Momentum is everything when it comes to legalizing the US cannabis markets. A few states are poised to join the legalized ranks as 2022 shapes up to be a defining year for compliant markets in both medical and recreational companies.
With legislation sweeping the country from Rhode Island to Hawaii, a mixture of public will and referendums are proving to legislators and elected officials that cannabis isn’t just the will of the people—it’s an inevitable part of the country as it matures out of past stigma.
The successes of large compliant markets may just push the goal of legalization over the finish line as companies and users wait eagerly for legislation to finalize in a few key states. The narrative has shifted over 2021 from being states’ leaders in the space of cannabis retail and innovation to who will be last to offer the same level of economic freedom and opportunity to their citizens.
Today, Beard Bros will look at the next states likely to legalize and what stage they are at in their deliberations.
The Tipping Point For the Next States to Legalize
Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states are most notably coming close to adult-use marijuana legislative action. According to industry experts, Rhode Island is edging up on approving a regulated commercial market—a move that offers fertile ground for small-market and multi-state operators to begin planning.
After all, as Rhode Island is flanked by Massachusetts and Connecticut (both with adult-use markets), the potential for capitalizing on demand is there. While Connecticut’s market share is on pace to grow to $2 billion annually by 2024, there is speculation as to how interstate customers drive or detract from this number. In either case, the benefits of growing a market in-state to rival those directly outside mean that, at the very least, offering your customers home-grown alternatives may boost economic growth and recovery, both in jobs and goods sold.
This observation raises the more general point of how states will approach legalization in the context of more states joining the legalization movement. Where Washington, California, and Oregon have seen mutual growth in their adjacent markets, others like Maryland may look in disbelief at their neighbors and wonder where the progressive movements truly reside in 2022.
As Karen O’Keefe (State Policies director for Marijuana Policy Project) says, “[for many Maryland residents], it’s shocking to think of Virginia as being more progressive.” The idea of voter power regarding cannabis can be as influential as it can be negligible, as Mississippi’s high court shot down a voter-approved referendum on cannabis law in the Spring of 2021. How long can states hold out against the desires of their citizens, especially when lives are on the line for medical users?
It is crucial to remember that the issue of legalization does not play out solely in cabinet meetings and legislative sessions. It begins in community outreach and extends to hospital floors, prisons, and education systems. Legalization does not offer only economic gains, but social ones too for states that move past stigma and continue towards a path of equitability for users of all backgrounds.
The Big Players
Based on what we know today, Mississippi and Rhode Island are the states most likely to legalize in 2022. North and South Carolina both have medical markets but are likely to implement recreational legalization this coming year. Worth watching are New Hampshire, Delaware, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Maryland, and Kansas—the latter already approving medical cannabis sales.
Following the 2021 legalizations in Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia, these states are expected to generate more than $4.5 billion in annual revenue—not bad for a market just finding its feet.
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