Experts are saying it’s safe to have high hopes for legalization initiatives in 2022 (no pun intended.) Several states are poised to legalize recreational cannabis this year, while several others are mulling new medical marijuana laws.
“Big picture, 2022 could be a record-breaking year for legalization and medicinal cannabis, both in state legislatures and on the ballot,” said Karen O’Keefe, Director of State Policies for The Marijuana Policy Project, an organization actively involved in cannabis legalization initiatives around the country.
Cannabis legalization goes back many decades in the United States. Oregon was the first state to decriminalize cannabis in 1973, while California was the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1996.
A decade ago, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use.
“A lot of states have looked around since Colorado and Washington approved recreational cannabis in 2012 and seen the sky hasn’t fallen,” O’Keefe told GreenState. “A large and growing majority of Americans recognize that legalization and regulation, not prohibition, is the most sensible approach to cannabis — just as it was with alcohol.”
But where exactly are we most likely to see cannabis legalization in 2022? We took the question to the MPP, and they gave us the scoop.
Here are the top states cannabis legislation experts are watching in 2022.
Two Delaware House committees approved HB 150 in 2021. The bill would legalize, regulate and tax cannabis for adults 21 and older. The House Health and Human Development Committee approved the bill in March 2021, but the measure was postponed by the legislature in June.
Democratic Representative Ed Osienski, a sponsor of the original bill, has introduced a revised version, HB 305. Advocates hope it will pass this year.
The bill would legalize up to an ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and older, as well as allow for mandatory expungement of prior cannabis possession convictions.
The question of cannabis legalization is set to be placed before voters in the November election. The legislation, HB 1, has been pre-filed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Luke Clippinger and is slated to be formally introduced at the start of the 2022 legislative session this month.
The question that will be posed to voters is simple: “Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in the State of Maryland?”
The catch is, if approved, the bill would legalize simple cannabis possession in July 2023, eight months after the election.
In June of 2021, a bill to legalize cannabis for adults passed in a legislative chamber of Rhode Island’s general assembly. A proposal sponsored by Senator Josh Miller also passed through the state senate with a vote of 29-9.
Language still needs to be ironed out as to how the state would regulate Rhode Island’s adult-use cannabis market. In other words, legislators still need to come to an agreement on how to move forward.
The state’s speaker of the house, Joe Shekarchi, said cannabis legalization is one of his priorities for the 2022 legislative session. He and others are hopeful an agreement can be hammered out in the coming months.
Rhode Island’s department of business regulation, which oversees the state’s cannabis program, held a lottery last fall to hand out five additional licenses to medical cannabis businesses known as compassion centers. Due to a legal dispute, the sixth license was delayed but is expected to be awarded later this year.
An initiative championed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol announced it had submitted more than 206,000 signatures to Ohio’s secretary of state. That number eclipses the requirement by more than 70,000 signatures.
However, the state said their previous submission was insufficient. The CTRMLA responded with nearly 30,000 additional signatures.
Ohio’s legislature has four months from the time the signatures were verified to approve the measure as written, reject it or adopt an amended version. If it’s rejected, the campaign will get a chance to collect an additional 132,887 autographs from voters to get the measure on the November 2022 ballot.
The state already has a medical marijuana policy, and the legislature already has a bill to improve the existing medical marijuana program by allowing doctors to recommend cannabis for medical use to anyone who can “reasonably be expected” to benefit from its use.
This bill would streamline the approval process, allowing doctors to issue recommendations via telemedicine. Ohio’s senate approved this bill in December.
Jordan Guinn is a published journalist with bylines in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the Stockton Record and more. He’s covered everything from agriculture, to violent crime to water.