Ever since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana in 2012, more and more states have begun changing their stances when it comes to legalizing medical and recreational cannabis. Although the drug is still illegal at the federal level, the cannabis industry is set to make major strides in the new year thanks to these upcoming new marijuana laws in 2020.
One of the biggest marijuana moves happening in 2020 will be the start of sales for recreational marijuana and other cannabis products in the state of Illinois. Starting New Year’s Day, people over the age of 21 with a valid ID can purchase recreational marijuana from licensed retailers. Illinois has other cannabis-related laws in the pipeline for 2020, including a law that will allow students who are medical marijuana patients to use cannabis products on school grounds or at school activities.
Gov. Jared Polis signed two measures that would expand Colorado’s cannabis industry in 2020. Colorado voters can now determine if they want cannabis “hospitality” businesses that allow on-site consumption in their city or county. These businesses, such as marijuana cafes, lounges and tasting rooms, can begin applying for licenses in 2020. Another new frontier that can now be legally explored in the new year is medical marijuana delivery businesses. Medical marijuana delivery businesses may ramp up as early as 2020, but recreational may begin in 2021.
In December 2019, Major League Baseball and the MLB players union officially agreed to remove marijuana from the major and minor league’s list of Drugs of Abuse. This makes MLB the first American sports league to reduce its punishments for marijuana use. Beginning with 2020 spring training, cannabis consumption by players will be treated the same way as alcohol use. Previously, testing positive for THC resulted in mandatory drug treatment for players.
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In October 2018, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the country’s absolute ban on recreational marijuana was unconstitutional. The country’s highest court has extended the deadline to April 30, 2020, for legislators to pass reform laws. Upon passing these laws, Mexico will become only the third country in the world to allow for the sale and consumption of adult-use marijuana along with Uruguay and Canada. That would mean the United States would border two countries with legal marijuana nationwide.
Hawaii will become the 26th state to decriminalize possession of marijuana when a new measure takes effect Jan. 11, 2020. Possession of 3 grams or less of marijuana will now only be punishable by fine. This is the smallest amount any state has decriminalized. In Hawaii, medical marijuana is permitted but recreational use is not legal.
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New Jersey may become the 12th state to legalize adult recreational marijuana use with a ballot initiative that is planned for the state’s 2020 ballot. In December 2019, lawmakers voted to officially put the question up to voters after the legislature did not directly legalize marijuana.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorized the cultivation of 3.2 million grams, or more than 7,000 pounds, of marijuana for research purposes in 2020, a 30% increase from 2019. The demand for research-grade cannabis has ballooned in recent years, however, there is only one federally authorized marijuana cultivation facility at the University of Mississippi. The DEA also plans on processing new licensors in 2020.
Using CBD as a cooking ingredient became a food trend in 2019, with restaurants and bars adding CBD-infused and -topped items to their menus. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) it’s illegal to sell food and beverages with CBD or THC at the federal level. In response, local and state governments began taking action. For example, New York City health officials announced a ban on businesses using CBD in food and drinks. Meanwhile, other states like Maine have passed laws to allow the use of CBD in food products. A California bill about legalizing CBD in foods, beverages and cosmetics is on hold until 2020 but could pave the way for other states to consider similar measures.
Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, credit card companies, banks and credit unions avoid serving marijuana-related businesses, making many cash-only operations, which is just one of many things you should know before shopping for marijuana. While Congress is working on a solution to this problem, other states are seeking out their own remedies to help protect their cannabis industries. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak greenlit a law to begin a three-year pilot program of a closed-loop payment system for marijuana purchases. This Venmo-like app would use digital currency and is expected to be up and running by July 2020.
In September 2019, the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan bill called the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, known as the SAFE Banking Act, to protect banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses. The next step for this law is to pass a vote by the Senate Banking Committee and then be approved by the Republican-led Senate. In December 2019, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo voiced his concerns over the bill. Pundits are pessimistic that the issue will be voted on anytime soon, especially with 2020 being an election year, but it is possible.
Although the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp legal nationwide, some states have been slow to adopt their own hemp legalization policies. In 2019, Texas developed a plan for the commercial production of hemp. Once the permit application and licensing process launches sometime in 2020, farmers will be able to legally produce retail hemp crop and products. It is projected that Kentucky, one of the country’s top hemp-producing states, has grown and produced $100 million worth of hemp products in 2019.
Nearly a year after Congress legalized hemp and hemp farming, the federal government is finally enacting regulations for farming hemp. While some states have been waiting for nationwide regulations, others have begun their own programs, including Colorado, which created a successful pilot program for hemp licensing in 2014. The majority of states have established hemp production programs, which will now have to adjust to national requirements for licensing, record-keeping, testing and more. The regulations will be open to public comment period until January 2020.
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Maine voters approved legal adult-use marijuana at the polls in November 2016 at the same time as California, Massachusetts and Nevada. Maine’s marijuana program has lagged behind those of its contemporaries as the law’s implementation was delayed. After many debates and delays, Maine is on track to begin legal marijuana sales by the spring of 2020.
Another state that could possibly see a marijuana legalization law on the books in 2020 is Vermont. The state legislature legalized possession and home cultivation for adults in 2018, but sales and production are still illegal. In 2019, the Vermont Senate passed a plan to tax and regulate cannabis like alcohol. Though the House didn’t approve the plan, it will likely be discussed again during the 2020 legislative session.
Washington is a cultural epicenter for marijuana, playing host to one of the largest marijuana festivals in the world. It became the second state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, and the state has been learning, adapting and modifying laws as the industry grows. After five years with legal recreational cannabis sales, officials are planning to overhaul the state’s marijuana legislation through a process dubbed “Cannabis 2.0.” Two proposed bills would encourage greater ownership of marijuana businesses by minorities, women and military veterans as well as give new advantages to small marijuana growers. Without federal regulations, Washington is also working on setting a standard for cannabis lab accreditation, with the Department of Ecology assigned to submit a report to the state legislature by June 2020. Here is a state-by-state guide of where marijuana law currently stands across the country.
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