As of the end of 2022, marijuana is legal for recreational purposes in 21 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories. Medical cannabis is legal in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories.
With the new year upon us, many states could change existing legislation, and others might follow in the move to legalize medical and recreational marijuana. The Northeast can expect the most significant changes in the coming months.
New York and Rhode Island began selling cannabis last month. Connecticut will also allow legal cannabis businesses to sell to adults 21 and older starting January 10, while Maryland is preparing for legal adult-use marijuana in July.
With the number of states legalizing marijuana in recent years, advocates expect exciting changes surrounding cannabis laws this year.
A Look Back at Marijuana Laws in 2022
In 2022, multiple pieces of legislation moved marijuana legalization forward. Below are the most notable victories in cannabis reform last year.
Rhode Island was the 19th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use when Governor Dan McKee signed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act last May. The new law also expunged civil and criminal charges for marijuana possession.
Recreational cannabis sales started recently. Five existing medical marijuana stores began selling medical and recreational cannabis last month.
Maryland was one of two states to legalize recreational marijuana during the recent midterm elections. Voters in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas rejected the proposed measures.
The new law, effective July 1, 2023, will allow adults 21 and older to possess:
- Up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis flower
- Up to 12 grams of concentrated cannabis
- A total amount of cannabis products not exceeding 750 mg THC
Anyone charged with possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana can also get their criminal case expunged.
Missouri was another state to approve adult-use recreational cannabis in the recent midterm election. The legislation allows adults 21 and older to grow up to six flowering plants in their residences and possess up to three ounces of cannabis. Residents can also possess up to six ounces of medical marijuana with a valid card.
The courts can review and expunge prior nonviolent marijuana offenses. They will start reviewing cases in order of severity and expunge the least severe crimes first.
New Legislation for Adult-Use Cannabis in 2023
The recently passed laws in Maryland and Missouri aren’t the only legislation to take effect in 2023. Last month, officials in Connecticut announced the launch of cannabis sales. As of January 1, nine existing medical marijuana dispensaries started selling cannabis for recreational use.
It took the state approximately 18 months to establish a regulated market after possessing a small amount of marijuana became legal in July 2021.
Below are states expected to sell medical marijuana this year.
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission received 94 applications from businesses interested in cultivating, processing, transporting, testing, and dispensing medical cannabis products. The state was the 37th in the country to legalize marijuana for medical use.
The commission will review applications and assign a ranked score based on each company’s merit. After considering the applications formally submitted, the commission will release the names and application details for public inspection. Currently, the date to award licenses is scheduled for June 12.
Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order allowing residents to use and possess marijuana for specific medical conditions if purchased in a different state. The new order took effect on January 1. However, it has multiple restrictions, including:
- The amount bought and used at any time can’t exceed 8 ounces
- Residents must purchase cannabis in a different state where it is legal and regulated and prove where they bought it with a receipt
- A licensed healthcare provider must issue a certification showing a diagnosis of a defined condition, such as multiple sclerosis, terminal illness, or cancer
States Working on Legalizing Adult-Use Marijuana
Multiple states have pending bills for adult-use medical and recreational cannabis. Some aim to decriminalize the substance currently considered a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
Below are the states pushing new legislation for the cannabis industry this year.
Governor Tim Waltz plans to pass a bill legalizing adult-use marijuana in 2023. The House tried to advance legalization in the past. However, efforts always stalled in the Republic-controlled Senate. Now with Democrats in control of the Senate, Waltz indicated cannabis legislation would be his priority.
In Delaware, Governor John Carney vetoed a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use during the 2022 legislative session. The proposed legislation also included provisions to expand expungement eligibility for prior cannabis-related convictions.
Representative Ed Osienski tried to override the veto but fell short by five votes. Although previous efforts to pass bills for cannabis legalization have failed, residents support legalizing the drug. According to a University of Delaware poll, 60% of registered voters believe marijuana should be legal.
Lawmakers in Kansas held multiple meetings regarding medical marijuana reform. Members of the Special Committee on Medical Marijuana discussed various issues with experts and officials at the end of last year. Senator Robert Olson discussed his plan to file a medical marijuana legalization bill.
Governor Laura Kelly also addressed her plans for medical marijuana during her second term. She will prioritize legislation to legalize the drug for medical use. She believes allowing residents suffering from severe illnesses access to legal marijuana will offer some relief.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper supports decriminalizing cannabis possession and legalizing the substance for medical use in the state. He directed state attorneys to review pardon authority for cannabis-related offenses after Biden announced a mass pardon in October. In June, a bill for medical marijuana legalization passed the Senate but failed to advance when it reached the House.
A special election scheduled for March 7 will allow voters to decide on adult-use marijuana legislation. The measure will permit adults to possess and cultivate cannabis at home.
Anyone serving a sentence or convicted of cannabis-related offenses can petition the courts for a re-sentencing consideration or record expungement. The proposed measure will also establish a licensed retail marketplace.
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