2021 Report Shows Groundbreaking Year For Marijuana Legalization

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, released their annual report on the state of legalization efforts in the United States on Monday. 2021 proved to be another big year for marijuana legalization efforts, with five different states enacting legal recreational sales for adults in this year alone.

While federal legalization remains a goal for the organization regardless of how many states move to allow for sales, it’s still a hopeful signal that the country is moving in the right direction when it comes to marijuana.

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Annual Report on Work in All 50 States

Each year NORML compiles a comprehensive report on the state of marijuana legalization in the country to track where advocates have succeeded. This goes along with the voting recommendation reports they issue before each midterm and state election to help local citizens influence their state’s politics. 2021’s report had plenty of good news, including expanded variety in marijuana businesses and opportunities for more people of color to enter the industry.

However, the biggest focus of the report is the addition of five new recreational marijuana states and one new medical marijuana state.

States Making Big Waves

The report found that 25 states improved their laws regarding marijuana in some way, with 50 different law changes in total. In 2021 alone, New York, Virginia, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Connecticut all legalized adult recreational marijuana.

This brings the total of states allowing recreational marijuana to 18. New Mexico had the most generous law, allowing for the purchase and possession of up to two ounces of cannabis at a time. Alabama was the one state to add a medical marijuana program, meaning now that only 6 states out of 50 lack some kind of medical allowance.

However, Alabama’s law won’t allow for the distribution of raw flower products, but only tinctures, capsules, and gels for topical use. One state, Louisiana, also made a major decriminalization decision by adopting a $100 fine for first-time possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana.

Improved Numbers of Overturned or Expunged Convictions

Some of the good news from the 2021 report didn’t just involve new laws or changing legislation but also better application of existing statutes regarding equity and expungement. In this year alone, the convictions of over 2.2 million people were vacated to leave them able to seek better employment and housing opportunities.

Some states have taken years to address the lingering drug convictions of their residents after making marijuana a legal substance. Colorado changed their laws to make requesting an expungement easier, while Virginia created an automatic process for reviewing and vacating low-level cannabis convictions.

Record High Polls on Marijuana Approval

All these changes taking place during 2021 come during a period of record-high approval for marijuana legalization. Recent Gallup polling reported by NORML right before the report’s release shows that around 68% of US adults agree that marijuana should be legal nationwide.

That’s the highest recorded number on record so far from a reputable polling source. With marijuana as a hot-button issue in the coming 2022 election cycle in many states, it’ll be interesting to see what will be reported on in 2023 and beyond regarding legalization throughout the country.

Medical Marijuana Continues to Expand in Important Areas

Fifteen states also worked during 2021 to expand or improve their medical marijuana programs as well, including those that already have robust recreational sales. Arkansas and Virginia will allow patients to be prescribed medical marijuana through a telehealth visit, helping homebound and rural patients. Delaware changed the law to allow nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to prescribe it.

Georgia, a state with very limited medical allowances for cannabis oil only for severe seizure disorders in children, is finally allowing up to 30 retailers of high CBD oil to open within the state. While recreational marijuana legalization may get more fanfare and attention in the media, it’s the expansion to medical supplies that is really changing people’s lives the most. As more research shows the benefits of marijuana use, more states are sure to further expand their medical programs.

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JJ Smoak

Brooklyn native, accent-having, travel lover, wordsmith and bud enthusiast. Versed from the streets of NYC, mixed with some world influence, writer/editor and medical user extraordinaire, JJ is here to tell you like it is and guide you to the finest. Brooklyn's favorite feminine stoner, your neighborhood contributor, wrapping leaves like a bandage and bringing you along for the ride.

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