As a patient and consumer focused advocacy organization, NORML prioritizes efforts in favor of state-level legislation that seeks to achieve the following goals:
- Adult-Use Legalization – 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted adult-use programs.
- Medical cannabis program creation or significant improvements to existing access programs – Alabama, Idaho and Nebraska are the only states that have not legalized any type of medical marijuana. An additional dozen states have low-THC medical programs.
- Decriminalization and other forms of penalty reductions– In addition to those states that have legalized cannabis possession, another ten states have either fully or partially decriminalized certain marijuana possession offenses. Of note, over 120 cities or counties that have passed ordinances providing for significantly lower cannabis-related penalties than those provided under state laws.
- Expungement– 24 states have enacted legislation explicitly permitting or facilitating the process of having select marijuana convictions expunged, vacated, otherwise set aside, or sealed from public view.
- Patient and employment/workplace protections – There are 23 states that grant employment rights to medical marijuana users, and seven states to do so for recreational users.
- Home cultivation – 22 states allow for home cultivation in their medical programs. 16 states currently allow for home cultivation in their adult-use programs, with two more starting this summer. Home cultivation is an important alternative to purchasing it from licensed retail producers.
- Equity – Out of the 21 states with adult-use cannabis, 13 have developed social equity programs to help marginalized people become cannabis leaders in their markets.
States to Watch in 2023
Incoming Governor Josh Green is supportive of the legalization of cannabis for adults, thus raising expectations that lawmakers can move this issue forward in the new year.
Kansas legislators have held multiple hearings in recent months regarding the creation of a medical cannabis program in the Bluegrass state. These hearings will form the blueprint for soon-to-be introduced medical cannabis access legislation.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order in November providing legal protections for qualifying patients who obtain medical cannabis products from out-of-state. The order, which takes effect on January 1, 2023, provides those eligible patients a “full, complete, and conditional pardon” if they face prosecution for the possession of up to eight ounces of cannabis.
Additionally, a new report from the state’s medical marijuana advisory committee determined that marijuana can serve as an alternative to addictive opioids, that Kentuckians are leaving the state to seek medical cannabis treatment where it’s legal and that marijuana helps military veterans find relief from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. These actions are expected to strengthen lawmakers’ efforts to pass comprehensive medical cannabis access in 2023.
Past efforts by members of the Minnesota House to advance adult use cannabis legalization legislation stalled in the Republican controlled Senate. The Senate is now under Democratic control and the Governor Tim Waltz (D) has voiced his support for legalization legislation to be delivered to his desk.
The New Hampshire House has passed legalization legislation multiple occasions and bi-partisan legislation has been announced for the upcoming session.
Although Republican Gov. Chris Sununu (R), remains opposed to legalization, his more recent comments on the issue seem to show a softening of his position. He said during a debate last month that reform “could be inevitable,” but he added that states need to “be patient about how you do it.”
North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper (D) recently said he thinks a medical marijuana legalization bill “has an opportunity to pass” in the upcoming legislative session. Cooper further reiterated his support for broader decriminalization of cannabis possession, noting racial disparities in enforcement.
Oklahoma voters will decide on a citizens’-initiated measure legalizing the adult-use marijuana market in a special election to be held on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. Only State Question 820 will appear on the ballot, a first.
State Question 820, sponsored by the group Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, permits adults to legally possess and home-cultivate personal use qualities of cannabis while also establishing a licensed, retail marketplace. Those with past marijuana convictions, or those who are currently incarcerated for certain cannabis-related crimes, would be able to petition the courts for either record expungement or re-sentencing consideration.
Advocates are hopeful that the newly Democratic House will partner with Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro (D), to push for legalization in the 2023 session.