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States That May Legalize Cannabis in 2021

Posted: February 17, 2021 in Blog

As of February 2021 adult-use cannabis is legal in 12 states and Washington, DC. Medical cannabis is legal in 38 states and Washington DC. Due to overwhelming public support, the much-needed tax revenue and the business opportunities that will open up for communities, more and more states are putting forth legislation to legalize cannabis in 2021. In this article, I will give the details of all the states that may legalize cannabis, both for medical and recreational.

States That Could Legalize Medical Cannabis in 2021

Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, and South Carolina could pass legislation this year to implement medical cannabis programs.


The Alabama state Senate passed a medical cannabis bill in March 2020. However, due to the pandemic, the bill never made it to the House for a vote. Republican state Senator Tim Melson announced that he will introduce the bill again in the new legislative session which just started on February 2, 2021.

Key Points of the Bill:

  • There are 16 qualifying conditions including cancer, PTSD, and chronic pain
  • No smoking, vaping, or edible products are allowed. Pills, transdermal patches, creams, dose cubes, and products for inhalers are allowed


Two medical cannabis bills never made it out of committee in 2020. New legislation was introduced in mid-January, 2021. Their new legislative session is already underway.

Key Points of the Bill:

The bill has not yet been publicly filed, but according to a member of the Kansas Cannabis Industry Association, the program is closely modeled after New Mexico’s program.

  • New Mexico’s program has 28 qualifying conditions, including chronic pain and PTSD, with relatively high THC limits.


The House passed a medical cannabis bill in 2020, but due to the pandemic, the bill never made it to the Senate for a vote. The new legislative session is already underway.

Key Points of the Bill:

  • At least 5 qualifying conditions would be approved including chronic pain, epilepsy and MS
  • Smokable flower is allowed with a THC level cap at 35%. Edibles and other oral products are capped at 10 mg of THC per serving

South Carolina

Two separate medical cannabis bills have been introduced; a Senate version and a House version which is the less restrictive of the two. The new legislative session started on January 12.

Key Points of the Bill:

  • Both versions include more than 12 qualifying conditions, but only the House version includes chronic pain
  • The Senate version only allows oils, edibles and topicals while the House version allows smokable products

States Most Likely To Legalize Recreational Cannabis in 2021


Governor Lamont introduced a bill for recreational use at the start of 2020 which ultimately never made it out of committee. He has vowed to try again in 2021, especially since the nearby state of New Jersey has already legalized it. The state House Democrats have already committed to voting on legalization in 2021 due to a projected state budget deficit and the increasing number of surrounding states that already have recreational programs.

New Mexico

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted down a recreational bill approved by the Senate Public Affairs Committee in February 2020. Governor Grisham is in favor of its passage. With the defeat in November 2020 of several legalization opponents, the prospect of passage of the bill by the Senate looks more promising. 

Democratic Representative Javier Martinez announced the introduction of a new legalization proposal during the 2021 legislative session which began in January.

New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo had every intention of introducing recreational cannabis legislation into his state budget proposal in 2020 until the pandemic financially decimated the state. He withdrew it from the budget due to “too much to accomplish and too little time” ahead of the April 1 deadline.

Cuomo has already planned to include recreational legalization into the state’s 2021-22 budget proposal.


Both Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman support recreational legalization, especially in light of the toll that the pandemic has taken on the Pennsylvania economy.  The hope is that there will be enough Pennyslvania’s state senators who support the legislation.  

Rhode Island

Governor Gina Raimondo had also included a recreational cannabis legalization proposal in the state budget at the beginning of 2020. However, the Senate leaders opposed the plan, tabling its inclusion.

Due to the toll, the pandemic has had on the economy, lawmakers are reconsidering Raimondo’s proposal for the 2021 budget.


Bills that would expand the medical cannabis program and legalize recreational cannabis have been filed for the 2021 legislation session already underway. Democratic State Senator Roland Gutierrez has filed a recreational bill that would create 30,000 new jobs and generate more than $3 billion.


Just as I was about to give a status update on recreational cannabis legislation, the following article popped up on my Facebook feed:

On Friday, February 5, 2021, legislation for the legalization of recreational cannabis passed in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. Retail sales are not expected to begin until 2024.

The House and Senate bills are substantially different, so lawmakers have to come to an agreement before sending it to Governor Northam for possible additional changes and his signature.

Both bills would do the following:

  • Legalize possession of up to one ounce for those 21+
  • Begin the expungement of some misdemeanor cannabis-related offenses by July 1.
  • Establish a new regulatory body that would be created to oversee the process  
  • The majority of the tax revenue would fund pre-K for at-risk children

Differences Between The Bills

  • The Senate version gives local jurisdictions the right to reject the establishment of retail stores
  • A second vote by lawmakers to finalize the policy framework will be required in 2022 

Sources:, States That Could Legalize Medical Cannabis in 2021, Jan. 21, 2021, Jeff 16, 2020, Melissa Schiller, Virginia Lawmakers Pass Marijuana Legalization Bills, Feb. 5, 2021, AP News

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