State Legalization Efforts in the 2020 Elections


Q: With so many states in the U.S. considering cannabis legalization measures for the November elections, how is the existing industry preparing for this potentially seismic shift in the legalization footprint across the U.S.?



By Kacey Morrissey, Senior Director of Industry Analytics, New Frontier Data

A: Before the COVID-19 pandemic derailed legislation in a handful of states, there were as many as 11 states with momentum toward legalizing cannabis for adult use in 2020, with another 12 considering legalization for medical use. Currently, four states are confirmed for adult-use questions to appear on their ballots in November, with a few others pending official review; four are poised to put medical legalization to a vote or to pass program legislation.

Some states, such as New Jersey in its consideration of adult use, represent a significant tipping points for entry by very significant cannabis consumer bases in regions previously untapped for legal revenue. Legalization in South Dakota would bring adult-use cannabis for the first time among the Great Plains region, and mark the first time that any state simultaneously passed both medical and adult-use measures.

New Jersey and New York could potentially both pass adult-use legalization measures (the likelihood being much greater in the Garden State),  introducing adult-use cannabis to the tri-state area, and making cannabis more accessible than ever to nearby tourist-heavy destinations like NYC.

Existing multistate cannabis operators across the U.S. (which have kept apace in a steady strategic campaign to expand their respective operating footprints as new markets legalize) are acutely aware of the prospective shift in November, and have been making tactical moves accordingly.

Acreage Holdings spent $10 million in June to acquire one of New Jersey’s 12 licensed medical cannabis businesses — Compassionate Care Foundation — in order to gain a foothold in the existing medical market, and is now spending heavily to triple its cultivation capacity in the state to 21,000 square feet in anticipation of popular approval this fall. Cresco Labs has reportedly reserved $68.6 million in cash and cash equivalents, with Curaleaf and Green Thumb, respectively, holding $176.4 million and $71.5 million of cash and cash equivalents to wield the whatever resources necessary to expand in any U.S. states voting to legalize or expand markets from medical-use to full adult-use programs.