The November Elections: A Watershed for Weed

This November, the voting will be a litmus test for how green the grass of legalization is becoming across America.

In a groundbreaking shift for cannabis policy in 2023, several states, including Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Ohio, made significant strides towards legalization. As the November 2024 elections loom on the calendar, several other states are poised to follow suit.

Eleven states are up for grabs, with five states potentially advancing medical cannabis legalization and another six considering full adult-use legalization.

Four of these states (Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota) are facing ballot initiatives. These efforts reflect a broader trend whereby citizen-driven initiatives are gaining traction around the country.

Federal cannabis policies continue to lag behind public sentiment, underscoring the complexities in aligning national and state laws. Marijuana, of course, remains banned on the federal level. But the states have stepped into the breach.

As of June 2024, there are currently 24 states that have legalized recreational marijuana and 38 have done so for medical marijuana, either by ballot measure or by legislative action (see chart).

Looking ahead, there’s cautious optimism for incremental reforms through the executive branch. The Department of Justice, spurred by a Department of Health and Human Services recommendation, is evaluating reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule III drug, potentially influencing state-level policies across holdout states.

Wisconsin emerges as a likely contender for medical cannabis legalization in 2024, despite historical legislative gridlock. Governor Tony Evers (D) and Republican legislators are hammering out a compromise on a state-run program, marking a significant step forward amid public support.

In Florida, an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana is under scrutiny by the state Supreme Court for potential inclusion on the 2024 ballot. Despite past setbacks, polling indicates strong voter support, setting the stage for expansion of a huge marijuana market. Currently, marijuana is only legal in the Sunshine State for those who possess a Medical Marijuana ID Card.

An obstacle for recreational legalization in Florida is the implacable opposition of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, a social conservative. That said, a recent poll shows that 66% of Florida voters intend to vote “yes” despite opposition by DeSantis and most of the state GOP.

Hawaii, the oldest medical-only market in the U.S., faces renewed prospects for adult-use legalization in 2024. Legislative hurdles persist, but shifting political landscapes signal growing momentum.

South Dakota remains an intriguing case, having navigated legal challenges to previous ballot initiatives. Advocates are mobilizing once more for an adult-use measure in 2024, reflecting persistent grassroots efforts.

Idaho, among the few states yet to legalize cannabis in any form, sees renewed efforts for medical legalization through ballot measures. Idaho’s campaign underscores shifting public attitudes despite legislative resistance.

New Hampshire is exploring a unique state-run model for potential adult-use sales, illustrating innovative approaches amid political divisions.

Nebraska mirrors South Dakota’s uphill battle with repeated legislative and ballot initiative setbacks. A renewed push for medical cannabis legalization in 2024 in the Cornhusker State highlights ongoing grassroots advocacy, despite fierce push-back from anti-pot prohibitionists.

Kentucky’s nuanced approach includes incremental steps towards decriminalization, underscoring evolving perspectives despite legislative challenges.

Pennsylvania faces bipartisan discord over adult-use legalization, highlighting complex negotiations despite public and gubernatorial support.

For a comprehensive snapshot of further legalization efforts state-by-state, take a look at the following graphic:

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John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily.

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