What States Will Legalize Marijuana Next?
Actions by states to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana use and possession are fueling momentum for the broader movement to legalize cannabis and serve as an economic engine for cash-strapped coffers, industry members, and policy experts.
“I expect a record number of states to legalize marijuana in 2021, partly due to the financial pressures, along with the racial injustice imperative to reduce unnecessary police-civilian interactions,” said Karen O’Keefe. Keefe is the director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, the lobbying organization behind many state cannabis policies in place today.
In recent weeks, a spate of US states has sought to relax decades-old drug laws that criminalized cannabis use and possession and disproportionately jailed Black people for non-violent offenses.
Nevada pardoned more than 15,500 people who were convicted of carrying less than an ounce of cannabis. Georgia lawmakers added decriminalization to a police reform bill that faces a challenging path to approval, considering that state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly and that the legislative session ends on June 30, the Savannah Morning News reports.
Decriminalization legislation also is advancing in New Jersey. In Colorado, a bill aimed at diversifying the state’s legal cannabis industry was amended to allow Democratic Governor Jared Polis to expunge residents’ low-level cannabis convictions.
Virginia’s new decriminalization law also includes provisions to create a workgroup to evaluate the potential impact of cannabis legalization.
In recent years, the calls have grown for firmer policies. They are addressing social justice and social equity concerns by reducing the number of people imprisoned for non-violent cannabis offenses, directing tax revenue to communities harmed by Drug War policies, and increasing the number of minority business owners and employees.
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