The green wave is already making splashes in multiple red states this year, with marijuana legalization bills being introduced in at least six traditionally conservative states so far for 2019 sessions.
On Wednesday, lawmakers in Kentucky and West Virginia put forward pieces of legalization legislation, the latest in a growing list of states where the thought of lawmakers even considering full legalization would have been implausible just a couple years ago.
Legislatures in Indiana, Missouri, Texas and Virginia could also vote on legalization bills that have already been introduced this year.
Whether each of these bills has enough support to pass is another question. While marijuana reform is an increasingly bipartisan issue, there are various obstacles lawmakers will have to overcome—such as anti-legalization governors in some states.
West Virginia is a good example of that problem. On the same day that Sen. Richard Ojeda (D) introduced his bill to allow adults 21 and older to consume, possess, and cultivate cannabis for personal use, Gov. Jim Justice (R) emphasized that he is “adamantly, adamantly, etched-in-stone, adamantly against recreational marijuana” during a State of the State address.
Separately, Ojeda announced that he will be resigning from the state Senate next week in order to focus on a 2020 presidential run.
In Kentucky, Sen. Dan Seum (R) also filed legislation to fully legalize cannabis in the state on Wednesday. Unlike the noncommercial approach in the West Virginia bill, however, Seum’s proposal would permit and tax retail marijuana sales.
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In a floor speech, Seum said the state could collect tax revenue, address racial disparities in marijuana enforcement and reduce overcrowding in jails under his bill. He also remarked that Kentucky “grows the best” and has a unique agricultural landscape that would allow the state to “double up on this revenue.”
Sen. Dan Seum on legalizing cannabis in #Kentucky
— Jason Maynard (@KYMMJason) January 9, 2019
Earlier this week, Virginia lawmakers put forward legalization legislation—two separate new proposals out of about a dozen marijuana-related bills that have been filed in the state this session. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) reiterated his support for the more modest step of decriminalization on Wednesday, saying the policy would “ease overcrowding in our jails and prisons, and free up our law enforcement and court resources for offenses that are a true threat to public safety.”
Missouri Rep. Brandon Ellington (D) wasted no time pushing for full legalization, pre-filing a bill in early December that would legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana.
In Texas, a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis was among multiple marijuana-related pieces of legislation that were pre-filed before the formal start of the session.
And New Jersey lawmakers are also considering several marijuana legalization bills, including one that was approved by legislative committees late last year.
“Lawmakers are increasingly finding ways to support legalization, regardless of their political ideology,” Carly Wolf, who was recently promoted to state policies coordinator at NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “The debunked stigma of ‘Reefer Madness’ is rapidly falling by the wayside and politicians of all stripes can now support establishing a commercial cannabis marketplace in a manner that is consistent with their worldview.”