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4 States Where Legalizing Marijuana Will Have to Wait Until 2021 or 2022

Residents in these states will have to wait a bit longer for recreational cannabis to be legalized.

Despite all that’s gone on in 2020, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that we’re now less than five months away from Election Day. We’ll see voters choose who’ll be president of the United States for the next four years, and could even witness the current political makeup of Congress shift.

But one of the more interesting stories for 2020 is going to be which states “go green.”

Currently, two-thirds of all states have legalized medical marijuana, with 11 of those states allowing for the consumption and/or sale of adult-use marijuana. With Election Day approaching, a dozen states have at least one ballot initiative devoted to cannabis, three states of which are guaranteed to have residents voting on those measures in November.

While there are a handful of states that look like near-certainties to legalize marijuana in November, there are just as many surprising disappointments. The following four states, which on the surface would look to have a good shot at legalizing adult-use cannabis in 2020, will have to wait until next year, or perhaps even 2022, to get their chance to go green.

Image source: Getty Images.

Florida

Maybe the biggest surprise of all is that residents of the Sunshine State won’t be heading to the polls in 2020 to vote on a recreational cannabis measure. After legalizing medical pot in 2016, the expectation had been that 2020 would be the target for adult-use weed. However, the Make It Legal Florida campaign was postponed in January 2020, pushing out any shot at recreational legalization till probably 2022.

Why suspend the campaign? Despite having the support of certain medical cannabis dispensaries in Florida, including MedMen Enterprises, and having gathered in excess of 700,000 signatures to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot, the time frame with which to verify signatures and refine the language of the proposed constitutional amendment simply wouldn’t have worked for the 2020 ballot. A minimum of 766,200 verified signatures were due by Feb. 1, 2020, and there were already clear objections to the proposed constitutional amendment by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), as well as members of the state’s legislature.

It’s also worth pointing out that, as a constitutional amendment state, a 60% “yes” vote is required for passage. Given the Sunshine State’s notable retiree population, and the fact that seniors have a less favorable view of marijuana than young adults do, passage was no guarantee, even if an amendment made it to the ballot.

Interestingly, this isn’t the worst news for Trulieve Cannabis (OTC:TCNNF) , which dominates medical marijuana market share in Florida and has 48 of its 50 operational dispensaries in the Sunshine State. By keeping its costs close to the vest, Trulieve has done an excellent job of building its brand without driving up its marketing expenses. If recreational weed is legalized, Trulieve may have to go to bat to defend its market share in the recreational space against a larger number of competitors.

Image source: Getty Images.

New York

Nearly half of all U.S. states don’t have the initiative and referendum process, which is a fancy way of saying that any changes made to cannabis policy need to occur within a state’s legislature. Though New York, one of those states lacking the initiative and referendum process, would appear to have a relatively good shot at legalizing recreational marijuana, it’s not going to happen in 2020.

At the end of March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that marijuana legalization was “not likely” to be included in the state’s fiscal budget. This was confirmed by revised budget bills that excluded would-be revenue from legalization, as pointed out by Marijuana Moment. Cuomo primarily blamed the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic for complicating budget discussions and making cannabis legalization too much of a chore, for the time being.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that New York’s recreational cannabis discussions have been derailed. Legislators looked to be on the cusp of legalizing adult-use weed during the first quarter of 2019, but lawmakers ultimately disagreed on social equity factors that were brought into the equation, such as the expungement of previous convictions for cannabis possession. Once these social factors became a sticking point, the measure stalled in the legislature.

If and when New York gets its act together (probably 2021, by my guess), Curaleaf (OTC:CURLF) will be a happy camper. Curaleaf already has more operational dispensaries than any other U.S. multistate operator, and it would undoubtedly see a boost in sales from the four New York dispensaries that are currently open. Curaleaf’s deep pockets, relative to other U.S. pot stocks, would certainly help it add to its presence in a state that should eventually yield more than $1 billion in annual pot sales.

Image source: Getty Images.

Whereas it’s a take-it-to-bank guarantee that Florida and New York aren’t legalizing in 2020, there’s technically still a sliver of hope for the Buckeye State. Ohio has two recreational marijuana initiatives on the table for addition to the 2020 ballot. Unfortunately, neither of these measures is likely to wind up in front of voters come November.

The biggest issue looks to be the impact from COVID-19. Nearly 453,000 verified signatures need to be collected before regulators can even consider putting a recreational weed initiative on the state’s ballot. However, gathering those signatures has proved virtually impossible because of social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders tied to the pandemic. These signatures are due in less than three weeks.

Then again, before proponents even get the green light to gather signatures, the language associated with the measure to regulate cannabis like alcohol (the perceived-to-be more popular of the two initiatives) will need some fine-tuning. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) rejected the measure’s ballot language back in March. Again, with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, addressing Yost’s concerns and getting the go-ahead to gather 453,000 valid signatures would be a tall task.

As the icing on the cake, few of Ohio’s medical cannabis licensees were supportive of the adult-use ballot initiatives. This makes Ohio a longshot to vote on adult-use cannabis in 2020.

Image source: Getty Images.

Missouri

Lastly, the Show-Me State is going to have to “show” America that it has what it takes to legalize recreational marijuana in 2021 or perhaps 2022, because it’s not happening in 2020.

In mid-April, the Missourians for a New Approach campaign to legalize recreational cannabis came to a grinding halt. According to the Springfield News-Leader, signature collection proved to be virtually impossible on a broad scale because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign did attempt to persuade officials to allow online signature gathering, rather than in person, but Missouri regulators rejected the idea, thereby dooming any chance at gathering the roughly 170,000 signatures needed to put the initiative on the ballot.

Although Missouri legalized medical marijuana in 2018, and two-thirds of those polled nationally (not just in Missouri) favor legalizing adult-use weed, it’s not clear that a recreational measure would pass in the Show-Me State or be implemented effectively. As a case in point, Marijuana Business Daily points out that, despite Missouri voters passing a medical marijuana initiative in November 2018, the state’s medical pot industry still hasn’t gotten off the ground. Disputes and challenges arising from rejected license applicants have overwhelmed regulators and brought progress in establishing a medical pot industry to a complete standstill.

If Missouri can’t even get its medical marijuana program off the ground in 20 months, then perhaps not voting on recreational weed in 2020 isn’t so bad, after all.

Residents in these states will have to wait a bit longer for recreational cannabis to be legalized.

Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2022)

Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative
Election date
November 8, 2022
Topic
Marijuana
Status
Gathering signatures
Type
Constitutional amendment
Origin
Citizens

The Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative (#16-02) may appear on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 8, 2022. [1]

Contents

  • 1 Measure design
  • 2 Text of measure
    • 2.1 Ballot title
    • 2.2 Ballot summary
    • 2.3 Full text
  • 3 Sponsor
  • 4 Path to the ballot
    • 4.1 The state process
      • 4.1.1 Details about this initiative
        • 4.1.1.1 Attempt to qualify in 2016
  • 5 See also
  • 6 External links
    • 6.1 Support
    • 6.2 Opposition
  • 7 Footnotes

Measure design

The amendment was designed to legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by residents at least 21 years old. Residents would be allowed to cultivate up to six plants per household, but only three or fewer plants could be mature or flowering. The plants would need to be grown in “an enclosed, locked space,” and users would not be permitted to sell the plants they grow.

Under the amendment, marijuana would be treated like alcohol—it would be prohibited for residents under 21 years of age, consumers would need to show proof of age before purchasing marijuana from retail facilities, and it would be illegal for anyone to drive while impaired or under the influence of marijuana. The amendment would also outline regulations for marijuana cultivation, retail marijuana sales, and manufacturing marijuana products. [1]

Text of measure

Ballot title

The proposed ballot title would be as follows: [1]

Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol to Establish Age, Licensing, and Other Restrictions. [2]

Ballot summary

The proposed ballot summary would be as follows: [1]

Regulates marijuana (hereinafter “cannabis”) for limited use and growing by persons twenty-one years of age or older. State shall adopt regulations to issue, renew, suspend, and revoke licenses for cannabis cultivation, product manufacturing, testing and retail facilities. Local governments may regulate facilities’ time, place and manner and, if state fails to timely act, may license facilities. Does not affect compassionate use of low-THC cannabis, nor immunize federal law violations. [2]

Full text

The full text is available here.

Sponsor

Sensible Florida, Inc. is leading the campaign in support of the initiative.

Path to the ballot

The state process

In Florida, the number of signatures required for an initiated constitutional amendment is equal to 8% of the votes cast in the preceding presidential election. Florida also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Signatures remain valid until February 1 of an even-numbered year. [3] Signatures must be verified by February 1 of the general election year the initiative aims to appear on the ballot.

The requirements to get an initiative certified for the 2022 ballot:

  • Signatures: In Florida, the number of signatures required for an initiated constitutional amendment is equal to 8% of the votes cast in the preceding presidential election. The signature requirement for 2022 ballot measures in Florida will change based on the number of votes cast in the 2020 presidential election.
  • Deadline: The deadline for signature verification is February 1, 2022. Election officials have 60 days to complete signature verification, except that election officials have 30 days to complete signature verification if the signatures are submitted less than 60 days before February 1 of an even-numbered year. This means signatures should be submitted at least 30 days in advance of the verification deadline.

In Florida, proponents of an initiative file signatures with local elections supervisors, who are responsible for verifying signatures. Supervisors are permitted to use random sampling if the process can estimate the number of valid signatures with 99.5% accuracy. Enough signatures are considered valid if the random sample estimates that at least 115% of the required number of signatures are valid.

Details about this initiative
  • As of February 5, 2020, the Florida Division of Elections showed that proponents had gathered 92,851 valid signatures. [4]
  • Attorney General Ashley Moody argued that the measure’s language is unclear. Moody said, “There is no way 10 pages of the law can be summarized clearly in 75 words or less and would adequately convey to the voters what exactly they will be voting on. That is why I will ask the Florida Supreme Court to seriously consider the sheer length and ambiguous language chosen by the sponsor when reviewing the legality of this proposed initiative.” [5] The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the measure’s ballot language on February 4, 2020. A ruling was not given. [6]
  • On December 16, 2019, Regulate Florida announced, “All signatures need to be verified by the various supervisors of elections by February 1st, which means they must be submitted by January 1st at the latest. The sad reality is that we are not going to be able to meet that deadline.” [7][8]
Attempt to qualify in 2016

This initiative was originally approved for circulation on March 17, 2016, targeting the November 2016 ballot. Supporters needed to collect a minimum of 68,314 valid signatures to have the petition reviewed by the Attorney General of Florida and 683,149 signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. The Regulate Florida campaign announced in December 2015 that it would not be able to obtain the required number of signatures. Campaign manager Michael Minardi said, “We had an uphill battle, honestly with getting a million signatures realistically from the end of August until December. We did believe with the movement and the momentum that we had that we could get this done, but unfortunately, we don’t think we’re going to at this point.” [9] [10]

Ballotpedia: The Encyclopedia of American Politics