Recreational Marijuana Legalization Heats Up in the Northeast

More than half of all U.S. states have passed medical marijuana legislation, and 11 states have passed Recreational Marijuana Legislation, including Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont.

Recreational Marijuana Legalization
October Cannabis Summit, A/P

Olive Lundegaard (1/16/2020): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo started 2020 hopeful, saying earlier this week, “This year, let’s work with our neighbors … to coordinate a safe and fair system.” More than half of all U.S. states have passed medical marijuana legislation, and 11 states have passed Recreational Marijuana Legislation, including Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont. Last year, New York joined in when Gov. Cuomo backed similar legalization. New York hosted Democratic governors from New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania in October 2019 for a summit on the legislation, and Gov. Cuomo addressed Recreational Marijuana Legalization during his State of the State speech on Wednesday.

Advocates and Critics

“The fact that he has really centered it as part of his agenda for this legislative session goes to show just the tremendous amount of impact and momentum there is around legalization,” says Melissa Moore of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance. To advocates like Moore, legalizing marijuana is crucial to make sure users can get regulated and safe products. However, critics of legalization feel even stronger about their stance. “The vaping crisis has opened up conversations for us to talk about the harms of marijuana,” said Kevin Sabet, president of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana

However, Gov. Cuomo’s efforts did not advance because there is disagreement regarding whether the tax revenue would be used to benefit areas where marijuana arrests once were concentrated, and how much power communities have to choose to allow recreational use or host dispensaries. 

What Other States are Doing

Spokesperson Max Reiss noted that Connecticut “is still examining the path forward” on Recreational Marijuana Legalization. Connecticut legislative committees proposed similar legislation last year but never got full floor votes, and it remains unclear how much support there might be this year.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo plans to renew a recreational marijuana legalization proposal this year, but will likely run into trouble as state Senate and House leaders oppose it. 

In New Hampshire, a legalization proposal passed the state House last year but stagnated in the Senate; both have Democratic majorities. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has said he opposes legalizing recreational marijuana.