Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio could legalize marijuana

Cannabis reform demonstrators gather outside the White House in Washington, DC, to call on President Joe Biden to take action on cannabis clemency before the November general election, Oct. 24, 2022.

Win Mcnamee | Getty Images

Marijuana is a multibillion-dollar industry, and across the United States, legal markets are popping up like weeds as more states seek out the tax revenue and jobs the cash crop brings.

Medical and recreational marijuana sales are projected to reach $33.6 billion by the end of the year, a trend largely driven by the opening of new adult-use markets, according to an MJBiz Factbook analysis.

In Michigan alone, medical and recreational sales together brought in about $325 million in tax revenue last year, according to the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency.

In Delaware, legal weed became a reality last month, when the state passed dual bills that aimed to allow possession by adults 21 and older, and establish a regulatory framework for an adult-use market to take shape in the coming months. The state became the 22nd to legalize recreational marijuana and follows Missouri and Maryland, which did so earlier this year.

The victory for the industry concludes a “multi-year effort” with “many hurdles along the way,” said Olivia Naugle, a senior policy analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project.

“From organizing lobby days, rallies, and town halls, testing in key committees, conducting media outreach, voter guides, and so much more, years of effective advocacy and teamwork helped us reach this moment,” Naugle said.

Similar legalization efforts are underway and driving momentum in a handful of other states as the marijuana industry grows. Some states are even moving ahead with proposals or ballot measures to legalize weed, putting them within arms’ reach of having recreational markets.

These are the states that have a chance to legalize adult-use marijuana in the coming years.

Minnesota

Leif Hamre of Minneapolis attends a rally at the state Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota, held by members of Minnesota NORML, advocating for the legalization of cannabis, April 23, 2014.

Jerry Holt | StarTribune | Getty Images

For the first time in a decade, Minnesota Democrats control both chambers in the state’s legislature and the governor’s office, a trifecta that has the state on the verge of legalizing marijuana.

Jason Tarasek, the founder of Minnesota Cannabis Law, said that a final bill aimed at ending prohibition of weed and establishing a regulated market will reach the desk of Gov. Tim Walz to be signed into law in the coming weeks. Minnesota’s House and Senate passed separate versions of the legislation, and lawmakers from both parties are now ironing out key pieces of a final bill, including tax rates and the expungement of past marijuana-related criminal charges or convictions.

“Legalization will also create hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs, eliminate the illicit market, and allow law enforcement to focus upon more serious crimes,” Tarasek said.

Medical marijuana is already legal in Minnesota, and a majority of residents in the state support its recreational use.

Walz has expressed support for the bill, and Tarasek expects him to sign it into law before the current legislative session adjourns on May 22.

Florida

Jared Sadler harvests marijuana plants at a Cresco Labs cultivation facility in Indiantown, Florida.

John McCall | Getty Images

Florida is about 50,000 signatures away from putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot that would allow recreational use of marijuana.

Florida legalization advocates have collected 841,130 valid signatures statewide of the 891,589 needed for the amendment, according to Florida’s Division of Elections website. The state updates petition counts at the end of each month.

Once the measure, which narrowly focuses on allowing recreational use in the state, gets put on the ballot, it stands a good chance of passing. A University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab poll found 70% of respondents “strongly” or “somewhat” support the amendment.

The measure does not establish a framework for what a legal market would look like.

Florida legalized the sale of medical marijuana in 2016 and it has become a billion-dollar business. Legal sales were $1.04 billion from January 2022 through July 2022, according to data from research firm Headset.

“Florida currently has one of the strongest medical cannabis programs in America and if that market is expanded to allow adult use for personal consumption we believe that market will be even stronger,” said Lauren Niehaus, executive director of government relations at Trulieve.

The company, which operates more than 180 medical dispensaries in the state, has donated $30 million to Smart & Safe Florida, the committee sponsoring the amendment.

“Trulieve anticipates, at maturity, that Florida could potentially become a $6 billion cannabis marketplace,” Niehaus said.

Ohio

Ohio may vote on whether to legalize recreational marijuana in November.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol has a proposal that seeks to establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. After the state legislature chose not to take up the proposal, the group has until July 5 to secure 124,000 signatures from registered voters to get the proposal on the ballot.

“We are confident that Ohio will legalize marijuana for all adults in 2023,” said Thomas Haren, a spokesperson for the group. “This is an issue that crosses political lines. It is popular among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.”

About half of Ohio voters support adult-use legalization, according to a poll conducted by Emerson College. Voters most likely to favor legalization are Democrats, at 66.2%, followed by independents, at 50%, and Republicans, at 36.3%, the survey found.

Haren said the proposal also plans to build upon Ohio’s medical marijuana program and issue additional adult use licenses to new companies.

He estimates that under the proposed framework, Ohio would generate $350 million to $400 million in new tax revenue. Researchers from Ohio State University estimate tax revenue would range from $276 million to $374 million in five years of an operational adult-use marijuana market.

Pennsylvania

Brad Horrigan | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

Pennsylvania is increasingly surrounded by states with fully established recreational markets, including New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware.

If the state, which is the country’s fifth most populous, legalizes weed, profits can remain within its borders.

There are three separate proposals from lawmakers hoping to regulate, but also capitalize on, marijuana. The state’s Democrat-held House chamber announced proposals in January and February, while the Senate, held by Republicans, announced one in December. They each, to varying degrees, seek to tax the crop for the well-being of communities and include initiatives aimed at social justice.

However, marijuana attorney Brian Vicente said Pennsylvania lags behind the pack in trying to legalize marijuana.

“Pennsylvania is just a tougher hill to climb,” said Vicente, who’s been keeping an eye on what’s happening in the Commonwealth. “We haven’t had the same momentum in the legislature there but the governor does support it, so it’s possible it gets through this year.”

Only 1 in 4 Pennsylvania adults oppose legalization, with 56% supporting a change to the existing law, according to polling from Muhlenberg College. The state has had medical marijuana since 2018.

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