State legislators in 2021 enacted over 50 laws liberalizing marijuana policies in more than 25 states, according to a report issued today by the National Organization of the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
“State lawmakers took unprecedented steps this year to repeal marijuana prohibition laws and to provide relief to those millions of Americans who have suffered as a result of them,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said.
Specifically, legislatures in five states — Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia — enacted laws legalizing adult-use marijuana possession and regulating retail cannabis markets. These legislative victories mark a significant change from past years, when similar laws were primarily enacted via citizens’ initiatives, not by legislative action. In total, 18 states — comprising nearly one-half of the US population — now have laws on the books regulating adult use marijuana production and retail sales.
Many states also took actions facilitating the expungement or sealing of past marijuana convictions. Over the past several months, state officials have vacated an estimated 2.2 million marijuana convictions.
Numerous states in 2021 also enacted legislation expanding medical cannabis access and stimulating greater diversity among licensed marijuana businesses.
“As we approach the 2022 legislative session and the elections next November, it is important for lawmakers of all political persuasions to recognize that advocating for marijuana policy reforms is a political opportunity, not a political liability,” NORML’s Paul Armentano said. “These policies are popular among voters, regardless of political party.”
2021 was a significant year for marijuana policy reform. Among the most significant developments, legislatures in five states enacted laws legalizing adult-use marijuana possession and regulating retail cannabis markets. This marks a change from past years, when similar laws were primarily enacted via citizens’ initiatives, not by legislative action. In total, 18 states — comprising nearly one-half of the US population — now have laws on the books regulating adult-use marijuana production and retail sales.
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Many states also took actions facilitating the expungement or sealing of past marijuana convictions. Such provisions are now generally part and parcel of any adult-use legalization law. In all, state officials have vacated over 2.2 million marijuana convictions in recent months.
With respect to medical cannabis policies, numerous legislatures took steps in 2021 to expand patients’ access to marijuana products. These actions included expanding the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis, expanding the number of licensed providers, and easing pathways for patients to obtain a medical marijuana recommendation. Currently, 36 states regulate medical cannabis distribution to qualifying patients.
These legislative actions reflect the reality that the majority of the public supports meaningful marijuana reforms. According to recent polling data, nearly seven in ten Americans, including majorities of all major subgroups by gender, age, income and education, and including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, believe that the use of marijuana should be made legal. Only eight percent of adults still favor its continued criminalization.
Public and political support for these legislative changes in marijuana laws will continue growing in 2022 and beyond. As we look ahead to next year’s legislative session, we expect to see lawmakers advance with many of the same issues in other states, and we also expect voters in several jurisdictions to decide on citizen-initiated ballot measures next November. As always, NORML will be tracking the progress of these legislative efforts and providing alerts and status updates.
Senate Bill 1201: Under the law, adults ages 21 and older may legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis flowers or an equivalent amount of cannabis concentrates in public, and up to five ounces of marijuana in their private residences. Those with past criminal records for activities involving up to four ounces of cannabis will have their convictions automatically reviewed and expunged. Those with convictions for more serious offenses may petition the courts to take action. The law took effect on July 1, 2021. Read more
Assembly Bill 21/Senate Bill 21: The bill licenses the commercial production and adult-use retail sale of cannabis. Under the new law, those ages 21 and older may legally purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. Retail sales are subject to state sales tax. Seventy percent of the revenue derived from sales taxes will be directed toward reinvestment in designated, lower-income communities.
Governor Phil Murphy also signed A1897, which removes criminal and civil penalties for the private possession of up to six ounces of cannabis by adults, as well as for the possession of personal use amounts of hashish (up to 170 grams). It also depenalizes activities involving the transfer of up to one ounce of cannabis, and reduces criminal penalties for activities involving larger quantities (distribution of more than one ounce, but less than five pounds) of the substance. Both laws took effect on February 22, 2021. Read more
House Bill 2: This legislation permits those ages 21 and older to legally purchase up to two ounces of marijuana and/or up to 16 grams of cannabis extracts from licensed retailers. It also permits adults to home-cultivate up to six mature plants for their own personal use. The law took effect on June 29, 2021. Read more
Senate Bill S854A: The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) legalizes and regulates an adult-use commercial marijuana market in New York State, and also permits those over the age of 21 to cultivate personal-use quantities of cannabis in their own homes. The bill also facilitates a process for the automatic review and expungement of previous marijuana convictions. The law took effect on March 31, 2021. Read more
House Bill 2312/Senate Bill 1406: This legislation legalizes the personal possession (up to one ounce) and home cultivation (up to four plants) of marijuana by those ages 21 and older and establishes a timeframe for regulators to establish licensed retail cannabis production and sales. The personal use provisions took effect on July 1, 2021. The retail provisions are set to take effect on January 1, 2024, but this deadline could be expedited by lawmakers. Read more
House Bill 652: The enactment of this legislation reduced the penalty for the possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana for first-time as well as subsequent offenses to a $100 fine only. While there is no possibility of jail time under the bill, these offenses remain classified as misdemeanors. The law took effect August 1, 2021. Read more
House Bill 1090: State law previously permitted adults to legally possess up to one ounce of either marijuana flowers or concentrates for recreational purposes without penalty. By contrast, possessing between one and two ounces of cannabis was classified as a petty offense, punishable by a civil penalty of $100. House Bill 1090 eliminated those civil penalties. The measure also makes it easier for those with past marijuana convictions to petition the courts to have their records sealed. The law took effect on May 20, 2021. Read more
Senate Bill 112: The bill expands those eligible to petition the courts for expungement to include certain juveniles with past marijuana convictions. The law took effect on November 8, 2021.
Senate Bill 46: The legislation establishes a medical cannabis access program that permits registered patients to possess up to “70 daily dosages” of medical marijuana at one time, with each dose at a maximum of 50 milligrams. Patients must obtain cannabis from a licensed dispensary. Patients are not allowed to access cannabis flower material or cannabis-infused edible products. Rather, medical cannabis formulations must be in the form of: “tablets, capsules, tinctures, or gel cubes for oral use; gels, oils or creams for topical use, or suppositories, transdermal patches, nebulizers, or liquids or oils for use in an inhaler.” The law took effect on May 17, 2021. Read more
Senate Bill 703: This legislation amends the Telemedicine Act to allow telehealth certification for medical marijuana patients. The law will take effect in January 2022.
Senate Bill 654: This bill extends the period of time (to 90 days) that a patient visiting from another state may legally access medical cannabis in Arkansas. The law will take effect in January 2022.
Senate Bill 311: This legislation provides for “a terminally ill patient’s use of medicinal cannabis within [a] health care facility.” The proposal prohibits patients from either inhaling or vaping herbal cannabis products, and restricts the use of any forms of cannabis in emergency rooms. The law will take effect on January 1, 2022. Read more
Senate Bill 56: The new law requires school boards to implement policies allowing for the storage, possession, and administration of cannabis-based medicines by school personnel. It also allows school personnel to volunteer to possess, administer, or assist in administration of cannabis-based medicines and protects those who do from retaliation. The law took effect on May 6, 2021. Read more
Senate Bill 60: This legislation expands the pool of health professionals that can issue medical cannabis authorizations to include physicians assistants and nurse practitioners. The law took effect on June 15, 2021. Read more
District of Columbia
PR24-0456: This legislation provides a grace period during which registered patients may continue to access medical cannabis without renewing their authorizations to do so. The new law took effect upon signing.
House Bill 391: This legislation expands the pool of licensed medical cannabis products to include “raw or crude” cannabis for the purpose of “inhalation.” Registered medical cannabis patients will be able to purchase up to two and a half ounces of medical cannabis flower per 14-day period from licensed providers. The law will take effect on January 1, 2022. Read more
House File 2128: This legislation expands the pool of licensed medical cannabis products to include cannabis flowers. It also allows patients to obtain medical cannabis via curbside pickup, and increases the number of patients a single caregiver may serve from one to six. The measure was signed into law on May 25, 2021. Read more
House Bill 89: This legislation expanded the pool of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis to include moderate to severe insomnia and autism spectrum disorder. It took effect June 24, 2021. Read more
House Bill 605: This legislation expanded the pool of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis to include opioid use disorder. It also permits out-of-state residents qualified in other jurisdictions to purchase cannabis in New Hampshire. The law took effect on October 9, 2021. Read more
Senate Bill 619: The new law permits healthcare practitioners to authorize any qualifying patient for the medical use of cannabis via a telehealth visit. It took effect on June 24, 2021.
House Bill 1359: This legislation expands the total number of caregivers who may provide services to an authorized medical cannabis patient and eliminates the accompanying $50 application fee. The law took effect on August 1, 2021.
Senate Bill 307: The legislation waives application fees for certain veterans seeking authorization in the state’s medical cannabis access program. The new law will take effect January 1, 2022.
House Bill 1024: This legislation expanded the quantities of cannabis that authorized patients may possess over a 90-day period. The law also expanded the pool of eligible conditions to include cancer remission therapy and CNS-related neuropathy, while also eliminating provisions that previously required chronic pain patients to try conventional prescription pain medications prior to using cannabis, among other changes. The law took effect on June 30, 2021. Read more
House Bill 1535: This legislation expanded the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) by allowing patients with PTSD and all forms of cancer to qualify to access low-THC cannabis products. The measure also raises the cap on legally regulated THC products from 0.5 to one percent. The new law took effect September 1, 2021. Read more
Senate Bill 170: This legislation expanded the pool of medical professionals who can recommend medical cannabis to qualifying patients, and allows patients to access their medicine while their application is still being reviewed. The law took effect on March 17, 2021.
House Bill 2218/Senate Bill 1333: This legislation amended the state’s medical cannabis access law to allow for the production and dispensing of botanical, whole-plant medical cannabis products. The law took effect July 1, 2021. Read more
House Bill 1988: This legislation permits patients in hospice and in other residential facilities to access certain medical cannabis products. It also permits patients to obtain medical cannabis authorizations via telehealth appointments. The law took effect on July 1, 2021. Read more
House Bill 1862: This legislation prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against employees for their lawful use of medical cannabis while away from the job. The new law took effect July 1, 2021. Read more
Senate Bill 201: The legislation amended the state’s traffic safety laws by providing an affirmative defense for those motorists who test positive for the presence of either THC or its metabolite, but who are not responsible for a traffic accident and who show no evidence of intoxication. The law took effect on July 1, 2021. Read more
Assembly Bill 400: This legislation amended the state’s traffic safety statutes so that the operation of a motor vehicle with trace amounts of either THC or its metabolite is no longer a per se violation of law in certain circumstances. The law took effect October 1, 2022. Read more
Senate Bill 111: This legislation establishes a program within the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade to provide financial and technical support to cannabis businesses operated by those holding social equity licenses. An initial infusion of $4 million in funding is designated to the program to be used as either grants or loans to new businesses. The law took effect upon passage. Read more
House Bill 1443: This legislation seeks to increase diversity within the state’s marijuana industry by providing for over 100 additional marijuana dispensary licenses to be awarded to qualified social equity applicants via lotteries. The law took effect on July 15, 2021.
House Bill 4295: this legislation permits those with previous felony and misdemeanor marijuana convictions to apply for licensing to participate in the state-licensed medical marijuana industry. The law was signed on November 4, 2021. Read more
Senate Bill 25: This legislation appropriates $500,000 from the General Fund to establish a ‘Cannabis Business Development Fund.’ The Fund is designated to provide “financial assistance, loans, grants, and outreach to social equity applicants” who are seeking to operate state-licensed marijuana facilities. The bill took effect on March 1, 2022. Read more
Rule CR-103P: These new regulations expand the pool of applicants eligible to receive licensure to participate in the state’s legal marijuana industry. Under the new policy, those with either felony criminal records or multiple misdemeanors are no longer ineligible from consideration for licensure. The regulations took effect on October 2, 2021. Read more
House Bill 1443: The legislation seeks to increase the pool of resources available for those with past marijuana convictions who are seeking to apply to participate in state-licensed cannabis-related business. The law took effect on July 25, 2021. Read more
House Bill 241: The legislation allows law enforcement to refer juvenile marijuana offenders to counseling, treatment, or other appropriate intervention services in lieu of a monetary fine. The law took effect on September 17, 2021. Read more
House Bill 517: This legislation reduced the penalty for those under 21 caught possessing any amount of marijuana. The law took effect on April 21, 2021.
Assembly Bill 158: The legislation revises first-time penalties for minors who possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce) to community service. It also requires courts to automatically seal records for offenders once they have completed the terms of their sentence. The law took effect on October 1, 2021. Read more
Assembly Bill 5342: The bill provides for a series of written warnings, rather than the imposition of either criminal penalties or fines, for those under the age of 21 who are found to be possessing cannabis. The law took effect on February 22, 2021. Read more
Assembly Bill 341: This legislation establishes licensing for adult-use, on-site “cannabis consumption lounges.” The bill also provides for reduced license application fees for qualifying social equity applicants. The law took effect October 1, 2022. Read more
House Bill 2519: The bill allows licensed dispensaries to home-deliver adult-use cannabis products to consumers 21 and older within certain jurisdictions. The law took effect on September 25, 2021. Read more
Assembly Bill 45: This bill allows the production and retail sale of food and drink products containing hemp-derived CBD. The law took effect on October 6, 2021.
House Bill 88: This legislation provides that persons shall not be determined ineligible for cash assistance provided under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program solely because of conviction for a past drug-related felony. The law took effect on October 30, 2021.