State Cannabis Programs in 2020: Routes to Medical and Recreational Legalization

Some cannabis industry experts predict that up to 18 states could legalize cannabis for medical and/or recreational use in 2020 through legislation or ballot initiatives. We’re already well into the second month of the year, and some of the available routes to cannabis legalization are already taking shape across the country.

While an initiative in Florida failed to make it on the 2020 ballot, other states have already officially gotten cannabis on their own 2020 ballots or moved closer to advancing legalization through legislation. Even in Florida, it’s still possible for adult-use legalization to happen through legislation.

Let’s take a look at where states are in their efforts to advance cannabis legalization in the coming year.

Done Deal: States Where Medical and/or Recreational Cannabis are Already on the 2020 Ballot

Unlike Florida, three states have already officially announced that medical and/or recreational cannabis will be on their 2020 ballots.


The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office announced that enough valid signatures were submitted for a recreational cannabis legalization measure to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. While not formally on the ballot yet, all that remains are procedural steps, making this just about as close to a done deal as you can get.

New Jersey

In December 2019, a referendum on legalizing cannabis for adult use was approved for New Jersey’s 2020 ballot. This is after legislators failed to pass legalization in initiatives in 2019.

South Dakota

A measure to legalize medical cannabis and a separate measure to legalize adult-use cannabis will both be on the state’s November 2020 ballot.

Fast Track: States Where 2020 Ballot Initiatives are Underway

Nine states are well on the way to getting enough signatures to put legalization initiatives for adult-use and/or medical cannabis on their November 2020 ballots.


In 2016, voters almost passed a recreational cannabis legalization measure, so it’s expected that advocates will be able to collect the necessary number of signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot.


Voters in Arkansas approved a measure to legalize medical cannabis in 2016, and advocates are actively working to get enough signatures for adult-use legalization to appear on the ballot this November.


Supporters in Idaho are working to secure enough signatures to get a medical cannabis measure on the state’s 2020 ballot.


In January of this year, the Missouri Secretary of State’s office approved a ballot title for adult-use cannabis legalization. Now, it’s up to advocates and residents to secure the necessary number of signatures for the initiative to actually appear on the November ballot.


Advocates in Montana are working to secure signatures to qualify a recreational cannabis legalization measure for the 2020 ballot.


Activists in Nebraska are already working to get enough signatures for a medical cannabis measure to gain access to the 2020 ballot.

North Dakota

While voters in North Dakota voted against cannabis legalization for adult use in the 2018 mid-term, advocates are trying to gather the required number of signatures to put a legalization measure on the 2020 ballot.


After Oklahoma’s successful launch of its medical cannabis program, legalization supporters are optimistic that enough valid signatures will be gathered in time to put recreational cannabis on the state’s 2020 ballot.

Slow and Steady: States Where Legislation or 2020 Ballot Initiatives are Possible

Three states are still working toward legalization through legislation but state lawmakers haven’t ruled out the possibility of pushing the issue to voters in 2020.


On February 6, 2020, lawmakers in Connecticut introduced the “Governor’s Bill” – an adult-use cannabis legalization bill backed by Governor Ned Lamont and filed by the state’s Senate President and House Speaker on behalf of the governor.

New York

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has made recreational cannabis legalization through legislation in 2020 one of his priorities. However, he has stated that if legislation doesn’t work, the question should go on the ballot for voters to decide.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has stated that she’ll try to get adult-use cannabis legalized through legislation this year, but if legislation doesn’t work, the question may go to voters.

One to Watch: State Where Governor Supports Legalization

Some states are further behind on the path to full cannabis legalization, but that doesn’t mean efforts have completely stalled – particularly when top lawmakers in the state support legalization.

New Mexico

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham publicly supported an adult-use legalization bill in January 2020, which could help legislation gain needed momentum in the coming year.

Key Takeaway: Cannabis and 2020 Ballots

Legalization of adult-use and/or medical cannabis are the hottest topics in the industry in 2020 when it comes to state laws, but as we saw in Florida, even in states where the majority of residents support legalization, legal and administrative processes as well as political agendas can derail both legislation and ballot initiatives.

As new states come on board with legal adult-use and/or medical cannabis programs, Cannabiz Media will be tracking all of the business licenses in the Cannabiz Media License Database – the only verified source of cannabis and hemp business leads in the U.S. and across the globe. Schedule a demo to see how it can help you and your business.

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