2019 may not be the game-changer marijuana policy experts expected, but several steps were taken tow



Marijuana policy experts predicted that this year would be a “real game-changer” in terms of cannabis reform at both the state and federal level. But halfway through 2019, the movement has had less progress than hoped. “The reality is that public policy change rarely works that way. Slow and steady tends to be how change like this happens,” John Hudak, deputy director at the Brookings Center for Effective Public Management, told Newsweek. “There are of course watershed moments, but those are rare. 2019 has not been a watershed moment,” Hudak added. To date, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use. Medical marijuana use for qualifying patients is also legal in 33 states. But cannabis remains illegal under federal law, sharing the same drug classification as heroin, ecstasy and LSD. In 2018, advocates for legal marijuana saw two more states decriminalize the drug for recreational use and a handful of states (largely located in the Midwest) approve measures allowing for medical marijuana use. Plus, bipartisan cannabis legislation was introduced in Congress for the first time in 2018 through the States Act. President Donald Trump even said he would likely support the bill if it were to pass in the House and Senate. Only one state has legalized marijuana for recreational use so far in 2019, although it did so in record-breaking fashion. In June, Illinois became the second-largest state to legalize adult use cannabis and was the first state ever to use its legislature to pass a commercial system. Other states where marijuana policy reform was expected to pass easily this year, like New York and New Jersey, were not successful despite being backed by a majority of state leaders. Hudak said these failures show “that simply wanting a law to pass and simply having public support for that law is no guarantee that a legislature will move.” But marijuana reform has had a growing role in national politics, especially on the 2020 campaign trail. Nearly every Democrat running for president has said they support decriminalizing the drug, a stark difference from the 2016 election. “Four years ago, no one was talking about it. That is no longer the case,” Steve Hawkins, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Newsweek. Hawkins predicted that momentum from 2020 candidates will help drive more state referendums on marijuana legalization during next year’s election cycle. Here’s a deeper look at some of the biggest things to happen in terms of marijuana policy reform this year:Illinois Makes History By Legalizing Marijuana Through State Legislature Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana in late June but made history as the first state to so through its legislature. In 2018, Vermont lawmakers voted to legalize marijuana but for home-grown possession only, not commercial sales. Under the Illinois measure, state residents over the age of 21 can purchase and possess up to 1

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