Marijuana Legalization
December 22, 2021
Will Washington join the move to relax restrictions?

Legislatures in four states legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2021, and another removed criminal penalties for possession. In Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled legalization to repeal the federal pot ban. Marijuana lounges, where people can gather to smoke pot, opened in Illinois. Nationwide, legal marijuana sales exceeded $18.3 billion in 2020, up 71 percent from 2019, and the industry supported the equivalent of about 320,000 full-time jobs. California led the nation with $4.4 billion in sales, up 57 percent from 2019. Marijuana employment jumped by 15,000 in Florida, where medical pot is legal, even as the state lost more than 400,000 jobs overall. Young adults ages 19 to 22 increased their marijuana consumption last year while drinking less alcohol. Pot use also increased among all adults, and among the elderly.

Photo of a clerk bagging a marijuana purchase for a customer in New York on March 31, 2021. A clerk bags a marijuana purchase for a customer in March after New York state legalized recreational use. Such use is now legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia, and another 13 have decriminalized marijuana. (AFP/Getty Images/Kena Betancur)

The campaign to legalize marijuana continues to achieve successes, although it also has encountered some speed bumps along the way.

“Last year at this time, only 20 percent of Americans lived where cannabis was legal,” says Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which advocates legalization. “Now that number is 44 percent.”