Many 2021 state legislative sessions are already in full swing, as several states are poised to enact significant reform in the year ahead. Several Governors and other top legislative leaders across the country have been ramping up their calls for enacting marijuana legalization this year, whether it be for adult or medical use. Here’s a breakdown of which Governors and where are calling on lawmakers to enact meaningful reform in 2021.
Governor Ned Lamont (D) made marijuana legalization a major part of his platform when campaigning for the governorship ahead of the 2018 election, and he has continued to make it one of his top priorities ever since. Most recently, Lamont called for adult use legalization during his State of the State address: “I am working with our neighboring states and look forward to working with our tribal partners… as well as the legislature on legalization of marijuana… Legalized marijuana [is] happening all around us. Let’s not surrender these opportunities to out-of-state markets or, even worse, underground markets.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has introduced adult-use marijuana legalization proposals for the past two years, and he recently released new details for his forthcoming legalization proposal. Separate legislation is also pending in the state legislature, with almost a third of senate lawmakers already signed on as cosponsors. Most recently, Gov. Cuomo discussed marijuana legalization in his State of the State address: “We will legalize adult-use recreational cannabis, joining 15 other states who’ve already done so. This will raise revenue and will end the over-criminalization of this product that has left so many communities of color over-policed and over-incarcerated.”
After campaigning on the issue of decriminalizing marijuana possession, Governor Ralph Northam recently announced his support for the enactment of broader adult use marijuana legalization in Virginia in 2021. When releasing his proposed budget for the upcoming year, Northam included funding for the expungement of past marijuana convictions as well as to establish an adult use marijuana market. Upon releasing his budget proposal, Northam said: “We know that laws to ban marijuana historically were based in discrimination, and criminalization laws have disproportionately harmed minority communities.” Legislation is already pending to legalize marijuana in Virginia in 2021.
Governor Phil Murphy (D) has supported adult-use marijuana legalization since campaigning on the issue ahead of the 2019 election. On Election Day 2020, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved Public Question 1, which instructed lawmakers to enact legislation permitting adults to possess and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers. In this year’s State of the State address, Murphy once again reiterated his dedication to enacting legalization legislation, saying: “We are on the verge of passing an innovative and groundbreaking set of laws to reform our historically unjust approach to marijuana and cannabis. Two months ago, you voted overwhelmingly to legalize adult-use marijuana, and begin the process of ending the racial imbalance that disproportionately penalizes black and brown people arrested for marijuana offenses. We’re setting up a cannabis industry that will promote the growth of new small businesses, many of which will be owned by women, minorities and veterans.”
Governor Andy Beshear (D) has called upon lawmakers to “be bold” and approve medical marijuana legislation in 2021. In his State of the State address last week, Beshear once again called for the legalization of medical marijuana: “Speaking of laws that unduly restrict us from growth and innovation, it is time to legalize medical marijuana.” Legislation is already pending to legalize medical marijuana access in Kentucky in 2021. Last year, a similar proposal was overwhelmingly approved by the state House, but did not advance in the Senate.
Governor Laura Kelly (D) has expressed support for providing medical marijuana access, and has further stated that she would also consider signing an adult use legalization bill into law should it reach her desk. As lawmakers ramp up efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the state in 2021, last week a spokesperson for Gov. Kelly said: “As our state recovers from COVID-19, legalizing medical marijuana is an innovative solution to increase state revenue and improve Kansas’ overall health and economy. We must come up with a Kansas-specific approach that’s well-regulated, controlled, and a collaborative effort with the law enforcement community.”
Other high ranking legislative leaders across the country have also been speaking out recently in favor of enacting significant marijuana reform this year, including Connecticut’s Senate president pro tempore, New York’s Lt. Governor, Virginia’s attorney general, Rhode Island’s Senate president, Minnesota’s House Majority Leader, and several democrats in Iowa.
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