hero-graphic-State of Cannabis Legalization: What’s Happening in 2021
Posted by Mike King / Jul 26, 2021

State of Cannabis Legalization: What’s Happening in 2021

2021 is a big year for cannabis legalization

Cannabis legalization continues to be a popular political and cultural issue in the country with more plans for legalization than ever before. It’s an exciting time to be in cannabis, and from the state level to the federal level, reform initiatives and legalization status is changing quickly. Here’s an overview of where cannabis legalization stands in 2021.

There’s bipartisan support for the SAFE Banking Act At the federal level, the SAFE Banking Act, originally introduced in 2019, was reintroduced this year by a bipartisan group of over 100 members of the House. Under current law, cannabis businesses are restricted from accessing banking services and products such as depository and checking accounts. The SAFE Banking Act changes this by prohibiting banking regulators from penalizing institutions that provide banking services to cannabis-related businesses and signifies a major step to allowing the industry to grow. 

COVID slowed down legalization, but momentum is back In 2020, twelve states considered legalizing adult-use cannabis and ten states considered medical legalization. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every state faced significant legislative delays with just five states able to vote on legalization by election day. But despite the legislative slowdown, public support for cannabis legalization still remains strong. Picking up from 2020, there are several states likely to legalize adult-use cannabis in the next two years and several likely to legalize medical-use cannabis. In other words, the momentum hasn’t gone anywhere.

State by state status on adult-use cannabis As of this year, adult-use cannabis was legalized in four states, is currently pending in three states, and is considered for legalization in five states. Currently, there are 19 states plus the District of Columbia, that have legalized adult-use cannabis. Here’s the rundown.

Recently legalized adult-use states include:

  • Connecticut
  • New Mexico
  • New YorkVirginia

Adult-use legalization legislation is pending in these states:

  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Wisconsin

The following states have considered, but not passed legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis:

  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota

State by state status on medical-use cannabis While adult-use legalization is certainly a hot topic for 2021, medical-use legalization continues to gain support with 10 states having voted for or considering legalization. To date, there are 36 states plus the District of Columbia, that have legalized the medical use of cannabis. Here’s an overview of where medical legalization stands, state by state.

The states that legalized medical cannabis this year include:

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Texas

The following states have considered, but have not passed legislation to legalize medical cannabis:

  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee

Legalization is up in the air in South Dakota South Dakotans voted to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2020, but a trial court judge ruled the state’s 2020 legalization ballot measure unconstitutional. All eyes will be on the result of the legal case introduced this year, Thom v. Barnett, which is currently pending before the South Dakota Supreme Court.

The impact of legalization into 2021 and beyond There’s been a big push for both adult-use and medical-use legalization in 2021 and should these states be successful in legalizing, the economic impact will be significant. In fact, experts forecast that if these states legalize, an additional $14 billion in annual retail sales can be expected on top of an already booming business. Be sure to keep on top of the current legalization status with our Requirements By State Tool, as it will be continually updated to reflect the current adult and medical-use legalization by state. 


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