2020 was poised to be a year of widespread cannabis legalization — that is until COVID-19 came-a-knockin’. With the introduction of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent implementation of social distancing measures, many facets of the economy have come to a standstill, including legislative efforts surrounding cannabis.
New York, Connecticut, Alabama, Vermont, and Kentucky all had to delay their cannabis efforts due to a sustained focus on COVID-19, and Mexico recently did the same. Then, factor in that the cannabis industry has been avoided entirely when it comes to Coronavirus stimulus funding, and the year looks like a write-off for the industry.
However, don’t be discouraged, 2020 still presents plenty of opportunities for the global cannabis industry to grow, and there are some cases where we can see this happening.
Which U.S. States Will Legalize Weed in 2020?
Despite the coronavirus crisis, there are still little wins occurring for the cannabis industry across the globe. Ghana legalized the cultivation of hemp plants for industrial purposes, and Lebanon legalized the cultivation of medicinal cannabis, both of which occurred amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, the U.S. state of Illinois has seen a strong first few months of cannabis legalization despite coronavirus restrictions.
Looking forward, there are several opportunities for cannabis legalization penciled into the calendar for 2020 which could really boost the momentum of the industry at large. Here are some within the U.S.
Within the United States, three states, in particular, are looking promising. Those are Mississipi, New Jersey, and South Dakota, each of which has marijuana initiatives on their upcoming November ballot.
Will Mississipi legalize cannabis in 2020?
In the case of Mississipi, voters will be deciding whether medical marijuana becomes legal in the state, potentially making Mississipi the 34th U.S. state to do so. The question appearing on the November ballot is as follows:
Should Mississippi allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, as certified by Mississippi licensed physicians, to use medical marijuana?
Despite being a red, or Republican state (which traditionally means being more reticent toward cannabis legalization), recent polling data shows that nearly eight-out-of-ten Mississipi voters support legalizing medical marijuana. Should the ballot go ahead unimpeded, it’s looking like Mississipi will have legalized medical marijuana by the end of November.
Will New Jersey Legalize Cannabis in 2020?
Then there’s New Jersey, who last year passed a measure to allow residents to decide whether marijuana should be legalized in the state’s November 2020 ballot.
The ballot is scheduled to occur in November and would amend New Jersey’s Constitution to permit the possession, production, and retail sale of cannabis to those age 21 or older. Moreover, it’s looking like the ballot may also be approved, with polling data from Monmouth University showing that 61% of respondents saying that they will vote for the measure.
The ballot question to push for the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey is as follows: “Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called ‘cannabis’? Only adults at least 21 years of age could use cannabis. The State commission created to oversee the State’s medical cannabis program would also oversee the new, personal use cannabis market. Cannabis products would be subject to the State sales tax. If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.”
Monmouth’s poll revealed that New Jersey’s marijuana legalization efforts were most supported by Democratic voters, of which 74% were in favour of the bill, and Independents, with 64%. Only 40% of Republican voters supported the bill.
Will South Dakota legalize cannabis in 2020?
Lastly, in the US, we have South Dakota, where there will be two marijuana initiatives on the November ballot. One, to decide if voters wish to legalize medicinal marijuana, and another to decide if voters wish to legalize recreational marijuana.
While there isn’t yet polling data on the general attitudes of South Dakotans on cannabis legalization, the fact that these initiatives made it onto the ballot means they had to surpass the signature threshold, which in this case was upwards of 30,000 signatures.
Which Countries Will Legalize Cannabis in 2020?
Outside of the United States, there are three main countries that look poised to legalize cannabis in 2020, which again would provide a tremendous boon to global legislative efforts, and give a greater example of potential success stories with the plant.
The first country set to legalize cannabis in 2020, is Australia’s neighbour, New Zealand.
As many will know, New Zealand is holding a referendum for recreational cannabis legalization alongside the 2020 federal election in September. The referendum will pose one simple yes-or-no question to New Zealanders:
“Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?”
The proposed bill states that the minimum age for cannabis consumption would be 20 years old and that marketing and advertising cannabis products would be banned. Citizens will only be able to acquire cannabis in physical stores, and will only be able to consume it on private residences and in licensed premises.
The latest survey by Horizon has found that a majority of Kiwi’s now support legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes. The poll surveyed 2,000 people and showed that 54% of respondents will vote yes to legalizing cannabis use in New Zealand’s upcoming referendum. Additionally, the survey revealed that 45% of respondents would vote against the legalization of recreational cannabis.
Though the referendum is non-binding, it seems likely that the government will take legislative action following the wishes of the populous, otherwise, New Zealand may end up with similar tensions as the UK did in the years following the Brexit vote. Moreover, given the economic turmoil that COVID-19 has brought upon virtually every country, it seems like a worthy cause to champion, as cannabis legalization can bring with it large tax revenues and job creation.
Will Mexico legalize cannabis in 2020?
The second country that may potentially legalize cannabis in 2020, is none other than Mexico, who we have spoken about on a number of occasions as being a potential mover on cannabis laws this year.
Last year, Mexico introduced a bill that allows adults to cultivate up to four plants and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers while prioritizing low-income and indigenous people when it comes to licensing. According to the leader of the Morena Party in the Mexican Senate (who holds majorities in both chambers of Congress), “the end of the prohibitionist policy is good for the country.”
This is a sentiment shared by Mexico’s Supreme Court, who ruled in 2018 that a ban on recreational use and possession of cannabis was “unconstitutional.”
As a result, a handful of Mexican senators unveiled draft legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana due in October last year. Since then, the bill was pushed back until the 30th of April, and now it has been pushed back again toward September.
Given the multiple setbacks that Mexico has faced, it’s not out of the question that the country will simply delay their legislative efforts yet again on the marijuana front. However, the previous ruling by the Supreme Court does show that Mexico is committed in the near-term to legalizing the plant. Ultimately, how Mexico moves forward on this front will be dependent on the situation with coronavirus closer to the end of the year.
Will Luxembourg legalize cannabis in 2020?
In 2018, legislators in Luxembourg voted unanimously in favor of legalizing the medical use of cannabis, and in July 2019, the government announced a two-year plan to legalize recreational cannabis. The plan was explained to Politico by Luxembourg’s Health Minister Etienne Schneider, a vocal proponent of cannabis legalization, who stated that the “drug policy we had over the last 50 years did not work.”
The proposed legislation, introduced by Schneider and Justice Minister Félix Braz, would see that the entire cannabis market would become legal, including possession, production, and consumption. Home cultivation would remain illegal and purchasing cannabis would also remain illegal for non-residents.
More recently, early examples of what Luxembourgs weed legislation would look like were shared with the local radio station 100.7, suggesting that local individuals over the age of 18 may be able to purchase 30 grams of cannabis per month.
Precisely when this occurs is uncertain, though the continued efforts by legislators to push forward with cannabis legalization is encouraging, and suggests that we may see some action occur within this year.
What does the future hold?
Much of 2020’s cannabis legalization efforts hinge upon the outcome of the Coronavirus, and how different nations manage to recover from the crisis. As it stands, New Zealand is already looking into reopening its economy, and America is doing the same with a three-phase reopening strategy.
This begs the question, what will the reopening look like? While many countries have “flattened the curve” with respect to coronavirus infections, it’s likely that there will be an increase in infection rates upon the reopening of economies, and then, we may see a change in tact from leadership.
Though undoubtedly, as economies are ravaged by COVID-19 and unemployment rates continue to skyrocket, legalizing cannabis and revivifying the economy may be a smart move.