At this time last year, many year-end articles had breathless headlines like, “Will 2021 Be the Year for Federal Cannabis Legalization?”


As documented here, there were a few more attempts to finally do away with the federal prohibition (and at least one is still alive as this is written), but no such luck. The giant millstone around the neck of the cannabis industry remains firmly in place.

There was, however, some more forward progress for the industry in 2021. Here’s a recap:

Four more states – Connecticut, New Mexico, New York and Virginia – legalized recreational marijuana. That brings the total of recreational states to 19, plus the District of Columbia.

Actually, it would be fair to say that six states legalized cannabis. New Jersey passed a ballot measure in 2020 that required legislation to complete the process. That legislation has now been passed, so things are moving along in the Garden State.

In South Dakota, however, the outcome is likely to be different. Voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure to legalize recreational use, a measure which was then ruled unconstitutional by a judge. The case is pending in the very conservative state Supreme Court, so we’re not holding our breath there.

There was progress on the medical marijuana front also, with Alabama legalizing its use. Other states tried and failed for varying reasons: Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Mississippi.

Looking at things from the other end, only four states remain where cannabis is illegal in any form: Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas and South Carolina. Another seven states allow only CBD or other non-psychoactive forms of cannabis, but no medical or recreational use (source: One note: those numbers may vary a bit depending on where you look, as some sources make further distinctions between “fully legal” and “decriminalized.”

Another trend in 2021 was the issue of reimbursement for medical marijuana in workers’ compensation cases. While this was addressed by more than 20 states, the results were – no pun intended – all over the map. Some states ruled that reimbursement was allowed, others ruled that it was required, and still others ruled that it was not required. Legislation addressing this issue is in the pipeline in at least five states.

In the end, it all comes back to Congress finally taking the clamps off the industry by lifting the federal prohibition. Will 2022 be the year?

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