The legalization of marijuana and cannabis reform steadily continues to move across the country. We’re halfway through 2021 and 4 more states have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. Currently, there are 18 states plus Washington D.C. where the use and possession of cannabis is legal. That may not seem like a lot, however, more than 40% of Americans live within these 18 states.
We like to keep a close tab on the state of the cannabis industry, banking, and access to cannabis payments services. Below you’ll find details for the 4 states that have passed legislation to legalize the recreational sale, possession, and use of cannabis. After that, we take a look at promising states that are on track to follow suit.
You can find up-to-date legalization information for each state by visiting our interactive Cannabis Laws Map. Just click on the state you’d like to learn about. And if we’ve somehow missed new laws or legislation there is even a place for you to let us know. We welcome comments and corrections.
4 More states legalize cannabis in 2021:
Connecticut’s SB 1201, signed into law on June 22, 2021, legalizes marijuana for recreation use and possession. Licenses will be awarded through a lottery system with 50% reserved for “social equity applicants.” The industry will be regulated by Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). The DCP currently regulates the medical marijuana program in the state.
- Effective July 1, 2021, personal use and possession of marijuana is legal
- Adults 21+ can possess up to 1.5 oz marijuana (in public) and up to 5 oz (in private)
- Home cultivation remains illegal until July1, 2023
- After July, 2023: cultivation of up to 6 plants per person or 12 plants per household
Virginia has become the first southern state to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. The Virginia marijuana law creates a new branch, the Cannabis Control Authority to oversee and monitor cannabis businesses with an emphasis on worker’s rights.
- Effective July 1, 2021, adult recreational use and possession is legal
- Adult possession of up to 1 oz of marijuana
- Bill includes provisions for automatic expungement of past convictions for marijuana possession
- State-licensed dispensaries can begin adult recreational sales January 1, 2024
- Home cultivation of up to 4 plants (must be hidden from public view)
New York legalized the adult use of marijuana through the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act. The Act established two new entities to create and implement program regulations: The Cannabis Control Board and the Office of Cannabis Management. The law, which is said to “prioritize marginalized communities” reserves half of the licenses for “social equity applicants” and allocates 40% of tax revenue to minority communities with disproportionate marijuana arrests.
- Effective immediately adult recreational use and possession is legal in NY.
- Adult 21 yrs old can possess up to 3 oz of marijuana
- Adult 21 yrs can possess up to 24 grams cannabis concentrate
- Home cultivation of 6 plants at one time with only 3 mature and 3 immature
Most marijuana legalization bills that have passed so far address both legalization and expungement of prior convictions. However, in New Mexico, they dealt with the topic individually by passing two separate bills. The Cannabis Regulation Act approved the adult use and possession of recreational cannabis. Separate legislation, SB2, provides for the automatic expungement of criminal records for crimes that are now legal.
Cannabis business licensing and oversight is delegated to the Department of Regulation and Licensing.
- Effective June 29, 2021
- Adult 21+ possession of up to 2oz marijuana
- Adult 21+ possession of 16 grams of cannabis extract
- May grow 6 plants per person or 12 plants per household
- 12% sales tax - increasing to 18%
- Retail sales slated for April 2022
What is in store for the rest of 2021 and future cannabis reform?
The second half of 2021 will reveal a few more states that may go legal through legislative efforts. Several legalization bills have garnered support in Rhode Island, Delaware, and Maryland over the last year or so. However, none were able to advance before the end of sessions. Many are expected to be reintroduced in 2021 with greater Representative support.
On top of that, most of these states are feeling pressure from bordering states that have already passed cannabis legalization.
South Dakota residents passed legalization of recreational marijuana by vote last November. But South Dakota Governor, Kristi Noem, isn’t as convinced as her residents. Instead, she has challenged the legislation in court, so we will have to wait to see how that plays out.
Rhode Island seems ripe to legalize marijuana, if they can just agree on how it should be run. Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has included a legalization model in both her 2019 and 2020 budget proposals. Incoming House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D) not only supports legalization but feels like there is majority support within his chamber.
There are some that believe that the only way to properly handle the situation is to deschedule marijuana altogether. The Federal Government faces increasing pressure to address marijuana legalization and reform. A recent Gallup poll showed a record 68% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana on a federal level.
There are also more than a few representatives that are pushing for federal legalization of marijuana through descheduling.
Jerry Nadler, House Judiciary Chair, reintroduced the MORE ACT to the House in May 2021. The MORE Act is a federal marijuana legalization bill focused on social injustice. It previously passed the House by a vote of 228-164, and Nadler has high hopes the new House leadership will do the same.
Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader, is working on a “comprehensive marijuana reform bill” he expects to introduce “soon”. Schumer believes it is imperative we legalize marijuana prior to passing cannabis banking reform initiatives. He believes passing access to banking could jeopardize the chance for real reform.
Cannabis Payment Services begin to gain momentum in 2021.
Despite the momentum, cannabis payment and banking services remain elusive. We continue to watch the progress of legislation aimed at bringing fair access to banking to the cannabis industry. The SAFE Banking Act continues to work its way through legislation. In April, the House approved the SAFE Banking Act for the fourth time. Now the Act heads to the Senate where there is strong opposition. But this time, it's a Democratic controlled Senate.
The SAFE Banking Act is a step in the right direction. It will create a “safe harbor” for banks and other financial institutions that want to serve the industry. It will also bring more regulations and oversight to both cannabis and marijuana related businesses. And it will create additional compliance burdens for the banks and financial institutions involved.
But, at Bankcard International Group, we're not waiting around. Until we have either greater access to financial services or cannabis reform on a federal level, we will strive to bring legitimate cannabis payment services to the industry. Until credit card processing is available, our goal is to help cannabis companies accept as many cashless payment forms as possible.
We know cannabis companies need to offer their customers options for debit and electronic payments for cannabis. And we know they need to be legal to protect their freedom, their license, and the greater good of the industry.
In the past year, B.I.G. has made huge strides in bringing cannabis payment options that are legally compliant, reliable, and affordable. We have several solutions available for accepting cannabis payments without the pitfalls of cash. And without the pitfalls of the unscrupulous, illegal options plaguing the industry.
We have become a trusted leader in (legitimate) cannabis payments. Our cannabis payment processing merchant account is fully transparent and compliant - the industry’s first.
Our team is made up of highly educated, ETA Certified Payment Professionals with a focus on integrity. We will thoroughly explain our cannabis payment solution options so you're comfortable with the choice. And we will be up front and transparent regarding all costs and fees involved.
If you're ready to establish legitimate cannabis payment processing services, we’re ready to help.