Multiple states have potential to make changes to their state cannabis laws. Although big changes happened in 2023 for a few states, like Delaware, Ohio, and Minnesota, eleven others should be on your watchlist for 2024. It is probable for some states to legalize cannabis, some are still a ways away from deciding, and others are somewhere in the middle. This list addresses the states looking to legalize medicinal use or recreational use.
Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota are all working towards ballot initiatives to legalize this year. This approach will allow the state to see whether constituents support the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use or for recreational use, depending on what goes on the ballot.
However, the drafters of the language need to be very careful because an initiative could get the necessary signatures and/or votes, but the intiative could still not make it on the ballot if for some reason it violates state law. For example, Florida’s 2014 cannabis legalization ballot initiative was ruled invalid, because it violated the state’s “one subject” rule, which is designed to prevent voter confusion by requiring clear and concise language.
Another pitfall is to assume a “majority” of constituents merely requires more than 50%, but states have different requirements regarding this threshold for approval. For example, Florida’s standard for a ballot majority requires at least 60% of voters voting to support one decision. This supermajority standard became part of the state’s law back in 2006 and actually caused Florida’s first attempt at legalizing cannabis to fail in 2014. So, voters should confirm what percentage of votes are required for their state.
The remaining seven states on the watchlist, Wisconsin, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and South Carolina, do not have ballot initiatives, so it is up to the legislature to make those changes. However, this can be a challenge because federal laws that conflict with proposed amendments or bills may overrule voter-supported decisions.
Speaking of decisions, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is currently reviewing the Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation to reschedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III. The DEA has the ball in their court since they received the required recommendation from the DHHS. For more information, see our blog post on cannabis rescheduling.
Below are the eleven states that are on the watchlist in 2024 and a quick read on what each state is considering. These are subject to change, so be sure to stay vigilant throughout the year.
As of now, Wisconsin is actually one of nine states in the U.S. that does not have a medical cannabis program. However, back in September of 2023, the state’s Democrats introduced their own bill to legalize both medical and recreational use. And as of this month, the Senate’s newly proposed bill is in committee. WI SB 486 addresses a multitude of topics including medical cannabis legalization, legalizing adult possession, expunging past marijuana-related crimes, and equity grants.
The Supreme Court of Florida is currently reviewing the language of the proposed amendment for the ballot this year. If they approve, Florida voters will be able to voice their opinion on legalizing recreational use. There is also talk of placing a ten percent cap on THC if the amendment passes.
South Dakota actually made history in 2020 when its voters approved legalization of both medical and recreational use on the same ballot. However, the state’s Supreme Court struck the recreational amendment down as unconstitutional because it violated the one subject rule of the state’s Constitution.
This year, South Dakota has two Senate bills proposing changes. SB 42 imposes a limit on the amount of cannabis to be distributed, and SB 43 proposes an increase to the application and license fees. Additionally, the state will be attempting the ballot approach again this November to survey voters on legalizing recreational use.
The state’s Senate and House are divided on whether recreational use is a priority for the current session. And Speaker Scott Saiki intentionally blocked the Senate’s approval of adult-use back in March 2023. For now, Hawaii has several proposed bills from both the House and Senate in committee.
Idaho is an outlier in the U.S. considering it is one of only four states that still completely criminalizes cannabis. However, Kind Idaho is working diligently to collect signatures from residents to place cannabis legalization on the 2024 ballot in November.
This is another state that will likely have a medical marijuana ballot initiative this upcoming election. And the Cannabis Control Act has also been proposed for adult-use. Nebraska voters showed their support for legalizing medical marijuana legislation back in 2020, but like South Dakota, the proposal was ruled unconstitutional because it violated the single-subject rule of the state’s constitution.
Like other states, New Hampshire already has a medical marijuana program and is now pushing for adult-use legalization. However, the state’s Senate has rejected multiple attempts in previous years. On the bright side, the House proposed six different bills in efforts to legalize adult-use and cannabis retail.
Kentucky currently provides its residents with resources from surrounding states so Kentuckians have access to cannabis products from other states, but has decriminalized the plant itself. The House proposed a bill, HB 72, to remove any penalties for adult possession of cannabis. The bill also proposes to allow home grow but would not regulate adult-use sales of cannabis.
Pennsylvania already has a medical use program, and the current legislative session includes reviewing seven bills proposed by either the House or the Senate to modify existing laws and legalize adult-use.
There aren’t many updates in either of the Carolinas, but in North Carolina the medicinal use proposal was backed by the state’s Senate. And the House proposed to legalize an adult-use program, too.
South Carolina had come close to legalizing medical use back in 2022, but it hit a procedural roadblock in the House and stalled. Now, the proposal has been pushed again and the multiple bills proposed by either the Senate or the House are in committee. Proponents are expecting medical marijuana to be on the ballot in November, though.
In sum, many states are looking to make significant changes regarding cannabis laws in 2024. While some are making strong progress with ballot initiatives, others may have to rely on state officials to make the decisions. To discuss your options, contact our expert Team today!