Following this month’s election, marijuana is legal in some capacity in a majority of U.S. states. The dramatic expansion of legalization puts pressure on surrounding states and the federal government to consider doing away with prohibition.
With the momentous marijuana Election Day victories now in the past, advocates and business leaders are anticipating the cannabis industry’s future with enthusiasm. Voters in eight states approved medical or recreational marijuana measures on November 8, bringing the nation’s total of medical marijuana states to 28 and doubling the number of states that allow adults to use marijuana recreationally to eight.
The marijuana industry’s recent wins are seen by many as a tipping point toward the inevitable removal of federal prohibition. Following this month’s election, 60 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state where marijuana has been legalized to some degree. Support for legalization among Americans is at an all-time high, with a majority convinced that prohibition is ineffective.
The eight states with new marijuana laws are expected to be worth an additional $7 billion to $8 billion in annual nationwide retail cannabis sales. The expansion of the legal cannabis industry into new territory is also expected to cause a dramatic shift in the conversation among lawmakers within states that have yet to pass cannabis laws.
Following the election, medical marijuana has gained a bit of footing in southern U.S. states, where lawmakers have historically been resistant to cannabis legislation. Florida and Arkansas join Maryland as the only southern states that have passed comprehensive medical marijuana laws, putting pressure on their surrounding states, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Tennessee, all of which have passed only limited access medical cannabis legislation.
A recent report from New Frontier Data estimated that Arkansas’ medical marijuana market to reach over $6 million in sales by 2020, while Florida’s medical marijuana market has been estimated to be worth more than $1.5 billion by that time. The economic boosts provided by legal cannabis sales are not likely to be ignored by surrounding states.
“Arkansas voters just brought medical cannabis to the South,” Tom Angell of the marijuana reform group Marijuana Majority said. “From here on it will be much easier to get other states on board, particularly Missouri and Oklahoma, both of which are expected to vote on medical marijuana in coming election cycles.”
Prior to the election, legalized recreational marijuana had been constrained to states in the West, but with the passing of adult use measures in Maine and Massachusetts, recreational marijuana has finally made its way to the other side of the nation.
“Marijuana legalization has arrived on the East Coast,” Angell told the Washington Post. “What Colorado and other states have already done is generating revenue, creating jobs and reducing crime, so it’s not surprising that voters in more places are eager to end prohibition.”
Perhaps most significant to the chipping away at prohibition is the recreational marijuana measure that passed in California. Not only does the entire West Coast now have adult use laws in place, but also California’s market alone is projected to be worth $6.46 billion by the year 2020. As the most populous U.S. state with 39 million residents, legalized adult use marijuana could eventually generate at least $1 billion in annual revenue for California and its municipalities. Its impact on the market is expected to encourage investments and thereby fuel innovation.