Coming into 2020, policymakers in eight states expressed support for regulated medical or adult-use cannabis sales, and advocacy groups in nine states had efforts underway to include legalization on ballots in November. With cannabis already legal for medical use in 33 states; legal for medical and adult-use in 11 states; and more members of Congress – even those who previously opposed legalization – now supporting cannabis policy, state legalization agendas were moving quickly. But what was set to be a banner year for the cannabis industry has been slowed down by COVID-19. Nevertheless, COVID-19 has shown legal, regulated marijuana’s place as an “essential business,” even if state legislative activity may not come until 2021 or later.
COVID-19 has shortened and reprioritized many states’ legislative sessions, eliminating time to hammer out crucial details of cannabis legalization laws, such as establishing a robust tax structure and ensuring compliance to decrease the illicit market. Already, at least five state legislatures considering legalizing cannabis in 2020 – such as New York – are expressing doubts they still can this year. In Arkansas, North Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Idaho, and Nebraska advocacy groups had to pause efforts to gather ballot signatures due to social distancing rules. In Montana, a county district judge even ruled against using e-signatures in place of in-person signing. [Read more at Forbes]