4/20 Marijuana Legislative Update

Husch Blackwell LLP

Happy 4/20!

As the nation gets ready to celebrate the unofficial marijuana holiday, 4/20, we thought this was a great time to provide an update on the state of marijuana. 2021 has seen an increase in support for marijuana legalization at the state as well as federal level.  Coming off a year of uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic, marijuana legalization is poised to make substantial progress.  In many states, marijuana businesses were deemed essential businesses during the pandemic, highlighting the overall importance of these establishments.

In further support of marijuana legalization, last evening, the House of Representatives passed the SAFE (Secure and Fair Enforcement) Banking Act, by a bipartisan vote of 321-101.  Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) again led the charge as a Sponsor, being joined by Steve Stivers (R-OH), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and Warren Davidson (R-OH), and 177 co-sponsors.  The vote broke down with all 215 democrats voting “Yea” and 106 of the 207 republicans voting “Yea”.   In 2019, the SAFE Banking Act was passed by the House but stalled in the Senate, having received one hearing but no vote. This year, advocates are hopeful a more friendly senate will allow Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to take up the bill and bring it to the floor for a vote before the end of the year.

Other notable Marijuana Legislation

2021 seems to be a turning point for how states are legalizing marijuana.  Historically, most states legalized marijuana through voter initiatives, including four states in November, Election Day, in 2021,  we are seeing a shift to legislatures taking control and passing adult-use measures.  On March 31, 2021, New York’s legislature and governor enacted adult-use marijuana. Virginia’s legislature passed legislation and approved the Governor’s amendments to allow adult-use marijuana on April 7, 2021. And finally, New Mexico’s legislature passed adult-use marijuana legislation that the governor passed on April 12, 2021.  Each of these states are in the process of creating their rules, which Husch Blackwell will keep an eye on to see how these programs are instituted.

Current State of Marijuana:

Recreational – Taking into consideration the above legislation, there are now 17 states, two territories and the District of Columbia that allow adult-use marijuana.  Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, California, Nevada, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, Arizona, Vermont, Montana, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico and Virginia.[1]

Medical – 36 states have medical marijuana and cannabis programs, 11 states allow the use of “low THC, high CBD” products for medical reasons, and only 3 states have a complete prohibition or no public access program for marijuana –  Kansas, Nebraska and Idaho.  The 11 states with low THC, high CBD are Wyoming, Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

Our Cannabis team will continue to follow legislation at the state and federal levels as adult-use and medical marijuana legalization are continuing to make progress in the U.S. If you have questions, please contact Steve Levine, Meghan Brennan or your Husch Blackwell attorney.

[1] Please note – although South Dakota voters passed adult-use marijuana in November 2021, in February 2021, a Circuit Judge ruled the measure was unconstitutional and is being appealed. We have not included this in the above numbers.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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