Recent State Policies to Legalize Recreational Use of Cannabis
Certain States may have adopted laws legalizing the recreational use of cannabissince the effective date of the most recent comprehensive update to the policy information on this website. We have summarized these laws below for the benefit of researchers who wish to keep abreast of these developments. Links to these laws are also included.
In March 2021, New York legalized adult use cannabis use with the gubernatorial signature of The New York State Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act.
In June 2021, the Governor signed a bill to legal adult-use cannabis in Connecticut.
In April 2021, Governor Lujan Grisham of New Mexico signed The Cannabis Regulation Act.
In February 2021, Virginia’s legislature legalized adult use of cannabis. Legal cannabis possession and sales in the state are slated to start January 1, 2024.
On November 3, 2020, four U.S. jurisdictions legalized adult recreational use of cannabis via propositions or initiatives: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota.
In 2020, the Vermont legislature legalized commercial cannabis activities. In October of that year, the governor allowed S. 54 to become law without his signature. That statute supplemented the 2018 Vermont statute that decriminalized individual possession and cultivation of marijuana.
Specifics for each of the jurisdictions discussed in this introduction appear below, beginning with the most recent changes (as of December 21, 2021).
On June 22, 2021, Governor Lamont signed Senate Bill 1201 which legalized adult-use cannabis in Connecticut.
Key components of the new law include:
- Possession of cannabis by adults aged 21 and over became legal on July 1, 2021. Under the law, adults may not have more than 1.5 ounces of cannabis on their person, and no more than 5 ounces in their homes or locked in their cars.
- Retail sales of cannabis are scheduled to begin by the end of 2022. The sale, manufacture, and cultivation of cannabis (aside from home grow) requires a license from the state. Products that contain delta-8-THC, delta-9-THC, or delta-10-THC are considered cannabis and may only be sold by licensed retailers. Individuals may not gift cannabis to another individual who has “paid” or “donated” for another product.
- All adults aged 21 and over will be permitted to grow 3 mature plants and 3 immature plants in their homes beginning July 1, 2023.
- Certain cannabis-related convictions that occurred between January 1, 2000, and October 1, 2015, will be automatically erased. Those seeking to erase cannabis-related convictions outside of that period will require a petition.
- Preventing underage use: This law makes it a Class A misdemeanor to sell or provide cannabis to a person under 21. In addition, an individual allowing someone under 21 to loiter at a cannabis store will receive a $1,000 fine for a first offense – with subsequent offenses as a Class B misdemeanor. It will be a Class D misdemeanor for a person under 21 to lie about their age or use a fake ID to attempt to buy cannabis.
- Delivery services will be required to use online ID and age verification.
- Enforcement of safe driving: This law requires police to be trained in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement and allows for Drug Recognition Expert evaluations to result in license suspensions.
- All cannabis-related advertising will be banned on television, radio, internet, print, and billboards unless the advertiser has reliable evidence that more than 90% of the audience reached by the advertising is at least 21. Advertising of cannabis is restricted within 500 feet of a school.
- Products will have to be lab-tested and will have strict packaging and labeling standards. Edible cannabis products are limited to 5 milligrams of THC per serving, and most other products are subject to a potency cap. Products will be in child-safe packaging, and product types that appeal to children are banned.
- Local officials may control the number and locations of cannabis retailers through zoning. Municipalities can also determine where smoked or vaped cannabis can be consumed.
- The law permits employers to continue to enforce drug-free workplaces.
- Cannabis use is prohibited in state parks, state beaches, and on state waters.
- Equitable marketplace requirements are mandated under which at least half of initial licenses will be reserved for social equity applicants, targeting those communities that have been most negatively affected by criminalization. A Social Equity Council, created by this law, will launch programs, and supports for social equity applicants in the cannabis market.
- Portions of the revenue obtained from retail sales will be directed to communities that have been most negatively affected by criminalization through the creation of the Social Equity and Innovation Fund.
- The law enacted a tax rate structure on the retail sale of cannabis that includes a new source of revenue for municipalities. This includes (1) a 3% municipal sales tax to be directed to the town or city where the retail sale occurred; (2) a 6.35% state sales tax; and (3) a tax based on the THC content of the product, which will be 2.75 cents per milligram of THC for cannabis edibles; 0.625 cents per milligram of THC for cannabis flower; and 0.9 cents per milligram of THC for all other product types.
- Portions of the revenue obtained from retail sales will be directed to support substance misuse prevention, treatment, and recovery services through the creation of the Prevention and Recovery Services Fund.
For the full text of the Connecticut law, visit this URL: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&which_year=2021&bill_num=1201
On April 12, 2021, Governor Lujan Grisham signed HB 2, The Cannabis Regulation Act. Among the law’s key provisions are the following:
- Adults 21 and older may purchase and possess up to 2 ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of concentrates, and 800 milligrams of infused edibles. All products will be tested by licensed laboratories for contamination and potency.
- Home cultivation of up to 6 mature cannabis plants will be allowed for personal use, provided the plants are out of public sight and secured from children. Households will be limited to 12 total plants. Marijuana grown at home cannot be sold or bartered.
- Legal retail sales are scheduled to begin April 1, 2022, or earlier. Final license rules will be due from the state by January 1, 2022, with licenses issued no later than April 1.
- Advertising cannabis to people under 21 is prohibited, with the use of cartoon characters or other imagery likely to appeal to children forbidden. Advertisements will also be barred from billboards or other public media within 300 feet of a school, daycare center, or church. All products will need to carry a state-approved warning label.
- There is no limit on the number of business licensees that may be granted or the number of facilities a licensee may open – although regulators may stop issuing new licenses if an advisory committee determines that “market equilibrium is deficient.”
- Small cannabis microbusinesses, which can grow up to 200 plants, will be permitted to grow, process, and sell cannabis products under a single license.
- Cannabis purchases will include a 12 percent excise tax on top of the state’s regular eight percent sales tax. Beginning in 2025, the excise rate is permitted to climb by 1 percent each year until it reaches 18 percent in 2030.
- Local governments may not ban cannabis businesses entirely. Municipalities may, however, use local zoning authority to limit the number of retailers or their distance from schools, daycares, or other cannabis businesses.
- Tribal governments may participate in the state’s legal cannabis industry.
- The law permits enacting procedures to encourage communities that have been disproportionately affected by criminalization.
- The new industry will be overseen by a newly created Cannabis Control Division, part of the state Regulation and Licensing Department.
- By September of 2021, the state is scheduled to establish a cannabis regulatory advisory committee to advise the Cannabis Control Division.
For the full text of the law, see: https://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/21%20Special/final/HB0002.pdf
On March 31st, 2021, New York legalized adult use cannabis use with the gubernatorial signature of Senate Bill S854A, The New York State Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act. Key provisions of the law include:
- Adults 21 and older will be able to possess and purchase marijuana products from licensed retailers, which are expected to launch in 2022.
- Effective immediately upon enactment there are no penalties for public possession of up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of marijuana concentrates.
- Adults may cultivate up to six plants for personal use, three of which may be mature. A maximum of 12 plants may be grown per household with more than one adult. Home-grow would not take effect until regulators set rules for it, however. Once home cultivation becomes legal, people may store up to five pounds of cannabis at home.
- People with convictions for marijuana-related activity made legal under the legislation will have their records automatically expunged.
- Protections against discrimination in housing, educational access, and parental rights will be instituted for people who consume cannabis or work in the marijuana industry.
- A two-tier licensing structure will be created that will allow for a range of producers by separating growers and processors from owning retail stores. The law creates licenses for producers and distributors and the law requires strict quality control, public health, and consumer protections.
- Social consumption sites and delivery services will be permitted.
- Local jurisdictions are allowed to opt out of allowing retailers or social consumption sites by the end of this year, but residents may seek to override such bans via a local referendum process.
- A new Office of Cannabis Management—an independent agency operating as part of the New York State Liquor Authority—will be responsible for regulating the market. It will be overseen by a five-member Cannabis Control Board.
- Cannabis products will be subject to a state tax of 9%, plus an additional 4% local tax that would be split between counties and cities/towns/villages, with 75% of local earnings going to the municipalities and 25% to the counties. Distributors will also owe a THC tax based on type of product, as follows: 0.5 cents per milligram for flower, 0.8 cents per milligram for concentrated cannabis and 3 cents per milligram for edibles.
- Tax revenue from sales will cover the costs of administering the program. After that, 40% will go to a community reinvestment fund, 40% to the state’s public schools, and 20% to fund drug treatment facilities and public education programs.
- Police may not use the odor of cannabis to justify searches.
- Driving while impaired from marijuana would remain a misdemeanor.
- The law adds cannabis to the clean indoor air act which establishes a baseline on where cannabis can be smoked or vaped.
For the full text of the law, see this URL: https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2021/S854A
Virginia – HB 2312 and SB 1406
Virginia’s HB 2312 and SB 1406 legalized adult use cannabis. The bills passed the Virginia House and Senate on February 27, 2021, and were signed by Governor Ralph Northam. Legal cannabis possession and sales in the state are to start January 1, 2024.
Many, but not all, of the provisions of the signed legislation require a second legislative vote in 2022, or “re-enactment”. This means that the General Assembly will revisit the regulatory structure of implementation as it is being created. The provisions to legalize cannabis possession and sales on January 1, 2024, do not require re-enactment, nor do penalties for minors possessing cannabis and provisions to allow the regulatory work to begin. Most new penalties, such as for bringing cannabis into Virginia, do require re-enactment.
For now, the following major provisions, which are to begin on January 1, 2024, are as follows:
- Adults 21 or older may possess up to one ounce of cannabis, or the equivalent amount of cannabis products and may gift the same amount to other adults
- Adults may cultivate up to four cannabis plants at their primary residence. Each plant must have a tag with identifying information of the grower
- Possessing more than an ounce, but no more than one pound will be punishable by a civil fine of up to $25
- Possessing more than one pound may result in up to 1-10 years in prison
- Public consumption will result in a civil fine of up to $25 for a first offense. A second offense requires a substance abuse program. Subsequent offenses are misdemeanor offenses with fines
- Minors possessing cannabis will incur a civil fine of up to $25 plus a substance abuse education program
- Possessing cannabis on school grounds will result in up to six months in jail
- Consuming cannabis in a moving motor vehicle will be a misdemeanor with a fine
- A new Cannabis Control Authority will be created in July 2021 to regulate the adult-use market
- A Board of Directors will also be created to issue regulations and grant, suspend, or revoke licenses. It will also issue fines. The Board will establish the number of licensees including retailers, wholesalers, cultivators, and product manufacturers. It will also approve labs. Two types of cultivation licenses will be created: Class A licenses, which are capped at a certain number of square feet or plants. Class B would be limited to 1% THC
- Vertical integration will not be allowed except in the case of microbusinesses, existing medical cannabis businesses, and hemp processors
- Stores are required to be geographically dispersed
- Rules are to be created pertaining to seed-to-sale tracking, packaging, and labeling, including potency and mandating warning labels, and information on risks at the point-of-sale
- Rules are to be created about outdoor cultivation, sanitation, testing, and advertising
- Rules are to be created about the establishment of public health and safety guidelines for personal home cultivation, including to protect children and prevent nuisances
- Edibles will be limited to five milligrams per serving and 50 milligrams per package
- Licensing will be entirely at the state level
- Localities may determine hours and implement zoning and land use rules
- Localities may also opt out of retail stores by voter referendum
- A state tax of 21 percent at the point of retail sale will be levied in addition to 6% sales taxes
- Localities may impose a tax of up to 3% on sales to consumers
- Provisions in the legislation require social equity in licensing. Social equity applicants will be given preference from July 1, 2023, until January 1, 2024. Regulators will waive a percent of fees
- Legislative provisions mandate a Cannabis Business Equity and Diversity Support Team to identify barriers to inclusion, offer technical assistance, conduct outreach, and develop requirements for diversity, equity, and inclusion plans
- A 21-member Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council will assess and monitor public health effects and make recommendations to address these issues
- After covering regulatory costs, revenue would be allocated to: pre-K education for at-risk children, a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, substance abuse treatment and prevention, and public health programs.
For the text of HB 2312, see: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?211+sum+HB2312S
For the text of SB 1406, see: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?211+sum+SB1406
South Dakota Constitutional Amendment A, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative
South Dakota Constitutional Amendment A, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, passed on November 2, 2020. The initiative mandated legalizing adult -use recreational cannabis effective July 1, 2021. For the full Initiative, see: https://sdsos.gov/elections-voting/assets/2020_CA_LegalizeMarijuana_AGStatement.pdf
In a post-election action, opponents of Constitutional Measure A filed a lawsuit arguing that the measure is unconstitutional.
On February 8, 2021, South Dakota state judge Christina Klinger of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court issued a ruling that Amendment A is unconstitutional and cannot go forward. Judge Klinger noted that Amendment A includes multiple subjects rather than a single issue as required by the state constitution. Judge Klinger also wrote that Amendment A should have been referred to voters through the constitutional convention process rather than via the ballot. For the full text of the decision, see: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/20475250/memorandum-decision-2.pdf
An appeal of the circuit court ruling was filed to the South Dakota Supreme Court on February 17, 2021, which heard arguments April 28, 2021. On November 24, 2021, in Thom, Miller v. Barnett and In re Election Contest as to Amendment A, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that Amendment A violates the single subject requirement in the South Dakota Constitution. That is, Amendment A addressed legalization issues pertaining to adult-use cannabis, hemp, and medical cannabis. As a result of the single subject constitutional violation, the Court held that the amendment is invalid. The ruling can be viewed at this URL: https://ujs.sd.gov/uploads/news/NUZ_RSRC_20211124095253.pdf