Cannabis Legalization Could Open New Markets in These States in 2020
Sol Fayerman
March 3, 2020

Early 2020 has been quite a promising time for new cannabis legislation across the US so far, with 11 states seriously considering legalization for the recreational and/or medical cannabis use for adults. Currently, cannabis is legal for recreational use in 11 states, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. In addition, the medical use of cannabis is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia. 

As part of their 2020 agendas, a growing number of state governors have begun pushing lawmakers for marijuana legalization. NORML, the organization that has been working to sway public opinion in order to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, recently published its US Governors Scorecard in relation to cannabis legislation, and it found a relatively high number of Governors that have improved their stance on marijuana within their state.

The vast majority of Americans supports the legalization of marijuana as a 2019 Gallup poll showed that 66% across all age groups are in favor of new legislation. That means legalization is all but inevitable, and new billion-dollar markets could open up very soon.

We’ve taken a look at the states working on cannabis legislation and identified the 7 states most likely to legalize (recreational or medical) marijuana in 2020.


Back in 2016, a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the Grand Canyon State failed by a 3 percent margin, but the state is ready to reexamine the decision as a new proposal has been submitted for the 2020 ballot.  

As stated in the proposal, cannabis shall be legal for adults 21 and older and would allow home-growing of up to 12 plants per home. As of January 17, the measure collected more than 150,000 signatures out of the 237,645 needed to get the initiative on the ballots.   in order to make ready the measure for the ballot so it seems inevitable for this year. 


Although Governor Asa Hutchinson (R.) received a “D” on the NORML scorecard, primarily due to the time it took to unroll the medical marijuana program in his state (approved 2016 and unrolled in 2019), a Drug Policy Education Group has been engaged with Arkansas for Cannabis Reform to submit a constitutional amendment that would legalize adult use of cannabis using the states licensed medical cannabis dispensaries for sales. 

At the end of January, over 10,000 of the 90,000 signatures required to appear on the ballot had already been collected. 

New Jersey

The Garden State may be getting a lot greener this year as New Jersey lawmakers have submitted a resolution that passes the proverbial marijuana torch over to voters in the 2020 election.

Prior to the introduction of the new resolution, Gov. Phil Murphy (D.)  campaigned on the legalization of marijuana for adult use, but his efforts were cut short over the summer of 2019. There is a good chance that the primarily Democratic state will approve legal cannabis at the upcoming election. 

South Dakota

On December 30, South Dakota’s Secretary of State announced that a measure to legalize the use of cannabis for adults had been approved for the State’s November 2020 ballot. Another policy reform had been successfully passed that would legalize marijuana for medical use and will also be voted on in the election. 

The South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws supported the measure and submitted 50,000 signatures in November 2019, surpassing the required 36,000. Growing, processing and sale of hemp will also be on the ballot.


The State of Independence could be one of the next US States to legalize adult-use marijuana, as Gov. Tom Wolf (D.) pushed legislation outlining the comprehensive HB 50 bill, which calls for the amendment of the Medical Marijuana Act and will legalize the sale and adult use of cannabis, which according to Democratic Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale could bring in more than $580 million in tax revenues.

During the Regional Cannabis Regulation and Vaping Summit, Wolf met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.), as well as the governor of New Jersey and Gov. Ned Lamont (D.) of Connecticut, to talk about potential regional legalization of cannabis, which could also have a substantial impact in Pennsylvania. 

New York

Governor Cuomo (D.) seems set on legalizing adult-use as fast as possible. After last year’s legislation failed to pass, Cuomo set forth with a plan for a regional legal marijuana industry and has taken steps to propose the regulation and taxation of a licensed marijuana market, calling for illicit cannabis entrepreneurs to join the legal space. 

Questions remain on where marijuana tax revenue should be used and how communities of color stand to gain. During his budget speech, Cuomo said of legalized adult-use cannabis that he believes the decision should be done in the budget.

“I said that last year. I believe the budget is the opportunity, frankly, to make some tough decisions and work through tough issues that without the budget can often languish, and I suggest that we get it done in the budget.”

New Hampshire

Marijuana has been decriminalized in the State and “any person 18 years of age or older who possesses less than ¾ of an ounce of marijuana is guilty of a violation and subject to a fine of $100. This penalty applies to first and second offenses.” 

There are around a dozen new cannabis-forward bills that have already been filed for the State’s 2020 legislative session, including the addition of two adult-use proposals.

Bill H.B. 1648, allows adults 21 and over to possess up to 21.26 grams of marijuana and grow up to six marijuana plants at home. Unfortunately, no legislation for a commercial adult-use industry was proposed, yet.

Governor Chris Sununu (R.) stands firmly against legalization in his state but the support for legalization may be too much for him to ignore.

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