With signature-gathering deadlines for drug reform initiatives now having passed nearly everywhere, the picture of where voters will have a chance to vote on them in November becomes clearer—although not yet finalized because state officials are still counting petitions in some cases. Marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in two states and could also be put to vote in two additional states; and seven (four of them confirmed, three still in the running to be voted on) medical marijuana and groundbreaking initiatives on psychedelic policy and drug decriminalization will also go before voters.
In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational cannabis. Illinois, the most recent addition to the list, made recreational cannabis legal in January of this year, and sales have been strong since then. June was the strongest month for sales in the state, with $47.6 million in total legal sales.
“If they hold the gavel and have the votes, there is no reason to wait another term,” said Don Murphy, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “For the next 600,000 prisoners of the drug war, it would be a term too late."
We can talk all we want about "defunding the police," and cutting way back on law enforcement in American cities. But until cannabis is legalized in every state, real police reform "cannot happen," according to Neill Franklin, executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.
As Connecticut lawmakers consider police reform and accountability legislation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, they should join several other states around the country in recognizing that our antiquated drug policies play an instrumental role in the over-policing of communities of color.
"The number one pretext for stopping young Black and brown youth is cannabis," said Steve Hawkins, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit that advocates for marijuana legalization in the US. "And with that aggressive policing targeted at communities of color, it has been a recipe for there to be violent encounters along the way."
Matt Simon of Manchester, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project in New Hampshire, said cannabis legalization is essential for improving police relations in the state with its communities. He noted that in the so-called "live free or die state" applications of cannabis laws are racially disproportionate and used to justify searches and make arrests.
“Next year, we’re optimistic that a lot of states that stalled out this year will pick it up and take this issue on and pass it,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for Marijuana Policy Project.