The past few years have been an inflection point for cannabis legalization in the United States. By the end of 2022, 42% of all US states had made recreational marijuana legal. That percentage amounts to 21 states plus the District of Columbia. In 37 other states, marijuana products are legal for medicinal purposes. This includes 11 states that allow CBD oils and small amounts of THC. Where once it was the norm for all forms of cannabis to be criminalized, only 2 states today maintain its illegality. Those states are Idaho and Nebraska.
Why Does the Law Not Follow Public Opinion?
Despite this incredible change, official law still lags public opinion in the United States. 59% of those polled support both medical and recreational marijuana usage. 30% support medical use only and 10% do not support legalization in any form. The difference between the population with access to legal recreational marijuana and the population in support of it is 15%. That’s a difference of over 45 million people.
Predictions expect the trend towards cannabis legalization at the state level to continue in 2023. Even in states that have already legalized marijuana and/or CBD, the regulations around the industry are constantly changing. States are learning what sort of restrictions they need to place on the now-legal products to protect both public health and children. For states with a lot of marijuana-related drug offenders, there is concern about providing prisoners a path out of prison now that their offense is no longer a crime.
For those chiefly concerned with recreational legalization only, researchers expect 7 new states could approve recreational marijuana by 2030. These states are not confined to any single region or partisan lean. They are: Florida, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. The time period between medical and recreational approval is shortening. Where California took over 20 years, Massachusetts only took 4.
At the federal level, hope remains for a nationwide legalization. 50 federal bills related to cannabis were introduced in 2022. Biden also pardoned non-violent offenders of marijuana possession from their federal convictions in 2022. The national tipping point may not be far away.