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Breaking Down Marijuana Law Reform in 2020

© Stock Pot Images / Kristen Angelo

The next two years have the potential to be the most successful in the history of the marijuana law reform movement. The momentum of the last 20 years – combined with an ever-growing army of activists online – has shifted the conversation on cannabis to a place where things no one thought possible 10 years ago are now very possible, including some sort of movement on a federal level.

“It appears very likely that some form of comprehensive cannabis policy reform will at least get a hearing at the federal level in 2019, though it is impossible to tell if it would get a vote or if that vote would be successful,” Morgan Fox, the Media Relations Director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told The Marijuana Times. “We should have a better idea in the coming months as committee assignments are finalized and we are able to meet more frequently with the new Congress. However, I would imagine that any changes in federal law, including things like allowing banks to do business with the cannabis industry and eliminating the unfair 280E tax code, would give states more confidence to move forward with sensible reform of their own.”

And the list of states that could make attempts at recreational legalization during the next 2 years is a long one. “Right now, we are looking at a strong likelihood of NJ, IL, VT, NH, DE, CT, NY, and RI passing adult use legalization measures in their legislatures by 2020,” Morgan said.

Add to that list states like Florida, Ohio, Arizona and North Dakota that could bring adult use before voters at the ballot box in November of 2020 and you have a dozen possibilities. If success along those lines is total, there could be over 20 states in the U.S. with some form of adult use legalization by 2021, which is more than double what we have now.

And as Morgan mentioned above, federal law reform could have a very liberalizing effect on lawmakers in states that don’t make the recreational radar at this time. Once the “we can’t do anything because of federal law” excuse is taken away, many politicians will have no reasons left to avoid cannabis law reform.

Having said all that, it’s important to remember that success over the next two years is not inevitable; conditions are more favorable than they have ever been to be sure, but that’s only because of the work put in over the last few decades. And work is what it will take to finally slay the dragon that is cannabis prohibition.

In the end, no matter how popular legalization is, it may not be universal in the U.S. There will likely be states that hold out longer than others, even if every state does eventually adopt some form of legalization.

“Because of the recent surge in popularity of this issue, both among voters and politicians, and the continued success of regulated adult use and medical cannabis programs around the country, it is tough to say which states will be the last, and how long it will take for them to change their laws,” Morgan told us. “It will be difficult to continue opposing sensible reform in the face of public outcry and positive data. But I think one can look at the places where cannabis penalties are most severe and where there is the least amount of legislative support, such as Alabama and Idaho.”

Activists everywhere have a lot of work to do; there is much at stake.