By the end of 2020, more than 40 states could allow some form of legal marijuana / cannabis, including in more conservative jurisdictions, like North Dakota and Mississippi1. However, because possession of marijuana / cannabis remains illegal under Federal Law, these state-law developments could further increase confusion across the country about what is, and is not, legal.
Interestingly, states have approached legalization measures differently. Some jurisdictions — such as Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and the District of Columbia, to name a few — legalized recreational / adult-use marijuana / cannabis through citizen initiatives. By contrast, in 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize recreational / adult-use marijuana /cannabis through legislative action (as opposed to through a citizen initiative). Many expect that New York State will soon legalize recreational / adult-use marijuana / cannabis through the legislative process in 2020, although a similar effort failed in 2019.
This growing trend towards legalization across the country begs the question: What are local governments doing to prepare?
In Maine – where state law requires municipalities to opt-in to allowing nonmedical marijuana businesses to operate – municipalities have been hesitant to fully embrace legalization due to concerns about regulatory and enforcement issues2. The experiences of local governments in states when marijuana is already legal can provide helpful lessons for municipalities in states considering legalization measures this year.
Some jurisdictions are already considering local laws to regulate the emerging industry, while others are preparing for legalization by amending their local zoning codes. On the other hand, many municipalities have held off on preparing for legalization altogether due to uncertainty about their options and what to expect.
However, with the New York State Legislature seemingly moving towards legalization this year, now is the time for local governments to consider what is in the best interests of their constituents and to identify options for regulating this growing industry.
Questions about how municipalities can prepare for marijuana / cannabis legalization, how they can adopt local laws to regulate it, and how they can use their zoning authority to exert control over this emerging business, can be complicated. That’s why it’s so important for local governments to seek guidance from experienced attorneys early in the process.
For inquiries related to Cannabis/Marijuana Law, and other Municipal Law issues, please contact Jacob H. Zoghlin, Esq. or Mindy L. Zoghlin, Esq. at The Zoghlin Group, PLLC.
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