Marijuana Revenue Set to Soar After Legalization Wins; Other States Eye 2021 Reforms

Law Street Media previously reported that New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota are now among 15 states and the District of Columbia allowing adults to use marijuana recreationally. The wins were not close, CNN Business reported. The news outlet quoted John Hudak, a cannabis policy expert and deputy director at the Brookings Institution, a research group. Hudak stated that “[t]hey passed overwhelmingly; they were not close races.” He called it “a resounding win for cannabis.”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) blog explained that in Mississippi, voters chose between two initiatives. The one that prevailed was posted by patient advocates, while the second, a more limited lawmaker-driven measure, was rejected. The latter measure made the ballot despite challenges from a Mississippi mayor, who claimed that its elevation to the ballot was procedurally flawed.

CNN Business also made light of projections by Bethany Gomez, managing director for the Brightfield Group, a cannabis industry market research and analytics company. Gomez stated that forecasts show that the domestic recreational and medical cannabis industry will hit $19 billion in sales this year and increase to $24 billion by 2021. With the possible legalization in New York and other states, the figure could grow to $45 billion in sales by 2025.

Despite the state-level gains, the industry faces federal challenges. Law Street Media has recently reported about courtroom efforts to de-list marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, a law implemented by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Specifically, although the Supreme Court passed on an opportunity to address the issue in mid-October, another case is pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the latter, the petitioners argued that the DEA’s denial of a 2020 petition to de-list marijuana was arbitrary and capricious, and that another provision of the law created an impermissible “double-delegation” in violation of the Constitution. Amicus briefs have streamed in since the petitioners’ Sept. 29 opening brief was filed. The DEA, represented by current Attorney General Bill Barr, must file its response by Nov. 30.

In terms of a legislative solution, CNN Business reported that “a Senate led by Republican Mitch McConnell will mean cannabis legislative measures will remain dead in the water, especially under a Biden administration.” The Brookings Institution’s Hudak reportedly said that “Mitch McConnell is a one-man ‘no’ machine.” He explained that McConnell “doesn’t see the political benefits” associated with federal legalization. For the cannabis industry, this makes banking and financial transactions difficult. They also have trouble insuring their businesses and are ineligible to receive federal disaster aid, CNN Business reported.

Some lawmakers are eyeing 2021 for reforms in their states for a number of reasons, one among them, reducing regional travel amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Marijuana Moment reported that one governor explained how legalizing marijuana could ease travel concerns. The Nov. 7 article reported that Connecticut’s governor explained how officials need to think regionally in terms of controlling virus transmission.

In terms of recreational marijuana use, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) stated that “[r]ight now I’m surrounded by states—you mentioned New Jersey, Massachusetts—where marijuana is already legal, and I don’t need a lot of people driving back and forth across the border. We’re trying to keep people close to home as best we can right now, and I think legalizing marijuana and doing that safely, making sure that no poison is laced in there, I think it’s one way to keep people closer to home.”