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Legal Marijuana

3 of the Biggest States Are Likely to Make Adult-Use Marijuana Legal This Year

New York, New Jersey and Illinois are huge markets where political winds have shifted strongly against prohibition.
3 of the Biggest States Are Likely to Make Adult-Use Marijuana Legal This Year
Image credit: Jane Khomi | Getty Images
Guest Writer
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4 min read
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Ten states have now legalized adult-use marijuana. That’s a remarkable number considering it stood at “zero” at the beginning of the decade.

Which states look likely to add to that number in 2019? Many believe the following states are close to making adult-use cannabis legal in 2019. All three are among the states with the highest populations in the country.

Potential Legal Marijuana States in 2019

Note the action has moved from voter referendums to legislation in these states. Previously,  all but one of the states that legalized marijuana did so through a voter referendum. The lone exception is Vermont. Politicians now seem ready to take the lead on making marijuana legal in 2019.

Related: CBD Is Just the Beginning of the Limitless Opportunities of Legal Hemp

New York

In New York, with just shy of 20 million residents, Gov. Andrew Cuomo who once called marijuana a gateway drug has reversed his opinion. In 2018, shortly after winning reelection to a third term, he endorsed legalization in a speech given in Manhattan.

His reasoning followed that used by other politicians. Most hit on two key issues.

One is that legal cannabis will raise tax revenue. In New York, experts estimate a $1.7 billion annual market. The other is that legalization is social justice. That’s backed by statistics showing police arrest minorities and the poor for drug possession at higher rates.

Cuomo also focused on the social justice issue. “The fact is we have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well off, and one for everyone else,” Cuomo said, according to the New York Times.

New Jersey

Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s opposition to marijuana is a distant memory. Current Gov. Philip Murphy endorsed legalization during his campaign. Since taking office in January 2018, he and state legislators have made progress on making that a reality. They still must hammer out details for the state’s system and agree on tax rates. Many expect them to take up the issue in 2019 and potentially get legalization done.

While legislation to legalize marijuana has stalled over a host of issues from tax rates to the mechanics of expunging unjust criminal records, there is no major opposition to legalization in principle. Nine million Garden State residents are likely to have legal access to marijuana within another year.

Related: Denver's Marijuana Czar Reflects on the Building America's First Legal Week Market

Illinois

In Illinois, with 12.7 million residents, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and House Speaker Michael Madigan endorse legalizing adult-use weed. Most expect Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who have pushed for reform, to lead the way.

Momentum is on their side. A recent survey found 66 percent of Illinois voters approve of legalizing marijuana. A University of Illinois study estimated that legal marijuana in Illinois would create 23,600 new jobs and pump $1 billion in the state’s economy. The study also projected $525 million in tax revenue.

That’s music to the ears of state officials who have been mired in a budget crisis for years.

Based on the July 1, 2018 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, legalization in these three state would mean another 41.1 million Americans would live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal.

Politicians in other states also have discussed legalization. They include Minnesota, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The states that currently allow recreational marijuana are Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Michigan voters approved adult-use sales in November 2018.

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