From the moment it became federally illegal in 1937, marijuana was on the back foot in the United States. The tide threatened to turn in the late 1990s when California legalized medicinal cannabis. It was just the boost that pro-marijuana campaigners needed. Fast forward almost a quarter of a century, and 33 American states, plus Washington D.C., have legalized medicinal marijuana.
Eleven states, plus D.C, now allow the recreational use of marijuana. Each jurisdiction places set limits on the maximum legal amount you can possess. It seems inevitable that a few of the states where medicinal cannabis is permitted will eventually abolish prohibition. However, the picture isn’t as clear-cut in the 17 states where weed is still not legal.
In 14 of these states, some laws seem to legalize low- or zero-THC CBD oil. However, the maze of federal, local and state laws means it isn’t easy to decipher CBD laws at present. At the time of writing, Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota don’t appear to allow the use of CBD. Delve deeper, however, and it isn’t as clear cut.
Utah was a recent surprise addition to the medicinal marijuana party a while back, but which states are most likely to join in 2020? Here are five possible candidates, along with information on their current laws.
1 – Alabama
The state of Alabama has prohibited marijuana for all purposes since 1931. It has strict laws regarding cannabis possession, although a first offense is now a misdemeanor. However, in recent times, the attitude of legislators and residents to the herb is softer. SB347, passed in 2016, altered the definition of marijuana in the controlled substances law to exclude hemp.
Lawmakers have tried to create an MMJ program since 2012, with no success. However, there is a possibility that Alabama is about to have a change of heart. A group studying MMJ heard the pros and cons of marijuana at an Alabama State House hearing in November 2019. Various physicians at the meeting showed evidence of cannabis’ benefits for patients.
In December 2019, two-thirds of the Medical Cannabis Study Commission voted in favor of a bill to create an MMJ program. Under the intended legislation, patients with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and PTSD are eligible for weed. Alabama’s next legislative session begins in February 2020. If the new bill is approved, it will ensure that the state adds to the growing number of locations where medical marijuana is permitted.
2 – Georgia
It may not be top of your list of likely states to legalize medicinal marijuana, but there is a chance it will happen as early as 2020. After thorough research, it was decided that the state would pursue legislation to license cannabis growers, manufacturers, and dispensaries. At present, Georgia law only allows patients to use and possess weed with less than 5% THC. It is also illegal to buy, sell or transport it.
It is also likely that state lawmakers will provide ten manufacturing licenses, ten grow licenses, and a few dispensary licenses. They hope to ensure that medical weed is available across the state. The current law only allows you access to the low-THC pot if you have one of 16 qualifying medical conditions.
Law enforcement has challenged the proposal. However, there is every chance that residents of Georgia with qualifying medical conditions can finally use medicinal marijuana in 2020. What is unlikely to change is the 5% limit on THC.
3 – Idaho
One of the main reasons why Idaho may legalize weed is geography. Neighboring Utah passed a bill to legalize it in 2018. In Ontario, less than an hour from the state capital, Boise, cannabis is legal recreationally. Estimates suggest that 80% of Idaho residents live within 90 minutes of legal marijuana!
A 2018 summer poll found that an incredible 79% of state residents are in favor of legalized medicinal cannabis. Believe it or not, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has formally expressed its support! Back in 2013, the state Senate voted never to legalize weed for any reason. Remember, Idaho state law makes it incredibly tricky even to get zero THC cannabidiol!
Therefore, it is probably a shock to see it on this list. Initially, we felt as if Idaho might only legalize hemp. However, in August 2019, the Idaho Cannabis Coalition (ICC) issued a proposal to add MMJ to the ballot. The group wants to allow approved patients and caregivers to possess up to four ounces of marijuana. Its plan will also create a system of regulated processors, testers, growers, and retail dispensaries.
One downside is that patients can’t cultivate weed. One exception is if they qualify for a ‘hardship exemption.’ Such individuals could grow up to six plants. The ICC needs at least 55,057 signatures to get the proposal on the 2020 ballot. The group must also ensure that they get signatures from at least 6% of over half the state’s legislative districts.
At present, the state has some of the harshest marijuana punishments in America. Possession of over three ounces is a felony and could result in five years in prison.
4 – Texas
Marijuana laws in Texas are a little confusing. Most people assume it is an illegal substance in the Lone Star State. However, three licensed dispensaries recently opened in the state! Even so, weed use is effectively banned in Texas, a situation that could change shortly.
A few Texas lawmakers were planning to make some pro-marijuana noise during the legislative session due that began in early January 2019. Senator Jose Menendez of San Antonio filed a measure that would expand the list of qualifying medical conditions under the Compassionate Care Act of 2015.
If passed into law, the bill will enable doctors to treat medical marijuana like any other medicine and eliminate the 0.5% THC cap currently in play. A June 2018 poll showed that 84% of Texans were interested in legalizing marijuana. Possession of over four ounces is a Class A misdemeanor, which could lead to a spell in the county jail. Sale of more than one-quarter of an ounce is a felony.
In May 2019, the Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill to expand the Compassionate Use Act. However, House Bill 3703 did not remove the THC cap as hoped. While it will take a significant effort to change things, the state is showing less of an appetite for prohibition. Since the state legalized hemp in 2019, the number of low-level marijuana prosecution cases plummeted.
In May, the month before hemp legalization in Texas, there were 5,700 arrests on a misdemeanor marijuana charge. In November, the number fell to below 2,000. Public support is not yet at the level needed for legislators to act. The feeling is, however, that the tide is about to turn.
5 – Virginia
Although it is a slow process, marijuana legalization is making inroads in Virginia. The state started easing marijuana restrictions in 2015. At that time, a law was passed whereby patients with intractable epilepsy were allowed to use cannabis oil. They required a prescription from their doctor.
Now, there are numerous licensed dispensaries across the state. Dalitso has secured a large facility in Manassas. The company can legally cultivate weed, & process the raw oil to create CBD oil and THC-A products. It can even sell to registered patients. By the end of the year, tens of thousands of Virginians will have access to regulated cannabis oil.
At present, marijuana possession could still result in a 30-day prison sentence and $4500 fine. Sale of over half an ounce, but below five pounds, is a Class 5 felony. Such a conviction is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Pro-marijuana groups received a welcome boost in the most recent elections. Voters elected a Democratic majority in both legislative chambers in November 2019. Senator Adam Ebbin pre-filed a bill designed to decriminalize cannabis possession. Governor Northam says that decriminalization is a major priority for his administration.
At present, the legislature has yet to decide if it wishes to pursue medical marijuana legalization. At present, only cannabis oil with a THC content of under 5% is permitted for medical use in Virginia. A September 2019 survey revealed that 61% of Virginians want recreational legalization. In 2017, only 39% were in favor. If Northam and co. bring a cannabis bill to the ballot; Virginians will likely say ‘yes.’
5 States That Could Pass Medical Weed in 2020: Final Thoughts
It may be the case that none of these states legalize medicinal marijuana in 2020. However, it is only a matter of time before they follow the other 33 states plus D.C.
In most cases, these states have legal weed just minutes away. Therefore, it is ludicrous that their politicians continue to follow federal law. Once enough states legalize pot, the pressure will be on the federal government to finally remove its insane prohibition.