Politics

These states could legalize marijuana next in 2023

Published on February 10, 2023
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The march towards legalization continues, Leafly Nation! 

In 2023, we expect a handful of states to pass legislation—or send measures to voters—to legalize adult-use cannabis or medical marijuana.

Read on to learn more about the states we’ve got our eyes on, the specifics of the measures themselves, and where these various campaigns currently stand.

Delaware

Last year, Delaware lawmakers passed a pair of bills to legalize cannabis possession and establish the framework for an adult-use industry. They hoped that the former bill would force Gov. John Carney (D) to green-light the latter—otherwise the state would effectively create an unregulated “gifting” economy. Carney, however, vetoed the possession bill

This year, lawmakers are taking another crack at it: They’ve already introduced a pair of new bills to legalize cannabis: HB 1 and HB 2. The main difference from last year’s effort? The possession legalization bill doesn’t permit gifting. 

Both new bills have already passed out of committee. They could get a full House vote as early as March.

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Hawaii

With support from the state’s new, pro-reform governor, Josh Green (D), Hawaii lawmakers are optimistic that they can pass adult-use legalization this year. In January, state Rep. Jeanné Kapela (D) made clear her intention to file a legalization bill.

“Our society’s most marginalized people would be first in line to participate in the cannabis industry that we are seeking to grow,” Kapela said at an event announcing the upcoming bill

“Agricultural and business practices would be based on sustainable and indigenous cultivation methods, ensuring that cannabis operations uplift the needs of U.S. residents, the needs of Hawaii’s people, not the profits of multi-state corporations,” she added.

Maryland

Maryland residents voted in favor of legalization in November (by a 2-to-1 margin, no less), but legal possession won’t go fully into effect until July 1, 2023. In the meantime, Maryland considers the personal possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis subject solely to a civil fine of up to $100. It will not result in arrest or incarceration. 

We are expecting the Maryland legislature to pass a bill in the coming months to establish the framework for a legal and regulated cannabis industry. In other words: You’ll be able to possess legally on July 1, Maryland, but you can’t buy legally until the legislature establishes the rules.

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Minnesota

Legalization looks promising in MInnesota this year. In late January, Gov. Tim Walz (D) released his proposed biennial budget, and it includes allocations to implement an adult-use cannabis program and to implement expungements. 

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A 200+ page bill has begun making its way through various state legislative committees. The Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) holds a slim majority in both houses of state government.

Minnesota Public Radio reports the bill would put an estimated 15% tax on sales and prohibit counties from fully banning licensed stores. The bill doesn’t yet include a start date for the program. 

Ohio

This January, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) re-introduced a bill to legalize adult-use marijuana and implement a 10% tax on retail sales. LaRose initially proposed the act last year, but was forced to delay putting it front of voters.

If the Republican-held statehouse does not pass the act (and to be clear, no one expects them to), the measure could go to the voters in November 2023. 

While voters may be more likely than state lawmakers to advance legalization, it’s far from a guaranteed win. In 2015, Ohio voters resoundingly voted against adult-use by a margin of nearly two-to-one. But that measure was a notoriously flawed proposal that caught flack from even the most ardent legalization supporters. 

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Oklahoma

Even though activists gathered enough signatures to put adult-use to voters on the Nov. 2022 midterm election ballot—via a measure known as State Question 820—errors on the part of state workers prevented the measure from actually appearing on the ballot

As a result, Oklahoma will vote to legalize adult-use marijuana during a special election on March 7. A poll released late last year showed 49% of adults support the measure, 38% oppose it, and 13% were undecided.

Pennsylvania

Many of Pennsylvania’s regional neighbors—Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, DC—have all legalized adult-use marijuana, but the Keystone State has been slow to join them. State GOP lawmakers have blocked legalization bills, but in the Nov. 2022 election state Democrats wrested back some seats. Then, on February 7, Democrats won three special elections that gave them a slight edge in the state House: 102 to 101. That tiny majority may be enough for the Keystone State to finally pass a legalization bill through the House; Republicans retain a majority in the state Senate.

If a legalization bill manages to clear the state House and Senate, Pennsylvania’s new pro-reform Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) will likely support it.

South Carolina

Two medical marijuana bills have been pre-filed in South Carolina. One bill permits residents to use medical marijuana and allows for dispensaries to open; the other bill lays the groundwork for a more comprehensive medical marijuana program.

State senator Tom Davis (R) introduced a medical marijuana bill last session that died in the state House.

Wisconsin

In recent interviews, leaders in Wisconsin’s dominant Republican party have signaled that they have nearly reached consensus on medical marijuana legislation. 

Lawmakers emphasize that they would only support a restrictive program. “I support a form of medical marijuana, where it is very restricted, so it’s only going to folks who have a true medical condition,” state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a recent interview.

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Max Savage Levenson
Max Savage Levenson
Max Savage Levenson likely has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled folk. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.
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