Breakthroughs in legalization used to come years apart, now however they're coming fast

click to enlarge Legal cannabis is finding new places to flourish across the country.
Legal cannabis is finding new places to flourish across the country.

Last week was a busy one for those fighting for cannabis legalization, with seemingly each passing day bringing a new, major announcement about decriminalization or legalization from around the nation.

First, on May 4, the New Hampshire House of Representatives approved attaching text from cannabis legalization legislation to an amended bill. The amended bill had previously been passed by the Senate, which has repeatedly voted against cannabis legalization on its own, but now the bill will have to be taken up again.

A day later, on May 5, the Delaware House passed legislation that would legalize possession of cannabis in the state. Delaware Online reports the legislation is expected to pass in the Senate, but faces an uncertain future in front of an anti-legalization governor.

On May 7, voters in Austin, Texas, overwhelmingly voted in favor of a decriminalization measure on the ballot. Misdemeanor possession will no longer result in arrest or citation in Austin, though Texas as a whole continues to have some of the toughest cannabis laws in the country.

Then, on May 8, activists in Missouri submitted over 385,000 signatures in an effort to get legalization on the 2022 ballot. The group submitted more than twice as many signatures as were required.

When voters in Missouri take to the polls this fall, with the ability to legalize cannabis in their state, they will be doing so two days removed from the 10-year anniversary of Washington and Colorado becoming the first states to do so. Should the ballot measure pass in Missouri, assuming no other state acts faster, the Show Me State will become the 20th state in the union to have legalized recreational cannabis.

Colorado and Washington opened the floodgates in 2012, but only a trickle immediately followed. Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia followed two years later, and Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine and California did so two years after that. Two years after those four states, Michigan joined the club. Since then, it's been an annual deluge. Illinois in 2019, followed by Vermont, New Jersey, Montana and Arizona in 2020 — South Dakota did as well, though it was subsequently struck down in court. Last year Virginia, New York, New Mexico and Connecticut jumped into the fold.

Now, Delaware, New Hampshire and Missouri are all home to active cannabis-legalization efforts. Three states, and we're only one third of the way through 2022. While this year isn't looking great at the federal level, it has potential to be a banner year nonetheless. ♦

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