Illinois became the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana on Tuesday after Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the regulatory bill legislators passed at the end of May. Legal recreational marijuana sales will begin in Illinois on January 1, 2020.
While many other states have legalized marijuana through voter referendums that can leave details to be agreed upon after the fact, Illinois became the first state in the country to legalize through the legislative process.
“We did something that no other state in the nation has been able to do,” Pritzker cheered at the signing ceremony.
Other states looking to replicate the bipartisan legalization bill Illinois was able to pass haven’t been as successful, leaving many wondering what state might become the 12th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana.
During Yahoo Finance’s The Business of Cannabis special earlier in June, CEOs from the leading marijuana companies, including Canopy Growth (CGC), Curaleaf (CURLF) and Chicago-based Cresco Labs weighed in on that question with differing opinions.
Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton and Acreage Holdings (ACRGF) CEO Kevin Murphy agreed that New York would be the next state to legalize recreational marijuana, while Curaleaf CEO Joe Lusardi and Cresco Labs CEO Charlie Bachtell argued New Jersey would be next to change state law.
“The electorate is going to go to the ballot box and continue to vote for cannabis laws,” Lusardi said. “It’s going to get more popular every single month and I suspect we’ll have more medical states, more recreational states in 2020 and the pressure will mount on the federal government to address this issue.”
Setbacks to legalization in New York
In the weeks that followed their comments, New York legislators pushing for legalization through the legislative process suffered many setbacks despite having support from Governor Andrew Cuomo on the issue. New York state legislators failed to agree on where the $1.7 billion in estimated annual recreational marijuana sales would be directed and opted to pass a bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana instead.
Proponents of marijuana reform in New York have defended the decision to abandon legalization efforts in favor of decriminalization as less of a failure as much as it is a step in the right direction.
“Six years I’ve been trying to get it done. We got it done, and it’s a great step forward,” Cuomo said, referring to decriminalization. Efforts to re-introduce legalization plans could resume with the next legislative session.
Cuomo pointed to the failure of politicians in New Jersey to legalize marijuana back in May as a reason for stalled progress in New York.
Legislators in New Jersey resigned to let voters decide the fate of legalizing recreational marijuana through a November 2020 referendum vote.