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How Many States Have Legalized Adult Recreational Cannabis?

Werner-Simon, Cannabis Business Times, August 6, 2021, How Many Adult-Rec States are in the U.S.? “

The answer depends on how we define legalize.

There is one cannabis question that is regularly searched across a variety of Internet platforms: How many states have legalized adult recreational use of cannabis as of today? As a cannabis law professor and a legal analyst for emerging cannabis businesses, I often am asked that very question. My response is always the same, no matter the date or the year: “It depends on how legalization is defined.”

State-based cannabis legalization can happen in two ways.

One way is evidenced by those states which permit voters to place topics on the ballot for a vote. The other way is through the legislature, when a state’s assembly writes and passes legalization legislation which is ultimately signed off by that state’s chief executive.

When defined like that, Connecticut became the 19th U.S. state to legalize adult recreational use when, on June 22, 2021, Connecticut governor Ned Lamont signed into law a bill passed by the Connecticut legislature.

This does not mean, however, that Connecticut’s already existing medical cannabis program morphed or expanded into an adult recreational system overnight. Rather, by the terms of the 184 pages of legislative analysis for the law entitled “AN ACT CONCERNING RESPONSIBLE AND EQUITABLE REGULATION OF ADULT-USE CANNABIS,” as of July 1, 2021, possession of small amounts of cannabis would be decriminalized. Also placed in motion, and announced by Connecticut’s administration, regulated adult recreational sales by dispensaries would begin the following year. Connecticut’s new law also has social justice and equity components to include an automatic expungement of drug conviction provision which will commence in the near future.


Authored by Werner-Simon

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