Political wrangling over legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana in various U.S. states continues as it does every year, but thus far in 2023, at least five states have formally defeated various attempts at creating new cannabis markets.
The Hoosier State’s legislature shot down a swath of bills to do everything from legalize recreational marijuana to creating limited medical programs, the Indiana Capital Chronicle reported last week. None of the bills received a vote in either chamber, both of which are controlled by Republican supermajorities.
Lawmakers even rejected an attempt to regulate the federally legal hemp trade. Indiana remains one of the few national state holdouts, with essentially no functional cannabis market of any type.
Another deep red state that has long been wary of cannabis reform, Mississippi’s Republican legislature defeated a trio of marijuana bills that would have legalized adult use, according to the Marijuana Policy Project’s bill tracking site.
Medical marijuana sales launched in January after the GOP legislature approved a restrictive market in 2022, which only came after a voter-approved MMJ ballot measure from 2020 was thrown out by the state Supreme Court.
The Volunteer State’s latest attempt at setting up a limited medical marijuana market was again met with defeat on the last day of February, when a Republican bill was shot down by the state Senate Judiciary Committee in “nearly a party-line vote,” WKRN reported.
The issue remains a deeply partisan one, with other Democratic-led attempts at legalizing MMJ meeting with even quicker defeat, according to WKRN. However, the Republican sponsor of the latest bill, Sen. Janice Bowling, told the news outlet she plans to reintroduce the measure in 2024, so the issue may have a toehold of bipartisanship.
Perhaps the toughest hit for the cannabis industry to absorb so far this year is the failure of Virginia lawmakers to approve a re-enactment bill this year, to finish off what state Democrats began in 2021 with a legalization bill signed by then-Gov. Ralph Northam.
The lack of a bill means that the state won’t make its self-imposed deadline of 2024 to launch recreational sales, and leaves Virginia with a quagmire of a gray market, since possession and consumption are now already legal.
After Democrats lost both the governor’s mansion and the House of Delegates in the 2021 election, Republicans walked back the timeline the Democrats had put in place under Northam, and now it’s up in the air when lawmakers will put together a framework for legal recreational sales. Medical marijuana sales in Virginia launched in 2020.
Another of a few national state holdouts that maintain total cannabis prohibition, Wyoming’s strict petition system has again defeated cannabis activists who were attempting to get a pair of legalization initiatives onto the 2024 ballot, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
Wyoming NORML and the state Libertarian Party had been collecting signatures, but told reporters that they wouldn’t be able to clear the petition system hurdles to make a deadline this month. Wyoming NORML pledged to attempt legalization through the legislature, but lawmakers adjourned on March 3 and won’t be back until the next session begins in 2025.