Marijuana Legalization
December 7, 2020
Will the industry continue to grow?

In the Nov. 3 general election, voters in five states approved ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana use. And some state legislatures passed legalization laws this year. But other legalization efforts stalled when legislatures cut sessions short because of the coronavirus pandemic. A legalization effort also stalled in Congress, when some Democratic representatives balked at taking up a pro-drug bill before a second pandemic-relief measure could be passed. But after the November election, the House passed legislation to remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances. The pandemic also derailed some ballot initiatives after organizers decided it was too risky to seek signatures on petitions. The pandemic-caused recession led some state officials to propose legalization and taxation as a way to replenish depleted government treasuries. Already-booming marijuana sales soared after the pandemic struck as Americans used the drug to treat anxiety.

Photo of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, business person Jonathan C. Brown explaining how to vote for Mississippi’s Initiative 65. Hattiesburg business person Jonathan C. Brown explains how to vote for Mississippi’s Initiative 65, which proposed legalizing the sale of marijuana for medical purposes. In the November election, 73.4 percent of state voters backed the initiative. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

With the approval of ballot initiatives in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota, 36 states and the District of Columbia will allow medical use of marijuana by adults and minors, and 15 plus the District also will allow recreational use by adults.

The votes capped a year in which legalization advanced across the country, although the coronavirus pandemic derailed several such measures. Approval of the ballot initiatives ranged from 53 percent on South Dakota’s proposal to allow recreational use to 73.4 percent for the Mississippi initiative to permit medical use. 1