Governors Talk Recreational Pot Legalization

Glass containers display varieties of marijuana for sale on shelves at The Station, a retail and medical cannabis dispensary, in Boulder, Colorado. Gov. Jared Polis said his state is "years ahead" of other states in terms of marijuana legislation.

Glass containers display varieties of marijuana for sale on shelves at The Station, a retail and medical cannabis dispensary, in Boulder, Colorado. Gov. Jared Polis said his state is "years ahead" of other states in terms of marijuana legislation. Brennan Linsley/AP

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

At an event on Friday, a slate of governors spoke about the promises and difficulties in legalizing recreational marijuana.

While 10 other states legalized marijuana before Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker notes that his state was the first to decide that recreational pot can be sold through legislation instead of by a voter referendum. 

Speaking at Politico’s State Solutions conference on Friday, the Democratic governor suggested that other states follow that path.  

The time lawmakers took to craft their legislation allowed them to think carefully about social equity, a key issue that repeatedly came up last year as state legislatures across the country debated legalization. Concerns about whether minority business owners would be able to participate in the new industry and difficulties working out expungement language about past convictions helped doom measures in New Jersey and New York

“After people voted for it [in other states], it was a mass scramble to get the things done,” he said. “Ours was very intentional. So many other states on the verge of legalizing are looking at what we did now.”

Like Illinois, Vermont also approved cannabis legalization through legislation. But that state law didn’t approve commercial sales, only allowing people to grow the drug in their homes.

Illinois was also the first state to approve a marijuana law with social equity components, such as provisions to establish a fund from marijuana tax revenue for restoration grants given to communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs and another that gives people of color preferential treatment for business licenses in the marijuana industry. 

But critics have said even with those provisions, Illinois hasn’t created a truly equitable marijuana market. In Chicago, some local leaders complained that none of the first round of dispensary licenses were granted to women or people of color. 

Ald. Jason Ervin, chairman of City Council’s Black Caucus, fought last year to have legal marijuana sales in Chicago delayed until July 2020 so that the city could ensure that dispensary licenses were distributed more equitably. “We are concerned about the lack of African American participation, which stands currently at zero. And we’ve not heard any plan from the state or from anyone to change that,” Ervin told local news station WTTW in November. “The reality is that today I think that the state should create a system that would ensure African American ownership from the start.”

But Ervin’s measure failed and marijuana became legal in the city on January 1. All 11 dispensary owners are white men.

Pritzker on Friday said he is looking beyond dispensary licenses when he thinks about equity. He said the “massive pardon and expungement campaign” for those with low-level marijuana convictions will also play a part in equity. “The social equity component is much more than just allowing people to get into the industry who have been left out and left behind,” he said. “Cannabis convictions have been unfairly biased towards people of color and we’re correcting that.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in conversation with Politico's Darius Dixon. Prtizker said he is focusing on more than just dispensary ownership when he thinks about equity. (Rod Lamkey/Politico)

Pritzker also said that marijuana legalization will promote safer consumption, as the state had seen deaths from synthetic marijuana and illegally manufactured THC vaping cartridges. “What you get now from a legal dispensary is a product you know is safe,” he said. 

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, recently introduced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana that would be sold in state-owned stores. Though the proposal is considering a long shot in the legislature, Raimondo said she is hopeful lawmakers will hold hearings and discuss legalizing cannabis because of the drug’s status in neighboring states.

“Rhode Island is a tiny state,” she said. “Massachusetts has legalized, and Connecticut is about to … From my office in Providence to the closest marijuana shop in Massachusetts is a ten minute drive. To pretend we don’t have adult use marijuana in Rhode Island already is silly.”

For her, the issue is now simply one of safety. “This is about public health and safety,” she said. “Let’s have a responsible way to legislate this.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat who leads one of the first states to legalize sale of recreational marijuana, said that the state has a “thriving” cannabis industry on both the agricultural and entrepreneurial fronts. “We have a more mature industry than any other state. We’re several years ahead,” he said. “We want to keep that competitive advantage.”

To stay on the forefront of marijuana legislation, Polis said the state is focused on the financing problems of the industry. He said he supports the SAFE Act, a measure awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate that would provide protections for banks involved in the cannabis industry, but emphasized that the state won’t wait for the federal government to act. 

In 2019, Polis signed legislation to allow marijuana companies in the state to be publicly traded and take outside investments. This week, his administration released guidelines for local banks interested in financing businesses in the industry. “Under our state authority, we’re ensuring that cannabis companies have access to financial services,” Polis said.

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

NEXT STORY: New York Residents Get Banned From Global Entry Over State Immigration Law

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.