana program for 22 qualifying conditions, allowing card holders to posses up to 2.5 ounces in a 14 day period.
July 1, 2021 is the deadline to create medical registry’s from the state and August 15, 2021 will be the day medical license are issued in Mississippi!
The message Mississippi wanted to send was clear: The Deep South will no longer stand by as the rest of America has safe access. The people of Mississippi have made it clear: Republican or Democrat, States throughout our nation want and need legalization.
Lawmakers in New Jersey are already considering the kinks of legalized cannabis for their state!
Talk about being proactive!
New Jersey Lawmakers want another public vote on cannabis legalization.
Unlike South Dakota Lawmakers, New Jersey wants to be sure that tax revenue and other details of cannabis legalization are approved by the people.
If approved, New Jersey will vote next November on funneling tax revenue directly to "impact zones" - places where police knowingly targeted persons for possession.
As you can imagine, many of these neighborhoods teeter the edges of poverty, and the tax revenues generated by legal marijuana sales are an untapped wealth that could bring so much good to families and children in these communities.
Some provisions of these bills include 21+, posses up to 1 ounce or 5 grams of concentrates, counties would be able to ban sales if they wished (much like Michigan townships), but delivery can operate state wide, even if there is a ban.
Two separate decriminalization bills are being considered in the meantime to stop marijuana arrests!
It may take over a year for New Jersey to figure out how to sell adult use cannabis, but they are trying to open up pathways through current medical dispensaries, to get cannabis into the hands of consumers faster.
Initiative 90 passed, legalizing adult use cannabis, 21+, imposing a 20% tax on cannabis, and allowing provisions for restorative justice.
Allowing 1 ounce or up to 8 grams of concentrates, Montana residents will be allowed to possess, use, and grow up to 4 plants & 4 seedlings starting January 1, 2021.
Dispensary sales will begin January 1, 2022.
Medicinal Marijuana is already legal in Montana!
Other State's Cannabis Policies':
|State||Legal Status||Adult Use (Rec)||Medical||Decriminalized Statewide|
|New Jersey||Adult Use||Yes||Yes||N/A|
|South Dakota||Adult Use||Yes||Yes||N/A|
|Washington, DC||Adult Use||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|US Virgin Islands||Medical||No||Yes||Yes|
The M.O.R.E. Act
Shortly after the passage of The 2018 Farm Bill, politicians on both sides of the aisle decided to get to work on a Federal decriminalization bill.
After two years, they have decided to try to pass the M.O.R.E. Act.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act was voted on by the House of Representatives in 2020.
It is the first time either chamber of Congress has taken up a bill to legalize cannabis.
Expanding beyond simple decriminalization, the M.O.R.E. Act includes several criminal justice and social measures that will begin to undo the decades of harm caused by the War on Drugs.
People of color have been unfairly targeted by cannabis prohibition through out all levels of the government in the United States.
Both President Trump and President Biden have admitted these policies were racially motivated.
It is time both sides of the aisle accept accountability for these policies.
It's time that poverty stricken American's no longer sit in jail for dime-bag possession when their rich counterparts get fined or let go with a warning.
Social Justice Reform ensures that the people who have been unjustly and illegally been targeted by these policies can begin to put their lives back together, paving the way for expungement, and reunifying families who often do not have the funds to fight lengthy battles in our current cannabis laws.
The M.O.R.E. Act would also allow the Small Business Administration to recognize cannabis business.
Currently, because of the Controlled Substances Act cannabis businesses can't get loans from banks, take advantage of tax incentives, opportunity zones, or many other state or local business opportunities and laws that would allow minorities to have an equal playing field in the cannabis industry.
The M.O.R.E. Act establishes a trust funded for the 5% federal tax that would be added to retail sales of cannabis.
This trust will be directed toward job development and legal training initiatives in communities devastated by the failed War on Drugs.
The M.O.R.E. Act will allow those charged and/or convicted with low-level federal cannabis offenses to have their records expunged, and will incentives states to do the same.
The M.O.R.E. Act is a comprehensive cannabis legalization bill, backed by numerous organizations representing People of Color, Veterans, students, labor unions, the formerly incarcerated, victims of the opioid epidemic, and numerous others unfairly and unjustly harmed by current cannabis prohibition.
The floor vote by House is the first stop, and was passed!
The M.O.R.E act in order to go through, must be passed by the Senate and signed into law by the White House.
Unfortunately in the Senate, Mitch McConnell has been at the helm of cannabis prohibition.
Let me make this clear: when People of color are suffering behind bars for crimes that targeted them based on their skin and all you can do is "stifle laughter" and "mock" the discussion of this bill, then it becomes clear that you are no longer a Representative of the People of the United States.
Beyond social reforms, cannabis legalization has the opportunity to bring job growth, tax revenue, and aid those most devastated by the opioid epidemic and the war on drugs.
All of these are issues that Republicans agree need to be addressed. Let's address them!
Our nation needs this growth and tax revenue after the pandemic this past year.
We need to lighten the burden on our judicial system and on tax payers.
The M.O.R.E. Act has the ability to do that but only with bi-partisan support!
These states have been ravaged by the opioid epidemic.
Their Representatives should be ASHAMED. What they have tried is clearly not working. It's time to try something different.
Passage of the M.O.R.E. Act can aid everyone. It's time we have the honest conversation about cannabis.
Americans need the M.O.R.E. Act.
Will America see Legalization?
I know I speak for the entire team at Wellicy: We hope it does!
As cannabis becomes legalized, many manufacturers in hemp are continuing to urge the DEA to step away from hemp.
As cannabis becomes legalized, many in the hemp industry are continuing to advocate for Safe Access for All Americans.
Cannabis crimes continue to impact Americans in poverty exponentially over their rich counter parts.
Which is why SO many states are continuing to add provisions for restorative justice.
Cannabis isn’t a crime.
It’s a medication that many people need access too.
Medical legalization often isn’t enough because the poorest citizens cannot afford fees for licenses.
Not to mention research is proving all kinds of propaganda about the Devil’s Lettuce harming kids, killing brain cells, and turning you into a zombie-fied devil worshiper as false.
Especially not when comparing it to alcohol, another substance that has mind altering effects and is legal and pushed on consumers by massive advertising campaigns.
Honestly, you can’t even compare the two, and when you really begin to, it kind of makes you wonder why alcohol isn’t illegal and cannabis is legal.
We will continue to work with our partner companies and comply with federal regulations about hemp products, including the legality of Delta-8-THC, while urging Americans to repeal bans on cannabis across the USA.