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2020 Cannabis Legalization: Then and Now

2020 has brought unprecedented change across the country. From a global pandemic to a nationwide fight for basic human rights and, now, a huge shift in political structure, the country sort of feels like it’s been flipped on its head. Thankfully, things are looking up: the election brought cannabis legalization to five new states in the US.


With so many new legalization measures, this opens up a lot of questions about what this means for the future of cannabis, as well as cannabis in those states. To clear things up, we’re here to talk about what cannabis legalization has looked like in the past, its impact, and the influence it will have on the upcoming years.

California: Taking the First Steps


The United States’ cannabis journey first started with California back in 1996. After residents voted to have the plant grown and sold for medicinal purposes, the Golden State made history. Those who had qualifying medical conditions were allowed to apply for a Medical Marijuana Card in the state, and could subsequently purchase cannabis and cannabis products from licensed medical dispensaries.


Unfortunately, California’s start in the cannabis world was a bit rocky, and it was faced with a bit of backlash. Of course, California’s decision to allow the medicinal use of cannabis directly coincided with what federal law had to say. Though the state and its residents were benefiting from this newfound freedom, a decision such as this one was still so new and created a lot of uncertainty for the rest of the country.


Over the next few years, as money started to roll in, other states began seeing the benefit of making such progressive moves in the world of cannabis.


The Trailblazing Cannabis States


More than 15 years after California legalized cannabis for qualifying medical conditions, Colorado and Washington made even bigger history: the states legalized and placed regulatory rules on the sale and consumption of cannabis and cannabis products for those age 21 and older. This incredible decision was even more of a success than the market could’ve imagined.


Since this landmark recreational legalization, both Colorado and Washington have seen extreme financial benefits, allowing the states to allocate funds to sources that need it. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, the states have collected hundreds of millions of dollars, with a lot of this money going towards college scholarships, education, and projects combating homelessness problems. Not to mention, the opening of dispensaries and commercial grow operations has created thousands if not millions of jobs over the years. Truly, recreational cannabis legalization changed the way the world thought about cannabis consumption.


Legalization in 2020


Since Washington and Colorado legalized cannabis recreationally, many states have followed suit. In 2019, more than 20 states in the US had legalized cannabis either medically or recreationally. 2020, though, brought an enormous change in this area.


As a result of the 2020 election, five new states added themselves to the list of pro-cannabis states. Mississippi passed a measure legalizing medicinal cannabis for those with certain medical conditions, while Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey voted to finally legalize cannabis recreationally after being previously medical states. South Dakota, on the other hand, made history by legalizing both medical and adult-use cannabis in one sweep. With all of these wins at once, it’s becoming clear that the previous demonization of cannabis might finally be fading away.


What Does This Mean?


These new regulations will bring about a lot of change within these states. For states like Arizona who have been operating as medicinal cannabis states for years, they now have to make a drastic shift to recreational operations and receive the proper licensing. That being said, these changes will not occur overnight. In fact, we’re not even sure when we will be able to see recreational cannabis in dispensaries in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, or South Dakota. Likely, they won’t be in full-swing until late into next year.


Regardless of when these changes take place, it’s important that they’re happening, in general. The cannabis market is one that is thriving more every day, but it’s also a market that’s been disproportionately excluding huge American populations. The more that the industry becomes available nationwide, the more inclusive the industry may be able to become. Not to mention, there’s a huge financial aspect, as well.


States that have legalized cannabis, whether medically or recreationally, have seen huge upticks in generated funds. In 2019 alone, Washington state saw an extra $440 million from cannabis taxes alone: these numbers can be transformative for failing or underfunded projects, programs, and other state-funded expenses.


For now, until all of these measures are put in place, the current marijuana laws in these states will remain the same. This is important to note because in places like South Dakota, cannabis was previously illegal on all fronts. It will remain illegal until at least mid-2021. So, while the residents in these states have seen a huge win, they will still have to remain patient. Changes such as these are not quick; sometimes, getting it right can take years--just look at California.


The Future of Cannabis Legalization in the US


All in all, the future of cannabis legalization in the US is bright. This year’s election showed the country that the cannabis community is ready for change, and we’re ready for the world to see the potential benefits it can bring. As much as Luna Cultivation wishes we could see the future, we just can’t. But, this upward trend is more than promising. Seeing states like South Dakota who were so previously against cannabis legalization flip entirely is demonstrating that the general outlook towards cannabis is flipping, too.


As a plant that’s been so highly praised and yet so harshly demonized throughout history, it’s time for us to get back to our roots. The future of cannabis legalization may still be up in the air, but it appears to be heading in the right direction. While we might have to be a bit patient, we have a right to be positive, too.


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