As I write this on the afternoon of November 5, the U.S. Presidential election is undecided with razor-thin margins separating the candidates. Some say there will be a resolution in the next day or so, others think that legal challenges and recounts could extend that for weeks.
Most cannabis industry players sought a Biden victory, though as we indicated in prior missives, there is very little daylight between Trump and Biden on the issue of cannabis legalization. What really matters is the Senate, which appears more likely than not to remain in Republican hands. This may well hamper the efforts of those seeking to end federal prohibition of weed.
The bigger news this week, of course, is that all state voter referendums on legalizing medical or adult use cannabis did pass. Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana all approved permitting adult use of cannabis. That brings to 15 (plus DC) the number of states with legal recreational marijuana.
Mississippi and South Dakota also approved legalizing medical marijuana; yes SD did both on the same day! As a result, 36 states (plus some territories) now have legalized therapeutic use of cannabis.
It will take a bit of time for each of these states to push through legislation and regulations to implement their new programs. And it is a shame that more states’ initiatives did not make it to the ballot, in most cases because of COVID-related challenges to gathering signatures to mandate a referendum.
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Many are particularly excited about the markets that will develop in Arizona and New Jersey. The Garden State, in particular, not only has a large population but its legalization is likely to yield a domino effect putting pressure on New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island to follow suit. All those states seem poised and ready to do so in the next year or two. The NY Governor’s top aide on the issue has all but promised to bring New York legislation, which did not cross the finish line in 2019 or 2020, to fruition by late spring.
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There is another important location to watch: Mexico, where the legislature imminently is on the verge of approving adult use legalization. The Mexican Supreme Court ordered the action but has extended the time to act on multiple occasions. Technically we are past the most recent deadline of October 24, but the legislators are working feverishly to get the job done.
When both our North American neighbors have federally legal adult use, will the US Congress (or the next President) feel the pressure to do the same? Stay tuned.
David N. Feldman, Esq. is a partner in the boutique law firm Hiller, P.C. and is Co-Founder and CEO of Skip Intro Advisors LLC.