Cannabis advocates have a lot to celebrate this April 20, the unofficial marijuana holiday.
Efforts to legalize marijuana are gaining momentum at both the state and federal level. Congress legalized marijuana’s close cousin, hemp, in December. And public support for cannabis is higher than ever.
“Never in modern history have we had more political support and momentum for ending policy of marijuana prohibition,” said Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, a marijuana legalization advocacy group. “Now, the real questions that are being discussed throughout the halls of Congress and state legislatures and in dining rooms nationwide is no longer if but how, and the how matters.”
Recreational use of marijuana is now legal in 10 states and Washington, D.C. Michigan became the first state in the Midwest to allow adult recreational use last year. New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, New Hampshire and Rhode Island are actively considering similar laws, while even more state policymakers are supporting legalization.
Fourteen states have decriminalized marijuana and 33 allow medicinal marijuana use.
Full federal legalization is likely still far off, but lawmakers are warming up to the idea. Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, have embraced legalization. Some lawmakers are also pushing for criminal justice reform.
New Jersey Senator and 2020 Democratic hopeful Corey Booker in February reintroduced the Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize weed and automatically expunge marijuana convictions from people’s criminal records.
A House committee recently marked up a bill that would allow banks to serve cannabis companies. Marijuana Moment is tracking 1,038 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress for the 2019 session.
“There’s been a growing public dialogue that just feeds on itself,” said Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert.
“In the last couple years and particularly this year, things are starting to change,” said Morgan Fox, spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association.
More Americans support legalizing marijuana than ever before, with two-thirds saying they think it should be made legal, according to a Gallup poll published in the fall. That’s up from less than one-third in 2000.
People will start hearing about cannabis much more thanks to Congress in December legalizing marijuana’s close cousin hemp. Companies are now adding CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabis compound, in everything from seltzer to cheeseburgers.
Yet despite the apparent optimism around cannabis, the feelings aren’t universal. One-third of Americans don’t think marijuana should be legal, according to the same Gallup poll. New Hampshire lawmakers passed a bill legalizing marijuana but the state’s governor has vowed to veto it.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Strekal said. “We’ve made remarkable progress, and we’re looking to build on that momentum.”