Here we are at another 4/20, and Congress still hasn’t legalized marijuana nationwide. Last July, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Sen. Cory Booker, unveiled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). It was supposed to be introduced on the Senate floor this month, but the bill was not formally filed.
The CAOA contains many of the core tenets cannabis legalization advocates have been pushing for: It would legalize weed and expunge weed-related convictions, among other wide-ranging reforms.
Though the government’s failure to even get a legal marijuana bill on the floor could certainly harsh your mellow, look on the bright side: A total of 37 states have now legalized weed in one way or another. And of those states, 18 of them have legalized recreational marijuana.
The federal legalization of marijuana would have its most profound effect on the states most opposed to legalization, but in many of these states, lawmakers have shown hostility toward reform of any kind.
Georgia: CBD only
Georgia has failed to pass any meaningful marijuana reform. A medical marijuana law that allows for cannabis products with up to 5 percent THC is the state’s only piece of marijuana legislation.
Georgians overwhelmingly support marijuana reform, with 72 percent in favor of legalization.
Georgia’s General Assembly seems unable or unwilling to act on marijuana reform, and several bills in 2021 died before ever getting a vote.
Iowa: CBD only
In Iowa, the racial disparity in marijuana arrests is far greater than in most of the nation: Arrests for marijuana possession are 7.3 times more likely for Black people than for white people. Getting caught lighting up a joint for 4/20 can get you six months in an Iowa jail, and that’s for a first offense.
Unfortunately, Iowa doesn’t have a citizen initiative process, leaving the 69 percent of Iowans who support legalization without a legal means to push marijuana reform.
Idaho: Fully illegal
The potato state’s Republican government has proven hostile toward legalization. In 2021, the state Senate attempted to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban the legalization of cannabis in Idaho, but the amendment failed to gain the necessary supermajority to pass.
Idaho’s draconian attempt to block any future attempts at legalization might have failed, but that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from trying to figure out other ways to keep Idahoans from legally sparking it on 4/20.
This year, Idaho lawmakers decided to suffocate grassroots support for cannabis reform by passing legislation that ramped up signature-gathering requirements for ballot initiatives. The signature requirement went from 6 percent of registered voters in 18 out of 35 legislative districts to s6ix percent of registered voters in all 35 districts. The law was overturned by the state Supreme Court, giving a medical marijuana initiative and a separate decriminalization effort a path to the ballot box.
Indiana: CBD only
Marijuana reform bills have been filed at a rapid pace in Indiana, with 13 proposed laws failing to get out of committee this year alone. Currently, Indiana only allows the sale, purchase, and possession of low-THC CBD—low being a measly 0.3 percent.
Sixty-nine percent of Hoosiers support legalizing marijuana. Couple that with Indiana’s neighbors becoming increasingly in favor of reform, and the likelihood of future reform is looking pretty good.
Kansas: Fully illegal
Over the last few years, Kansas has taken tiny (very tiny) steps toward relaxing its marijuana laws. In 2018 CBD was legalized, but only for products with zero THC—a virtual ban, seeing as most CBD products contain trace amounts of THC. Since then, Kansas took another baby step and introduced a defense bill for CBD oils with low THC. The bill would help prevent convictions but not arrests.
This year, the Kansas Senate will be considering a bill legalizing medical marijuana. The state’s Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly personally supports medical marijuana, as do 68 percent of her fellow Kansans.
Kentucky: CBD only
In the state with the second-highest racial disparity for marijuana possession in the nation, a Black person is 9.4 times more likely to be arrested than a white person for marijuana possession. The GOP-led Kansas Legislature has made no attempts to decriminalize, and the only law on the books is an extremely restrictive CBD law.
But there are signs that Kentucky’s prohibition might be coming to an end. The Legislature got close to passing a medical marijuana law before the pandemic virtually shut down the nation. That effort failed, but high-profile Kentucky politicians like Sen. Rand Paul support another push.
South Carolina: Fully illegal
South Carolina might soon be leaving the club of 13 states that still ban medical marijuana. The state Senate passed a medical marijuana bill and sent it to the House, where it has a likely chance of passing. Unlike some other states that passed medical marijuana legislation, South Carolina’s bill would prohibit smokable products and home cultivation.
Tennessee: CBD only
Last year, the Senate Government Operations Committee approved a medical marijuana bill sponsored by Sen. Janice Bowling. The bill didn’t make it past the Senate Judiciary Committee. . Butin that same legislative session, a bill was passed establishing a study commission for the consideration of medical marijuana. Beyond that token bill, the only progress made in Tennessee was the small expansion of its lackluster CBD law.
Tennessee is one of the few states that imposes jail time for possession of any amount of weed. With no bill to decriminalize weed, Memphis and Nashville—the largest cities in the state—tried to take matters into their own hands by giving officers discretion when it comes to possession. But the Tennessee House and Senate squashed those ordinances by passing a bill that repealed local decriminalization laws.
Texas: CBD only
Texas’ Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been paying lip service to decriminalization, but the Lone Star state hasn’t done much in the way of marijuana reform. Its current laws still enforce jail time for possession of even small amounts of marijuana.
Currently, Texas has a very limited medical marijuana law, allowing for only 1 percent of THC, which is a far cry from the medical programs allowed in other states.
Wisconsin: CBD only
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has attempted to lead the state toward marijuana reform with a mostly antagonistic Legislature, with no success.
Legalizing medical, and especially recreational, marijuana still seems like a distant pipe dream for Wisconsin, but a few recently proposed bills would reduce the penalty for small amounts of weed from jail time to a fine.
Wyoming: Fully illegal
Surrounded by states that have led the nation in marijuana reform (except for Idaho), Wyoming has thus far held the line against legalization—though it’s showing signs of wavering. A proposal to fully legalize cannabis failed in 2021, but proposals for decriminalization and a medical marijuana program have been introduced for the 2022 session.
State activists failed to get their reforms on the 2022 ballot and instead focused on the 2024 ballot.
Black Wyomingites continue to face a severe racial disparity in cannabis-related arrests, with the state ranking ninth-highest in the nation.
It’s hard to say whether these remaining holdout states or the federal government will budge first, but marijuana legalization is one of the few issues that doesn’t fit neatly on one side of the ideological divide or the other. Many Republicans in Congress and state legislatures disapprove of legalization, but there is certainly more bipartisanship when it comes to marijuana reform than with any other political issue.