A new poll showing that Arizona voters generally favor adult-use marijuana legalization in 2020 created a lot of excitement last week.
But the real trick for proponents will be to come up with a proposed ballot measure that voters like. History shows this will be much more difficult than the recent poll implies. A few ideas have been floated for 2020, but no serious stakeholders — a.k.a., people with money or experience winning campaigns — have released any proposed text. However, the high level of voter support for some kind of legalization plan, combined with the potential of lucrative, new business opportunities, mean a proposal is inevitable. The Arizona Dispensary Association, which has taken the lead in discussions for such a plan, may be ready to introduce something as soon as this month.
Ready or not, election season has begun. Last month, 20 presidential candidates from the Democratic ticket held two separate debates (10 candidates for each debate), with the field having now grown to roughly two dozen hopefuls.
But this isn’t the only battle brewing. There’s another topic that’s garnering a lot of buzz throughout America, and it’s going to get its share of the limelight in 2020. I’m talking about the green rush: marijuana.
According to Gallup’s latest poll, a record 66% of American adults surveyed this past October supported the idea of legalizing cannabis on a national level. That’s up from a mere 25% who supported legalization in 1995, the year before California became the first state to give the green light to medical marijuana. Today, 33 states have approved the use of medical marijuana for select ailments, with 11 also allowing recreational pot consumption. Perhaps the bigger question is: Which states will be looking to legalize recreational and/or medical marijuana in 2020?
The governor of Minnesota has ordered state agencies to ready themselves for the advent of cannabis legalization — but many lawmakers think such a marijuana bill is unlikely to pass this year.
“My agencies have been tasked to put all of the building blocks in place, from Revenue to the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health,” said Governor Tim Walz. “We will have everything ready to go, and we will be able to implement it in Minnesota the minute the Legislature moves this.”
But he faces a Republican-controlled state senate that seems dead-set on keeping recreational marijuana nice and illegal. “It’s my position that it’s not good for Minnesota. It’s dead as far as I’m concerned in the Senate for next year,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka told Minnesota Public Radio. He cited concerns over dangerous driving, children getting their hands on the drug, and addiction issues.
For years, the possibility of legalizing recreational adult-use marijuana in Florida was little more than an afterthought — but in recently, momentum’s picked up. In 2016, Florida voters approved an initiative that legalized medical cannabis, only for state lawmakers to subsequently ban smokeable forms until earlier this year. Now, legal recreational marijuana in Florida may be a reality as soon as 2020.
One of the signs of cannabis-related change next year is the new political committee Make It Legal Florida, which registered with the state earlier this month. It’s chaired by Nick Hansen, a longtime advisor to Republican State Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, who recently took on the role of southeastern director of government affairs at MedMen, the California company that’s attempting to take the retail pot world by storm. The company currently has a store in West Palm Beach and a delivery service in Orlando, and will soon have a chain of locations across the state (at least 11 additional stores are “coming soon,” according to MedMen’s website.) At this point, these dispensaries are for medical patients only.
Legal Weed: Here’s Where Every 2020 Presidential Candidate Stands on Marijuana Reform and Legalization
“It’s very encouraging to see so many presidential candidates taking a position in line with what the American people want. For decades there’s been a disconnect between the positions of the American public and their elected officials,” Matthew Schweich, the deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Newsweek.
National polling shows that the country overwhelmingly supports legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, two in every three Americans support legalizing weed. That figure was backed up by a CBS poll conducted on the eve of 4/20, a date has long been a national holiday for those inclined to celebrate cannabis culture even before the rush of states legalizing marijuana in recent years.