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Marijuana’s Ten Biggest Victories Of 2018

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This year was a pivotal one for marijuana.

It began with then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sending waves of uncertainty and fear over the cannabis industry and legalization supporters on January 4, when he formally rescinded Obama-era guidelines protecting state marijuana laws.

But as 2018 went on, even more states ended up changing their laws to allow for legal recreational or medical cannabis use despite the conflict with federal law. Efforts to end national prohibition in Congress picked up steam as well. And several nations moved to significantly overhaul their marijuana laws.

Here’s a look back at marijuana’s 10 biggest victories of the year:

Lawmakers Start Passing Marijuana Legalization Bills

It didn’t take long for pro-legalization forces to get a victory on the board after Session’s anti-cannabis attack. Just hours later, on the very same day the attorney general threw the previous administration’s federal cannabis protections in the trash, Vermont lawmakers voted to approve a marijuana legalization bill. Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, went on to sign the legislation, which allows adults to grow and possess small amounts of cannabis but does not provide for a system of legal sales. That made Vermont the first state in the nation to enact legalization by an act of lawmakers instead of through a ballot initiative.

In September, lawmakers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory, also enacted a marijuana legalization bill that was later signed into law by Gov. Ralph Torres (R). Unlike the Vermont policy, CNMI’s approach does include legal cannabis commerce. The territory, which previously did not have a medical marijuana law, became the first place in the U.S. to go straight from having cannabis illegal across the board to allowing recreational use.

These two new laws—signed by Republican governors—mark an evolution in the country’s move toward legalization. Whereas the other states that had previously ended prohibition did so through acts of voters, it is now clear that politicians are comfortable enough with the issue to take matters into their own hands.

Three Red States Legalize Medical Cannabis

Support for marijuana reform transcends party lines, a political reality made clear by the fact that voters in Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah all overwhelmingly approved medical cannabis ballot measures this year while at the same time voting to elect Republicans to the U.S. Senate or nominate conservative candidates for statewide office. In Oklahoma, medical marijuana was on the primary election ballot—a situation legalization supporters have long sought to avoid because younger and more progressive voters who have been thought more likely to support cannabis reform don’t show up as reliably in non-presidential elections. But the decisive win in the red state during an off-year primary shows that medical cannabis can pass almost anywhere any time it is put before voters, whether presidential years, primaries or midterms.

First Midwestern State Legalizes Marijuana

During last month’s midterms, voters in Michigan strongly approved a ballot measure making their state the fist in the Midwest to legalize adult-use marijuana. No longer relegated to the coasts, legal markets for recreational marijuana are now an emerging nationwide trend. Separately, while not nearly as far-reaching as ending prohibition and allowing legal sales, voters in five Ohio cities also approved local cannabis decriminalization ballot measures on Election Day, signaling that a regional Midwest movement for marijuana reform is on the rise.

Pro-Legalization Candidates Win Governors’ Races

Aside from the wins at the ballot box for cannabis measures this year, voters also elected a number of new governors who campaigned on promises to legalize marijuana.

In Illinois, Democrat J.B. Pritzker sailed to victory after a campaign in which he made marijuana legalization a centerpiece of his platform. Minnesota Gov.-elect Tim Walz (D), who has worked on cannabis issues in Congress, also backs ending prohibition.

In addition to approving a legalization ballot measure, Michigan voters elected Gretchen Whitmer (D), who publicly supported the initiative and called cannabis an “exit drug” away from opioids, as governor. In New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), who won the governor’s race, said legalizing marijuana will bring “hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy.” Connecticut Gov.-elect Ned Lamont (D) said that legalizing marijuana will be among his “priorities” in 2019.

While reelected New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) previously called marijuana a “gateway drug,” in recent months he appointed a working group to draft a bill to end cannabis prohibition for lawmakers to consider in 2019, and the chances of that passing were improved as  Democrats took control of the state’s Senate in the midterms.

Members of Congress Act To Fix Federal-State Marijuana Gap

The rapid evolution of the politics of marijuana isn’t just happening on the state level. Many more members of the U.S. House and Senate became active in the fight to end federal cannabis prohibition in 2018.

More than just being ineffective in stopping states from changing their marijuana laws, Sessions’s anti-cannabis move seems to have actually spurred more federal lawmakers to view ending national prohibition as an important issue, with dozens of members of Congress quickly weighing in on the need for reform in the wake of his rescission of the Obama-era memo.

One legislator, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), went so far as to place a hold on President Trump’s Justice Department nominees over the dispute.

And while congressional Republicans blocked dozens of cannabis amendments, refusing to allow any to reach the House floor for votes, more bills to end or amend federal marijuana prohibition were filed in the 115th Congress than ever before, and they garnered record numbers of cosponsors.

And with the Democratic takeover of the House in the midterms, many observers believe that the chamber will pass far-reaching marijuana reforms in the 116th Congress, a plan for which Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) laid out in a comprehensive step-by-step “blueprint” toward federally legalizing cannabis in 2019.

Longtime Prohibitionists Flip To Support Marijuana Reform

Several of the lawmakers who vocally spoke out for ending federal marijuana prohibition this year have historically been actively hostile to cannabis reform.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), long one of Congress’s most ardent legalization opponents, announced during the course of a tough primary challenge that she finally came around to the notion that her constituents who follow California cannabis laws shouldn’t be arrested by federal narcotics agents.

Feinstein’s home state colleague, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who many believe to be preparing for a 2020 presidential run, once simply laughed in the face of a reporter who asked her about marijuana legalization. Now, the former prosecutor is all-in on ending prohibition, signing her name this year onto a far-reaching bill that would punish states with discriminatory cannabis enforcement.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who has rarely met a federal drug criminalization policy he didn’t like, changed his mind on marijuana in 2018 and filed his own bill to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

And one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), who opposed legalization in his home state of Massachusetts and consistently voted against even limited medical cannabis amendments in Congress, also evolved and now supports legalization.

While it is likely true that some of this position flipping is at least partially motivated by genuine rethinking about the policy of prohibition, it’s hard to believe that politics doesn’t have something to do with it as well. Polling now consistently shows that a growing majority of the country supports legalizing cannabis. Gallup, for example, found in October that 66% of Americans—including a majority of Republicans—are now on board with legalization.

This new politics of marijuana is likely to become more and more apparent to politicians who are still reluctant to embrace cannabis reform as a growing number of states change their laws.

President Trump Voices Support For Marijuana Bill

In a situation that stemmed directly from his own attorney general’s anti-cannabis moves, President Trump ended up lending his support to a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition.

Following Gardner’s blocking Justice Department nominees in protest of Sessions’s rescission of the Obama-era marijuana memo, the senator spoke directly with the president and elicited a pledge for the administration to respect local legalization laws in exchange for lifting his hold. Following that, he teamed up with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to file legislation to shield state marijuana policies from federal interference.

When asked about the proposal during an impromptu press conference outside the White House, Trump said he “really” supports the bill, a comment that made him the first sitting president to embrace legislation to end the federal prohibition of marijuana.

Hemp Is About To Become Legal

After decades of being caught up in the broader prohibition of cannabis, marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin hemp is poised to finally become a legal crop.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), no fan of marijuana, nonetheless actively championed the legalization of hemp through this year’s Farm Bill, going so far as to take the unusual step of naming himself to the conference committee charged with reconciling the Senate version, which had his hemp language in it, with the House version, which did not.

McConnell and other congressional leaders announced recently that the negotiated bill that will be sent to President Trump’d desk includes provisions to finally and officially remove the crop from the Controlled Substances Act. The legislation, which will bolster the growing market for hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), is expected to be enacted by year’s end.

Canada Legalizes Marijuana

In addition to having prohibition-free zones within its own borders in a growing number of states, the U.S. now has a whole country where cannabis is legal just over its northern border.

While Canada is the second nation in the world to end prohibition after Uruguay, it is the first major global economic player to do so. The move has spurred the creation and growth of several huge publicly traded cannabis companies.

As the Canadian system of legalization gets off the ground, it is likely to spur the U.S. and other nations to more seriously consider modernizing their approaches to marijuana.

Mexican Presidential Administration Backs Legalizing Cannabis

Speaking of legalization just over U.S. borders, the new administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which took office this month, is already making moves to end cannabis prohibition.

In late October, the nation’s Supreme Court struck down the criminalization of using, possessing and growing personal amounts of marijuana as unconstitutional. But LĂłpez Obrador’s team was already considering legalization even before the ruling. Weeks earlier, members of his incoming cabinet spoke about cannabis policy with Canadian officials during a trip to that country.

Subsequently, Sen. Olga Sánchez Cordero filed a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis production and sales. She is now the nation’s interior secretary. The government hasn’t said when it plans to push the legislation, but its party and partners control the legislature, so advocates expect that the U.S. could soon be surrounded on both its northern and southern borders by countries where marijuana is legal nationwide.

There May Still Be More Marijuana Wins By The End Of The Year

Aside from the seeming inevitability that more states will legalize marijuana and federal reform efforts will progress in 2019, it is possible that there are still more huge cannabis wins yet to come before 2018 is over.

For example, lawmakers in New Jersey advanced a marijuana legalization bill out of committee last month. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) supports ending prohibition, and the legislation could still end up on his desk for signing by the end of the year.

In any case, 2018 has already been a year that saw marijuana policy reform significantly advance on the state, federal and international levels, a scenario that bodes extremely well for the legalization movement heading into 2019.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

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Wyoming Activists File 2022 Marijuana Decriminalization And Medical Cannabis Ballot Measures

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Wyoming lawmakers failed to pass a bill to legalize marijuana this session. But on Friday, two measures were submitted to the state to place medical cannabis legalization and adult-use decriminalization measures before voters on the 2022 ballot.

The Libertarian Party and state Rep. Marshall Burt (L) joined with activists to file the proposed initiatives with the secretary of state’s office.

The text of the medical cannabis proposal states that patients could purchase and possess up to four ounces of flower and 20 grams of “medical marijuana-derived products” in a 30-day period.

People with one of more than a dozen qualifying conditions—including cancer, glaucoma, HIV, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and dementia—would also be able to cultivate up to eight mature plants for personal use.

Under the medical cannabis initiative, the Department of Revenue’s Liquor Division would be responsible for licensing marijuana businesses. The division would be required to promulgate rules by July 1, 2023.

The division “shall regulate the acquisition, growth, cultivation, extraction, production, processing, manufacturing, testing, distribution, retail sales, licensing, transportation and taxation of medical marijuana and medical marijuana-derived products and the operation of medical marijuana establishments in a manor that will not prove excessively burdensome for Patients to access medical marijuana or medical marijuana-derived products nor burdensome for licensed healthcare providers to certify their Patients,” the text of the measure states.

Meanwhile, activists’ separate decriminalization measure would impose small fines on people possessing up to four ounces of marijuana, without the threat of jail time. A first and second offense would be considered a misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine, while a third and any subsequent offense would penalized by a $75 fine.

Cultivating marijuana would also be considered a misdemeanor punishable by a $200 fine.

An error in the drafting of the decriminalization initiative appears that it would result in the inadvertent removal of jail time for cultivating opium and peyote as well, but a spokesperson with the Libertarian Party told Marijuana Moment that the section will be changed as part of the state’s revision and formatting period for submitting measures over the next couple of weeks.

“Having the freedom to choose cannabis, whether for medical use or personal use, is one of the hallmarks of the Libertarian Party,” the organization said in a new site dedicated to the campaign. “We believe that individuals know best when it comes to what treatments to pursue and what medicine and products to consume. When people are empowered to make decisions for themselves and are not restricted by government prohibition, they are happier and healthier.”

A bill to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult use in Wyoming advanced out of a House committee in March, but it did not move further in the legislature by the end of the session.

For the more modest medical cannabis and decriminalization proposals, petitioners will have until February 14 to collect 41,775 valid signatures from registered voters to make the ballot after the state approves the formatting of the measures.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

A poll released in December found that 54 percent of state residents support allowing “adults in Wyoming to legally possess marijuana for personal use.” Presumably, that would mean that the more moderate proposals stand to pass if they’re certified for the ballot.

Wyoming’s neighbors Montana and South Dakota were among several states that approved marijuana legalization ballot measures in November.

Former U.S. Senator and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who now resides in Wyoming and identifies as a Libertarian, is not yet directly involved in this latest marijuana ballot push, despite having testified in support of the legalization bill that advanced in the state this year.

Laryssa Gaughen, communications director for the Libertarian National Committee, told Marijuana Moment on Thursday that he is “generally supportive of our effort,” however.

Meanwhile, the House legalization legislation, which was backed by the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee, would have allowed adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to three ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to 12 mature plants for personal use.

The measure was also cosponsored by the House speaker and other top GOP lawmakers.

Read the Wyoming marijuana reform initiatives being backed by the Libertarian Party below:

Wyoming Marijuana Initiatives by Marijuana Moment

Texas And Louisiana Governors Signal They’ll Sign Marijuana Reform Bills On Their Desks

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Connecticut Governor Tells Lawmakers To Pass Marijuana Legalization Bill In Special Session Next Week

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The governor of Connecticut on Thursday said he’ll be upset if the legislature fails to deliver him a bill to legalize marijuana in a special session that is set to take place next week.

“I will be,” Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said in response to a report’s question about whether he’ll be disappointed if the cannabis legislation doesn’t reach his desk. “Pass the bill. Let’s go. Vote on it and pass it.”

The Senate approved a legalization proposal in the final days of the regular session this week, but an expected House vote was called off as time ran short in the face of Republican opposition and threats to filibuster.

“We got to the most comprehensive bill in the country four months ago—a couple hundred pages,” the governor said at a briefing with reporters, referring to an initial measure he filed in January. “We know how to do this on a safe, regulated basis for adults. We know how to de-commercialize it, which is so important, and I think it’s time to vote. If you can’t vote this week, vote early next week, but vote.”

Lawmakers will reconvene for the special session on Wednesday morning.

Watch the governor discuss the legalization proposal, around 12:30 and 19:00 into the video below: 

 

The legalization proposal narrowly passed the Senate on Tuesday, but House lawmakers declined to take it up ahead of the end of the regular session.

Democratic leaders have insisted they have the votes to push through the nearly 300-page cannabis bill introduced over the weekend, but Republicans have broadly opposed it. Many expected a drawn-out debate Wednesday night, with GOP representatives trying to run out the clock to prevent a vote.

“I have a strong point of view to do whatever it takes to get this over the finish line,” Lamont said. “Around the country, we have red states and blue states that are passing this and doing it on a very careful, regulated way—and I think we’re ready to do the same.”

The bill that passed the Senate, S.B. 1118, is the product of weeks of negotiations between legislative leaders and Lamont’s office. It incorporates elements of the governor’s own proposal, SB 888, as well as an equity-focused legalization bill, HB 6377, from Rep. Robyn Porter (D).

As passed by the Senate, the legislation would legalize personal possession and use of cannabis by adults 21 and older and eventually launch a regulated commercial cannabis market in Connecticut, licensing growers, retailers, manufacturers and delivery services. The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) would be in charge of licensing and regulating cannabis businesses, with legal sales expected to begin in mid-2022.

Half of all business licenses would need to be issued to social equity applicants, defined as people who have lived in geographic areas disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs and who make no more than three times the state’s median income. Those applicants could also qualify for technical assistance, workforce training and funding to cover startup costs. Much of the revenue from the new commercial market would be reinvested back into communities hit hardest by the drug war.

For those who don’t want to buy cannabis commercially, home cultivation would also be allowed under the bill—first for medical patients, then eventually for all adults 21 and older.

Here are some key details about the Senate-approved legislation:

  • It would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis starting on July 1, and it would establish a retail market, with Rojas anticipating sales to launch in May 2022.
  • Regulators with the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) would be responsible for issuing licenses for growers, retailers, manufacturers and delivery services.
  • Social equity applicants—defined as people who have lived in geographic areas disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs and who make no more than three times the state’s median income—would be entitled to half of those licenses.
  • A significant amount of tax revenue from cannabis sales would go toward community reinvestment.
  • Home cultivation would be permitted—first to medical marijuana patients and then later to adult-use consumers.
  • Criminal convictions for possession of less than four ounces of cannabis would be automatically expunged beginning in 2023. Expungement would apply to possession convictions from January 1, 2000 through September 15, 2015.
  • Beginning July 1, 2022, individuals could petition to have other cannabis convictions erased, such as for possession of marijuana paraphernalia or the sale of small amounts of cannabis.
  • The smell of cannabis alone would no longer be a legal basis for law enforcement to stop and search individuals, nor would suspected possession of up to five ounces of marijuana.
  • Absent federal restrictions, employers would not be able to take adverse actions against workers merely for testing positive for cannabis metabolites.
  • Rental tenants, students at institutions of higher learning, and professionals in licensed occupations would be protected from certain types of discrimination around legal cannabis use. People who test positive for cannabis metabolites, which suggest past use, could not be denied organ transplants or other medical care, educational opportunities or have action taken against them by the Department of Children and Families without another evidence-based reason for the action.
  • Cannabis-related advertising could not target people under 21, and businesses that allow minors on their premises would be penalized. Licensees who sell to minors would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine. People in charge of households or private properties who allow minors to possess cannabis there would also face a Class A misdemeanor.
  • Adults 18 to 20 years old who are caught with small amounts cannabis would be subject to a $50 civil fine, although subsequent violations could carry a $150 fine and mandatory community service. All possession offenses would require individuals to sign a statement acknowledging the health risks of cannabis to young people.
  • Minors under 18 could not be arrested for cannabis possession. A first offense would carry a written warning and possible referral to youth services, while a third or subsequent offense, or possession of more than five ounces of marijuana, would send the individual to juvenile court.
    Local governments could prohibit cannabis businesses or ban cannabis delivery within their jurisdictions. Municipalities could also set reasonable limits on the number of licensed businesses, their locations, operating hours and signage.
  • Until June 30, 2024, the number of licensed cannabis retailers could not exceed one per 25,000 residents. After that, state regulators will set a new maximum.
  • Cannabis products would be capped at 30 percent THC by weight for cannabis flower and all other products except pre-filled vape cartridges at 60 percent THC, though those limits could be further adjusted by regulators. Retailers would also need to provide access to low-THC and high-CBD products. Products designed to appeal to children would be forbidden.
  • The state’s general sales tax of 6.35 percent would apply to cannabis, and an additional excise tax based on THC content would be imposed. The bill also authorizes a 3 percent municipal tax, which must be used for community reinvestment.
  • Until June 30, 2023, all excise tax would flow to the state’s general fund. For three years after that, 60 percent of the tax revenue will go to a new Social Equity and Innovation Fund. That amount would increase to 65 percent in 2026 and 75 percent in 2028. Other revenue would go to the state’s general fund as well as prevention and recovery services around drug use disorders.
  • Existing medical marijuana dispensaries could become “hybrid retailers” to also serve adult-use consumers. Regulators would begin accepting applications for hybrid permits in September 2021, and applicants would need to submit a conversion plan and pay a $1 million fee. That fee could be cut in half if they create a so-called equity joint venture, which would need to be majority owned by a social equity applicant. Medical marijuana growers could also begin cultivating adult-use cannabis in the second half this year, though they would need to pay a fee of up to $3 million.
  • Licensing fees for social equity applicants would be 50 percent of open licensing fees. Applicants would need to pay a small fee to enter a lottery, then a larger fee if they’re granted a license. Social equity licensees would also receive a 50 percent discount on license fees for the first three years of renewals.
  • The state would be allowed to enter into cannabis-related agreements with tribal governments, such as the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe of Indians.

The Senate adopted one amendment to the bill before passing it on Tuesday that makes a number of substantial and technical changes. Among other revisions, it deletes a section that would have allowed backers of marijuana producers to obtain cultivation licenses without being subject to a lottery and clarifies that a higher percentage of equity joint-venture owners be from disproportionately impacted areas. It also expands equity provisions of the bill so that 100 percent of profits with joint ventures with existing businesses go to equity partners, rather than the 5 percent in the original bill, and exempts medical marijuana from potency limits that apply to adult-use products.

A fiscal note on bill projects that taxes and fees for marijuana would bring in an estimated $4.1 million in additional revenue for the state and municipalities in fiscal year 2022, which would grow over time to a projected annual haul of $73.4 million by fiscal year 2026.

While many of the components of the bill are expected to carry over into the special session, there will technically need to be a new legislative vehicle that must pass both chambers in order to get to the governor’s desk.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

If a legalization measure isn’t enacted this year, Lamont said last month that the issue could ultimately go before voters.

“Marijuana is sort of interesting to me. When it goes to a vote of the people through some sort of a referendum, it passes overwhelmingly. When it goes through a legislature and a lot of telephone calls are made, it’s slim or doesn’t pass,” the governor said. “We’re trying to do it through the legislature. Folks are elected to make a decision, and we’ll see where it goes. If it doesn’t, we’ll probably end up in a referendum.”

Ritter said late last month that he feels there’s a 57-43 chance that the legislation is approved, whereas he previously gave it a 50-50 chance.

He last year that if the legislature isn’t able to pass a legalization bill, he will move to put a question on the state’s 2022 ballot that would leave the matter to voters.

According to recent polling, if legalization did go before voters, it would pass.

Sixty-four percent of residents in the state favor legalizing cannabis for adult use, according to a survey from Sacred Heart University that was released last week.

The competing legalization measure from Rep. Robyn Porter (D), which is favored by many legalization advocates for its focus on social equity, was approved in the Labor and Public Employees Committee in March.

Lamont, who convened an informal work group in recent months to make recommendations on the policy change, initially described his legalization plan as a “comprehensive framework for the cultivation, manufacture, sale, possession, use, and taxation of cannabis that prioritizes public health, public safety, and social justice.”

But while advocates have strongly criticized the governor’s plan as inadequate when it comes to equity provisions, Ritter said in March that “optimism abounds” as lawmakers work to merge proposals into a final legalization bill.

Rojas also said that “in principle, equity is important to both the administration and the legislature, and we’re going to work through those details.”

To that end, the majority leader said that working groups have been formed in the Democratic caucuses of the legislature to go through the governor’s proposal and the committee-approved reform bill.

In February, a Lamont administration official stressed during a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee that Lamont’s proposal it is “not a final bill,” and they want activists “at the table” to further inform the legislation.

The legislature has considered legalization proposals on several occasions in recent years, including a bill that Democrats introduced last year on the governor’s behalf. Those bills stalled, however.

Lamont reiterated his support for legalizing marijuana during his annual State of the State address in January, stating that he would be working with the legislature to advance the reform this session.

The governor has compared the need for regional coordination on marijuana policy to the coronavirus response, stating that officials have “got to think regionally when it comes to how we deal with the pandemic—and I think we have to think regionally when it comes to marijuana, as well.”

He also said that legalization in Connecticut could potentially reduce the spread of COVID-19 by limiting out-of-state trips to purchase legal cannabis in neighboring states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Texas And Louisiana Governors Signal They’ll Sign Marijuana Reform Bills On Their Desks

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Texas And Louisiana Governors Signal They’ll Sign Marijuana Reform Bills On Their Desks

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The governors of Texas and Louisiana on Thursday separately indicated that they will sign marijuana reform bills that have recently been delivered to their desks.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) left no room for interpretation on how he would act on a medical cannabis expansion measure that the legislature sent him.

“Veterans could qualify for medical marijuana under new law,” he tweeted. “I will sign it.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) was less explicit, stating at a press briefing that he’s “interested in signing the bill that would lessen the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

The governor noted that some reporters “may be surprised to hear” he’s inclined to approve the cannabis decriminalization measure, referring to his longtime opposition to broad legalization. That said, other recent comments Edwards has separately made signaled that he may be increasingly open to even more comprehensive proposals to completely end marijuana prohibition if they are ever sent to his desk.

When it comes to the current decriminalization measure, he said he and his staff are “reviewing that one now.”

Louisiana lawmakers also sent Edwards a separate bill last week to let patients in the state’s medical cannabis program legally smoke whole-plant marijuana flower. He didn’t weigh in on that proposal at the press conference, but he’s previously cited it as an example of the type of incremental reform he expected to advance.

In Texas, the marijuana measure that the governor says he will sign would add cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis. As passed in the House, it would have also included chronic pain as a qualifying condition, but that was removed by the Senate, and it was not re-added in a conference committee. Also, the legislation doubled the THC cap for marijuana products, increasing it from 0.5 percent to one percent. Originally the House-approved version increased the limit to five percent, but that was watered down in the Senate.

Abbott has not yet commented on a separate piece of drug policy reform legislation that the legislature also passed to require the state to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA. But for what it’s worth, that measure is also aimed at supporting military veterans’ health.

If all the bills are signed into law, it would represent a significant victory for advocates who have been working overtime in the conservative legislatures to get lawmakers on board. But in both states, there have also been defeats this session.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Texas bills to reduce penalties for possessing cannabis concentrates, update the state’s hemp program and broadly decriminalize marijuana advanced—but they did not make it over the finish line by the session’s end.

Partly because of those failures, a newly formed progressive coalition that’s being led by two former congressional candidates said it plans to take cannabis and other issues directly to voters by putting reform measures on local ballots across the state.

In Louisiana, there was an effort to pass a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis, but it stalled in the House after the chamber failed to pass a complementary measure on taxing recreational marijuana. Edwards did say last month that he believes the reform “is going to happen in Louisiana eventually.”

In April, Edwards also said that he had “great interest” in the legalization proposal, and he pledged to take a serious look at its various provisions.

Last year, the Louisiana legislature significantly expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by passing a bill that allows physicians to recommend cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law.

Edwards signed the measure in June 2020 and it took effect weeks later.

Abbott, for his part, did not sign separate legislation to clarify that a positive marijuana test alone is not sufficient criteria for removing a child from their home. But he didn’t veto it, either, and it was enacted without the his signature last month and takes effect on September 1, 2021.

Prohibition remains on the books in both traditionally conservative states—but between legislative actions this session and both governors expressing some level of support for more modest reform, it can’t be said that advocates haven’t made progress.

California Uses Marijuana Tax Revenue To Fund Programs To Repair Drug War’s Harms

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.

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