Who Will Win The Legalize Recreational Marijuana Race of 2018?
The beginning of 2018 should be very interesting in terms of new states that will have legalized recreational marijuana. All of 2018 will be worth watching closely for not only states that legalize cannabis but other states that decide to enter into the recreational marijuana race.
At the head of the race is New Jersey and Vermont. What puts the two states at the head of the pack and what makes their potential legalization particularly interesting is that both states may legalize cannabis through an act of lawmakers instead of voters pushing it through in the ballot box. The only real question is which states’ lawmakers make it happen first.
In 2017, the state fell just short of doing so. The legislature passed a bill to legalize personal cannabis possession and homegrow, but Gov. Phil Scott (R) vetoed it. However, in doing so, he laid out a few small changes he wanted legislators to make in order to win his support. The Senate quickly acted to make the requested revisions, but the House was not able to jump through procedural hurdles to get it done in time during a short special session over the summer.
And Scott, in an interview on Friday, said he was still “comfortable” with the plan.
All eight states that have ended cannabis prohibition to date have done so via ballot measures approved by voters. Reform supporters think that either Vermont or New Jersey, where Gov.-elect Phil Murphy (D) campaigned on legalization, will be the first state to end prohibition through an act of lawmakers.
Vermont’s approach would be different than the laws that exist in other states, in that it would enact a noncommercial form of legalization where only possessing small amounts of cannabis and growing a few plants at home would be legal. There would initially be no licensed stores where consumers could purchase marijuana, but the Senate-passed legislation would create a commission to study possible future commercialization.
New Jersey lawmakers, on the other hand, are expected to consider full-scale commercial legalization right away, something that Murphy repeatedly argued on the campaign trail is necessary to undermine the illegal market.
Because Vermont’s compromise bill has already cleared one chamber and now just needs approval from the other, the state seems poised to get its legislation across the finish line sooner than the Garden State can act.
While Vermont seems to be leading the race right now to legalize first, Governor Scott has not embraced the legalization of cannabis as much as Governor-elect Murphy. What do you think the chances are that Phil Scott sends legislation back to Vermont’s lawmakers for revisions delaying legal cannabis in Vermont?