Looking Back at State Law Changes in Cannabis in 2019

Cannabis sales are seeing an explosion all over the globe, with global cannabis-based revenue soaring from $3.5 billion to almost $11 billion in the years between 2014 and 2018. The United States stands as the world's most prolific marijuana market in spite of the federal government's standing hostility towards the substance. While recent legislation moving through the House and Senate suggests that this may be changing, for the time being, pot is still registered as a Schedule I drug as of the time of this writing. This classification means that at the federal level, the substance remains illegal.

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The Cannabis Legalization Movement Grows Wild At The State Level

In spite of its official illegal status on the Federal level, cannabis legalization has been growing at the state level. While the majority of these states (33 of the 44) have only legalized it for medical use, 11 states have opened the doors on legal recreational use. This daring move has seen other states following suit, in large part driven by the staggering tax revenue that's being produced by legalized marijuana.

State Law Changes In 2019

With 2019 nearly at an end, it's an excellent time to review what's changed throughout the year. Multiple states have made changes to their laws, significant progress towards nationwide legalization of our favorite plant. Thankfully all of these changes have been to make marijuana more accessible for patients and recreational users alike, depending on the state in question. Below we detail what's changed in state laws regarding cannabis in 2019.

New York

New York started its journey to legalization in 2014 when Governor Cuomo took steps to make marijuana available to medical patients. While the herb itself remained illegal, pills, edibles, vaporization, and oils were all made legal for medical use. This June we saw an important step towards full legalization when a bill that would bring full decriminalization of cannabis in quantities under two ounces passed legislature. While decriminalization is not legalization, the law did contain protections for those carrying marijuana, preventing cops from being able to demand suspects empty their pockets resulting in the cannabis being brought 'into public.'


Illinois saw new regulations passed by the General Assembly in May of 2019 that made recreational marijuana legal effective January 1, 2020. Adults aged 21 or older are permitted to have up to 30g in their possession. On June 25, Governor Pritzker signed legislation legalizing the sale of marijuana to adults, making it the first state to do so using through this process.


Hawaii has also seen decriminalization laws passed in 2019. After stating that he will not veto it, Governor Ige allowed a bill to pass that decriminalized possession of marijuana in amounts less than three grams. The law comes into effect as of January 11, 2020.

North Dakota

Marijuana became decriminalized in North Dakota in May of this year.

New Mexico

Legislature signed to decriminalize marijuana was approved this year.

With fully 10% of the states in the nation making moves to legalize marijuana for recreational use, we have reason to expect great things from 2020. It's been a long road for those of us who know the benefits of marijuana and understand it to be the harmless and even beneficial substance that it is, but our wait seems to be almost over. If you call any of these states home, we congratulate you on being able to enjoy your toke with peace of mind.

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