Looking Forward to the New Year in Cannabis

Departments - From the Editor

As we look to the new year, we can only expect state cannabis legalization continue to spread along with efforts to create opportunities for all to continue.

January 3, 2022

For many of us, a new year marks a time for reflection on the year behind us and for planning for a better year ahead. There is usually much to celebrate, maybe a bit to learn from, and even more to look forward to.

Consider that just a year ago as we turned the corner into 2021, the U.S. cannabis industry was celebrating new adult-use markets legalized in the November 2020 elections: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota; as well as voter-approved medical markets: Mississippi and South Dakota. This past year also saw Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia legalize adult-use cannabis through their legislatures.

But South Dakota’s celebration of adult-use legalization took a negative turn in late 2021, when the South Dakota Supreme Court “issued a final decision Nov. 24, 2021, that upheld Circuit Judge Christina Klinger’s February ruling that voter-approved Amendment A violated the state’s single-subject rule in Article XXIII of the South Dakota Constitution and therefore was an unconstitutional ballot initiative,” Cannabis Business Times reported. And the Mississippi Supreme Court also reversed the state’s voter-approved issue for medical cannabis.

Excluding the disappointing Supreme Court rulings in South Dakota and Mississippi, the late 2020 victories and 2021’s progress brought the U.S. to a total of 18 states that have legalized/regulated adult-use cannabis, and 36 states in the U.S., the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands that have legalized/regulated medical cannabis (excluding low-THC/limited programs).

In this issue, we look at which U.S. states are “likely” to legalize adult-use in 2022, those that will “maybe” legalize, and those “to watch,” including South Dakota, as it makes another attempt.

We also celebrate efforts to provide opportunity to those people and communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition—an impact that, while declining, knows no end until we see all states legalize adult-use, or federal decriminalization or legalization. This issue’s cover story on Al Harrington and Viola Brands serves as a hope-for-the-new-year tale of the positive change the state-legal cannabis industry can and will have on people who have suffered as a result of the war on drugs.

Over the past year, social equity and righting the wrongs of prohibition have clearly become a priority for states in addition to private businesses—for example, New York’s $100 million in social equity funding; Virginia’s passage of an adult-use legalization bill that “focuses on health equity, economic equity and equity in criminal justice,” per a statement by Alaysia Black Hackett, the governor’s lead deputy chief diversity officer; and Illinois’ awarding of 55 retail licenses in the first of three licensing lotteries aimed at improving social equity in the state’s adult-use market, among others.

As we look to the new year, we can only expect state cannabis legalization continue to spread along with efforts to create opportunities for all to continue. That is something I surely am looking forward to as we ring in the New Year.