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At the start of 2021, the outlook for cannabis legalization was optimistic. Most cannabis companies saw record-high valuations, nearly all Democratic party leaders in Washington advocated for legalization, and cannabis businesses and workers had even been deemed essential during the lockdown days of the previous year.
Unfortunately, at least at the federal level, not much happened. Several pieces of legislation were discussed, but none saw notable progress. Even the SAFE Banking Act stalled once it reached the Senate.
At the state level, several states legalized cannabis (New York, Virginia, New Mexico, and Connecticut). However, other states that seemed primed for legalization (Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) saw little to no progress.
However, there’s still reason to believe that legalization could be on the horizon in 2022. Read on for 2022 updates on federal and state cannabis legalization.
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Forbes said, in regard to legalization in 2021, that “The year came in with the optimism of a giant hot air balloon and slowly but surely that optimism for change leaked out. By the end of the year, legalization supporters felt more like a helium balloon a week after a 5 year old’s birthday party.”
As harsh as that sounds, we have to ask ourselves whether 2022 will see that same lack of movement at the federal level. Particularly since public support for legalization has continued to grow. At the end of last year, a Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans support legalization. So, what’s the current status of cannabis legalization at the federal level?
Admittedly, it might not happen any time soon due to the myriad of problems Washington is handling. The Biden administration is juggling the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the third year of a global pandemic, mask mandates, infrastructure, and more. While the U.S. House of Representatives did advance provisions of the SAFE Banking Act, it’s not expected to proceed past the Senate.
The lack of forward movement certainly impacted the cannabis market with prices taking significant hits at the end of 2021. However, Cannabis Business Times emphasizes that thoughtful investment in any industry requires a long-term strategy that looks at multiple variables. Brad Sodowick, a finance professor at Drexel University’s LeBow School of Business, told them “marijuana sales in legal states will continue to grow exponentially in 2022 and beyond.”
So, while federal legalization may not have seen the progress we hoped for, there’s still reason for optimism. The National Law Review even says, “last year saw more bills introduced into Congress (including two new federal legalization proposals) than ever before – clearly indicating its import to our nation’s leaders. Justice Clarence Thomas from the Supreme Court even subtly advised Congress to address legalization, noting that the Federal Government’s current ‘half in, half out regime’ on cannabis strained the principles of federalism.”
The future of cannabis legalization is much brighter at the state level. Several states legalized cannabis in some form in 2021, and several more could follow suit in 2022.
Multiple campaigns are working to give Arkansas citizens a say in legalization this year (Arkansans for Marijuana Reform, Responsible Growth Arkansas, and Arkansas True Grass). It’s possible, depending on the success of these campaigns, that Arkansans could see cannabis on a ballot this year.
While disagreements over social equity funding stalled legislative efforts to legalize cannabis for adult use in 2021, MPP reports that “the House Appropriations Committee approved HB 305, a bill that would make cannabis legal for adults 21 and older, replacing prohibition with a system of regulation that focuses on public health and equity.” It now needs approval by the House of Representatives.
Earlier this year, a Hawaii Senate Committee approved a bill that would legalize medical marijuana for those who are 65 and older. If made into law, it would automatically qualify these individuals for medical marijuana even if they haven’t been diagnosed with a qualifying condition.
The medical marijuana legalization bill that passed in Kansas in 2021 may see more progress this year. While the bill has continued to shuffle between various committees, Kansas Democrats are introducing proposals to let voters decide on both medical and adult-use cannabis. While Governor Laura Kelly supports medical cannabis, there is significant pushback from Kansas Republican leaders.
Kentucky, a state with severely limited access that only allows CBD for research, may break away from these constrictions in 2022. The LETT’s Grow Bill is being advertised “...as a comprehensive approach to adult-use legalization.” Governor Andy Beshear is a supporter of medical cannabis and Democratic leaders have indicated that cannabis will be a high priority in 2022.
In February, Maryland lawmakers “laid the groundwork for legalizing recreational marijuana with the initial approval of a House bill detailing how much a person could possess and which former arrests would be expunged, among other things.” The Washington Post says the bill would allow for the possession of 1.5 ounces or up to 2 plants, automatic expungements of certain cannabis-related arrests, and resentencing for those convicted of certain cannabis-related charges.
In January of 2022, Mississippi became the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana when the legislature approved the “Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act.” The Governor signed it into law in February and the act went into effect immediately.
State Senate approved a medical marijuana bill in February 2022 that would legalize medical cannabis in oil, creams, gummies, and edibles while prohibiting the use of smokable or combustible dry forms. The bill is now headed to the House of Representatives for consideration. Under this bill, possessing cannabis in plant form could still be punishable as a misdemeanor.
This February, the Virginia Senate passed a bill that would allow recreational cannabis sales as soon as September of 2022. Unfortunately, a House of Delegates subcommittee voted down the legislation. For now, the only legal methods of obtaining cannabis remain as they were—grow it, be gifted it, or purchase it from a medical dispensary with a prescription.
While the practical applications for our terpenes extend beyond cannabis, our passion for this science was birthed from the cannabis industry. We genuinely want to see a thriving and successful cannabis industry, so we’ll always be keeping an eye out for important industry news. Follow us for all the latest updates.
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