In This Article

In the latest national polls gauging American opinions on cannabis legalization, nearly 70% of all US adults say that weed should be readily available to those 21 years and older. When it comes to medical marijuana, those numbers jump even higher, with 91% of Americans believe that the therapeutic use of cannabis should be completely legal.

Putting that support to the test, a recent wave of legislative action in traditionally conservative states across the south and midwest have seen a slew of medical marijuana laws rise to the surface, ushering in a new chapter in the push for cannabis law reform that could eventually lead to long-awaited federal action.

“Medical cannabis is where we see the most common ground between Democrats, Republicans, and Independents,” Heather Fazio, a pro-marijuana advocate in Texas, told Politico.

In Fazio’s home state of Texas, a bill to expand the existing medical marijuana program to include more qualifying conditions and raise THC limits on legal cannabis products recently passed through the Republican-led House and is now being debated in the State Senate. Texas currently restricts medical marijuana cardholders to purchase and consume products with 0.5% THC or less. If passed, the currently circulating bill would increase that limit to 5%.

Another medical marijuana expansion effort is underway in Georgia, where Republican Governor Brian Kemp recently signed a law to establish 30 state-licensed cannabis dispensaries. Cardholding cannabis patients have been able to legally consume low-THC and high-CBD marijuana products in the Peach State since 2015, but the state has never constructed a regulated market of growers, distributors, and dispensaries to actually serve those patients.

Similarly, in Louisiana, two bills have been introduced to expand that state’s nascent medical marijuana program, with both of them focused on introducing flower to the market. Currently, Louisiana only allows patients to use cannabis oils and tinctures legally. If passed, one piece of legislation would allow the sale and consumption of medical marijuana flower, while the other would introduce a 4.45% sales tax on those products.

“Its chances look very good as of this moment,” David Brown, a longtime legalization advocate and lawyer in Louisiana, told Politico.

Beyond the liberalization of existing medical marijuana laws, a number of longstanding legalization holdouts are finally joining the green rush revolution.

In Alabama, both chambers of the state legislature have passed a comprehensive medical marijuana law that would cover 16 broad qualifying conditions, including depression and chronic pain. The bill is a significant first step for cannabis reform in Alabama, but the proposed law is still restrictive. As it is currently written, the medical marijuana provision would “exclude products that can be smoked and vaped, and marijuana-infused food products and to include other products such as oral tablets, gels, oils, creams, patches, or lozenges.”

It is not yet clear if Alabama’s Republican Governor Kay Ivey will sign the bill into law, but a spokesperson for the Governor said that she “look[s] forward to thoroughly reviewing it.”

North Carolina, another one of the few remaining states with no form of cannabis legalization currently on the books, may soon turn 4/20 friendly. A new bill introduced by Republican state Sen. Bill Rabon would establish a pathway for medical marijuana access for patients suffering from “debilitating medical conditions.” The legal weed legislation has not yet been debated in the State Senate or House, but with an influential Republican leading the charge, local cannabis advocates are confident that Sen. Rabon’s proposal could draw enough support to pass.

“If we’d had this conversation two weeks ago … I would have told you that I thought cannabis legislation of any form in North Carolina was three years away,” Garrett Perdue, founder of pro-legalization group NC Cann said recently. “The issue has the right champion, and that’s the only difference.”

In nearby Kansas, a bill to finally introduce medical marijuana in the state passed through the state House with a wide margin of 78-42 earlier this year. Unfortunately, the State Senate has since tabled the legislation, sending it to committee until at least January 2022. If the Sunflower State senators do pick up and advance the bill next year, though, Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has repeatedly expressed support for cannabis law reform, heralding legalization as an untapped source of tax funding.

And yet, even with all that success in states that have traditionally rejected drug policy reform, there are still stragglers holding on for dear life to their reefer madness mentalities, despite objections from their constituents. In Tennessee, Kentucky, and South Carolina, medical marijuana bills have been introduced and even gained support, but ultimately failed before making it to the Governor’s desk.

Still, after decades of West Coast cannabis reform and subsequent catch-up on the East Coast and parts of the Mid-West, the conservative South has been the last bastion for pot prohibitionists left in the United States. With those walls finally beginning to tumble, the pressure could soon mount enough to challenge persistent federal inaction. After all, Americans are already on board with legal weed, it’s just the politicians we need to convince.