This is definitely not a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
No state governors were tricked into believing they made significant progress in cannabis reform that didn’t actually exist. Being able to see the fruits of their labor means 100% competence in their job.
And they’re talking about it, too. During this month’s budget requests and State of the State addresses, governors from New York to South Dakota are giving cannabis the same air time as traditional matters such as taxes, education, and infrastructure. The bragging, if we were to call it that, isn’t too humble.
A mix of top officials from both red and blue states (New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Virginia) have made it a point to speak about progressive cannabis policies in their respective jurisdictions. Let’s look at what each had to say:
Governor Phil Murphy (R), New Jersey
Although adult-use cannabis sales have yet to go online in his state, Gov. Murphy spoke glowingly in his State of the State speech of the economic potential and prosperity that a legal (and justice-centered) marketplace brings. He also favors cannabis cultivation for personal use, despite that provision not yet being written into the law.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), New Mexico
In her State of the State address, Gov. Lujan Grisham focused on the robust job opportunities that cannabis will make possible, going hand-in-hand with clean energy initiatives expected to do the same.
Governor Kathy Hochul (D), New York
Gov. Hochul released a State of the State book this month that revealed her plans to create a $200 million public-private fund to aid social equity applicants in the New York cannabis market.
Hochul’s executive budget also predicts tax revenues from cannabis to exceed $1.25 billion over a six-year period starting in 2023.
Governor Dan McKee (D), Rhode Island
Gov. McKee has proposed to legalize cannabis in his 2023 budget plan, which now includes language to automatically expunge criminal records with weed-related infractions. The program would impose certain restrictions, such as adults purchasing and possessing up to one ounce but without a home grow option, as well as a litany of expensive excise and sales taxes.
Governor Kristi Noem (R), South Dakota
Gov. Noem does not support recreational legalization, but medical cannabis is a different matter. She realizes voters in her state are pushing for it and she seems to be on board, as indicated by her recent State of the State address.
“I take our citizens’ health seriously. I don’t make these decisions lightly. And when we create new policy, we’re going to do everything we can to get it right from day one,” Noem said. “Our state’s medical cannabis program is one example.”
The fight for adult-use legalization in South Dakota, however, continues.
Governor Ralph Northam (D), Virginia
In what was his last State of the Commonwealth address, now former-Gov. Northam gave insight into the social justice principles that motivated Virginia to decriminalize cannabis. The previous law reflected an outdated—and highly discriminatory—view on the matter.
The current governor, Glenn Youngkin, has committed to not re-criminalizing cannabis, but also isn’t ready to be the architect of a legal marketplace just yet.