July 4 marks Independence Day in the United States. For those of us working in the cannabis industry, we recognize that independence is not universal as many are still behind bars for cannabis offenses. While it is critically important to keep track of the failures of cannabis prohibition, recognizing the impact cannabis activists have on positive change in legislation and policy is vital.
Cannabis Legalization is Seeing Massive Change
In 2021 alone, huge changes in cannabis legalization swept the nation, with many of these laws taking effect on July 1. On June 28, conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was quoted saying “prohibition may no longer be necessary,” indicating it may be time to reevaluate the long-imposed federal policies dictating cannabis’ illegality.
Though there has not been much movement regarding cannabis legalization at the federal level, these notions are vital driving forces, pushing the movement forward and getting closer to emancipating those harmed by the damaging effects of prohibition. In honor of independence, we wanted to take a look at all of the ways states have been adjusting measures to reduce arrests and allow more to participate in the legal cannabis industry.
Cannabis Laws Passed in 2021
As of Independence Day, 16 states solidified positive changes to their cannabis laws this year. Browse the states below to see if your state made any changes to its cannabis laws in 2021!
In May, the Alabama legislature legalized medical cannabis. This is a huge win for medical patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, panic disorder and other conditions, but cannabis retail is still further down the pipeline.
On July 1st, Connecticut’s recreational cannabis law went into effect. Adults 21 and older can possess up to 1.5 ounces for personal use, and retail is set to launch in 2022. This law is important for human rights as people under 18 can no longer be arrested for simple cannabis possession. The law also includes a civil fine of $50 for those between 18-20 caught with small amounts of cannabis and requires public consumption space for communities with populations over 50,000. Starting on July 1, 2022 citizens will also be able to petition to have other cannabis convictions erased, such as for the sale of small amounts of cannabis.
Georgia’s governor signed cannabis legislation expanding access to low THC medical cannabis, allowing the establishment of up to 30 retail operators, which were allowed to begin operations on July 1st.
Even Idaho made changes to its cannabis laws in 2021. The state passed a law allowing CBD products to contain up to .1% THC and took effect on July 1st.
In June, the Louisiana government passed a bill decriminalizing low amounts of cannabis. Rather than facing arrest or parish prison time, those found in possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis will receive a $100 fine.
Though many were hopeful Minnesota would pass adult-use cannabis (they haven’t yet), they were successful in expanding the medical program, adding flower as an option for patients 21 and older.
In the fall of 2020, Montanans passed a ballot initiative in support of legal adult-use cannabis. This year, legalization was signed into law, with adult-use sales set to begin January 1, 2022.
Though cannabis has been legal in Nevada for a few years now, Nevada passed legislation legalizing cannabis consumption lounges. The new law is set to roll out no earlier than October 1st.
In February, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed adult-use cannabis legalization and decriminalization measures into effect in an effort to reduce long-lasting racial disparities in terms of cannabis incarceration and advance social justice.
Cannabis legalization in New Mexico took effect on June 29, allowing for adults 21 and older to possess 2 ounces of flower, 16 grams of extracts, and 800mg of edibles for personal possession, as well as cultivation of 6 plants for personal use. New Mexico’s retail operations are set to begin by April 1, 2022.
In March, New York legalized cannabis for adult use 21 and older, and set the stage for an equitable industry, centering attention on socially equitable provisions and advancements for communities disparaged by the War on Drugs.
Pennsylvania passed an addendum to their current medical cannabis law, allowing patients to purchase 3 months of cannabis supply at curbside pickup. The Pennsylvania law update also removes the cap for how many patients caregivers may provide for. Unfortunately, personal cultivation was not able to advance.
South Dakotans may not have their recreational cannabis measure to look forward to, but medical cannabis legalization is full-steam ahead. Starting July 1, patients with out-of-state medical cards or one issued by a tribe may legally possess cannabis without the threat of arrest. For those found without a medical card, no arrest will occur if found to be in possession of fewer than 3 ounces. Beginning no later than November, medical cards will be issued, and cardholders will legally be allowed to cultivate up to six plants at home.
Tennessee’s limited medical program was expanded this year. Medical cannabis products will be able to contain up to .9% THC, and new conditions now qualify for medical cannabis including Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The new Tennessee cannabis law also created a commission to study medical cannabis more broadly.
Texas passed an expansion to their medical cannabis law, raising the THC limit to 1%. The latest expansion also added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cancer as qualifying conditions for the Texas medical program.
On July 1, Virginia became the first state in the south to legalize cannabis for adult use. Adults 21 and older can possess and cultivate small amounts of cannabis, legally able to possess up to one ounce for personal use. The law will also remove all records of misdemeanor possession of intent to distribute, cannabis arrests, and other charges and convictions from public view.
Advocacy Matters to Cannabis Policy
Activists have been working tirelessly to change course in cannabis policy and eliminate incarceration for cannabis users, uplift communities of color, and implement social equity in the cannabiz space. These new measures will impact the states directly, and will also serve as a roadmap to change public opinion and further push legislators toward legalization.
NisonCo is dedicated to raising awareness about the injustices cannabis activists face, as well as support efforts to increase participation of marginalized groups and enhance diversity across the industry. Follow along with us to keep track of the work being done, and those holding legislators accountable to ensure these freedoms are institutionalized like Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
As a reminder, we provide pro bono cannabis SEO and PR services to those engaged in advocacy and activism to promote positive change from within the cannabis industry. If you have any questions about how we can help you, contact us today.