U.S. Watch: What states will legalize cannabis in 2019?

It has been said that 2019 will be the biggest year yet in the grand scheme of marijuana reform in the United States. This seems to be a reasonably logical assessment, considering that the country just bid farewell to Year of the Dog stronger than ever with respect to the issue.

Ten states have now given clearance to the concept of recreational marijuana, while more than 30 of them have put medical marijuana laws on the books. But it is the adult-use scheme (recreational) that seems to be shining through a little more these days. Giving marijuana a retail platform and hence a spot inside American commerce is where this decades-old movement is heading.

But which states will be the next to make a move on marijuana legalization as we ready ourselves for a new year? The following three states are the most likely to pull the trigger.

New York

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In December, Cuomo announced that marijuana legalization would be a high priority in 2019. 

Although Governor Andrew Cuomo was once opposed to the idea of legalizing marijuana, he changed his tune in 2018. This was mostly due to the results of a report by the State’s Department of Health, which came with a recommendation to legalize because “the positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” he said, adding that all prohibition has done is jam up minorities in the criminal justice system. “We must also end the needless and unjust criminal convictions and the debilitating criminal stigma.”

Lawmakers are expected to dive into this issue early in the session. If the state is successful, this will be a big deal toward federal change.


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Photo credit: pabradyphoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Land of Lincoln is another top pick for pot. Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker made marijuana legalization part of his campaign. He would like to use legal weed to pay for his capital construction plan and as a means for repairing the state’s $8 billion budget deficit. NPR Illinois reported in December that Pritzker was already meeting with lawmakers to get the ball rolling.

“There’s an opportunity for us to be the first state in the Midwest to make it available, and so I think the legislature should get at it,” he told the news source.

The issue will likely be one of five or so initiatives to be tossed into the laps of the Illinois General Assembly when it reconvenes next week. A report published last year found the state could see $1 billion in economic benefit from legalization. It’s not a sure thing, but it is one our favorites to win in the new year.

New Jersey

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Governor Phil Murphy has been pushing for it ever since he took office, but getting everyone to agree on a plan has proven difficult.

New Jersey struggled in 2018 to put a recreational marijuana law on the books. But this will be the year it gets done. Governor Phil Murphy has been pushing for it ever since he took office, but getting everyone to agree on a plan has proven difficult.

The primary hang-up at this point is taxes. Lawmakers want one thing, while Murphy wants another. However, this expected to get ironed out early in the new session. In fact, it is conceivable that New Jersey will be the first state to legalize in 2019.

Other Contenders

Other states are expected to tackle marijuana reform in the New Year. Some believe Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Minnesota have a fair shot at furthering the issue. There will likely be some surprises and, undoubtedly, some let downs in 2019. But for the most part, expect to see big things.

We could even witness for the first time ever marijuana being given some serious considering on Capitol Hill. But don’t get too excited about those developments. It’s not likely that Congress will have the guts to legalize marijuana nationwide by next Christmas.

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