In relatively recent years, support for cannabis legalization has become mainstream among Democratic politicians’ platforms, with some Republicans also backing the idea. State legislatures throughout the country are grappling with if and how the drug should be legalized, while several cannabis-related bills— including those looking to decriminalize it on the federal level— have been introduced in Congress.
Vocal opponents claim that cannabis poses a public health and safety risk, while some are morally against its legalization. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that it’s nowhere near as dangerous as alcohol— pointing to evidence that it has a myriad of potential therapeutic benefits, including stress and pain relief.
Additionally, cannabis advocates see it as a moneymaker for states, not to mention a necessary social justice initiative. Cannabis laws have disproportionately affected people from minority communities, ultimately contributing to mass incarceration.
With all this being said, there has been a recent wave throughout the US of cannabis legalization on a state level.
The following are the states that have most recently decriminalized cannabis.
New Jersey - November 2020
New Jersey was one of the four new states to support cannabis legalization measures on Election Day 2020. Almost 67% of voters approved the ballot initiative to legalize cannabis. The measure outlines that only adults above the age of 21 would be able to use it.
Montana - November 2020
Montana's Election Day 2020 ballot offered two popular-vote measures that would essentially regulate the use of recreational cannabis: Initiative 190, which legalized the use and possession of limited amounts of cannabis by adults 21 and over; and Initiative 118, which gives the state legislature the authority to set an age for cannabis use and consumption.
South Dakota - November 2020
South Dakota's amendment allows adults over the age of 21 to possess and distribute up to an ounce of cannabis. A simultaneous measure to legalize medical cannabis without limits was approved by nearly 70% of voters.
Arizona - November 2020
Arizona's Proposition 207 allows limited cannabis cultivation, possession, and use by adults over age 21; bans public smoking of the plant; establishes local and state regulation of cannabis licensees; and allows cannabis offenses to be completely expunged.
New York - March 2021
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act on March 31, 2021. The law allows adults 21 or older to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis for recreational use, establishes two agencies to regulate its sale and distribution, and clears the way for those convicted of cannabis-related offenses to have their related criminal records expunged.
New Mexico - April 2021
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico signed HB2 on April 12, 2021— allowing individuals over 21 to grow cannabis plants at home and possess no more than two ounces outside their homes.