In the November 2020 elections, four different states voted to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes — Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Once those initiatives go into effect, there will be 15 U.S. states where adults can buy and use cannabis legally.
Even at the federal level, marijuana use appears to be gaining acceptance. The House of Representatives passed a bill in December to decriminalize use, possession and distribution of cannabis, and expunge marijuana convictions from the criminal records of some offenders. The bill is not expected to succeed in the Republican-controlled Senate.
As marijuana use continues to gain mainstream acceptance and political viability, more states will likely follow suit and permit recreational cannabis in the near future. In fact, several state legislators and governors have signaled their intent to do so within the next year or two.
To identify the states most likely to legalize recreational marijuana use in the coming years, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed existing marijuana laws and statements from elected officials in states where cannabis has been decriminalized and permitted for medical purposes. State marijuana laws and regulations came from advocacy groups National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and Marijuana Policy Project.
Cannabis legalization advocates say that prohibition costs money to enforce — in the form of police, the legal system, and the corrections system — whereas legalization can provide financial benefits in the form of jobs and tax revenue. In its first two years of legalization, Massachusetts reportedly collected $122 million in taxes from legal marijuana. That money went to school funds, public transit, and the state’s general fund. This financial boost could be impactful as states try to emerge from the financial crisis brought on by COVID-19. Nearly every state is billions of dollars short of its obligation to pay the pensions of state employees. This is every state’s pension crisis ranked.