April 12, 2021

Recreational Marijuana Legalization Blazes On

2021 has been a big year for the legalization of recreational marijuana. Three states so far have enacted legislative bills, and more could be on the horizon.

Virginia House Bill 2312 legalizes recreational marijuana use effective January 2024, upon which time regulated sales would begin. Regulation for the cultivation, manufacture, wholesale, and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products will be managed by a new entity known as the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. The bill eliminates criminal penalties for simple possession of marijuana, modifies several criminal penalties related to marijuana, and will provide automatic expungement for certain marijuana crimes by July 1, 2026.

New York Senate Bill S854A legalizes recreational marijuana and expunges previous marijuana convictions. Adults aged 21 and older will be able to purchase cannabis from authorized sellers, possess up to three ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate, and – 18 months after sales begin – grow up to six mature plants and six immature plants at home per household. This bill also creates the Office of Cannabis Management, an independent office extending from the State Liquor Authority. A 13% sales tax will be enforced on cannabis products.

Cities, towns, and villages may opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by December 31, 2021 or nine months after the effective date of the legislation. They cannot, however, opt-out of adult-use legalization.

New Mexico House Bill 2 will allow adults aged 21 and over to grow up to six plants of marijuana at home and possess up to two ounces of cannabis outside their homes starting June 29th, 2021. Recreational cannabis sales will begin on April 1, 2022 at state-licensed dispensaries, all of which will be overseen by the new Cannabis Control Division. A 12% tax will be placed on marijuana, rising to 18% over time.

Marijuana legalization continues to be a hot topic, and the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) listed the legalization of marijuana as a top legislative trend for 2021, noting that Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Nebraska are also considering recreational legalization.

With the passage of these laws, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, but that number may soon increase.

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