How Cannabis Politics Played Out in 2022?

Stephen Andrews
20 Dec 2022

2022 has been an exciting year for Cannabis. It will be remembered as the year when the president of the United States of America signed a cannabis reform bill into law in a first. A piece of legislation that will make it easier for scientists to study the therapeutic value of Cannabis. Joe Biden also initiated a process to "review expeditiously" the status of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Ultimately, the review should result in de-scheduling or re-scheduling marijuana. But a lot of other things happened over the past 12 months. There are a lot of big and small victories that should be celebrated and cherished.


Six U.S. states launched a legal adult-use market in 2022. One of them, Rhode Island, voted legal cannabis and opened legal retail in the period of six months. The other new legal states where Americans can now freely buy weed are Montana, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Vermont. New York is also supposed to be on this list, but they are somewhat late setting up the first legal dispensaries.

Two more states, Maryland and Missouri, approved marijuana through ballot initiatives this year. But for them to launch a legal state market, that will have to wait until 2023. 

On the other hand, the legal state of Virginia sought to tighten regulation, with some lawmakers wanting to increase the penalties related to marijuana possession. 

There were also some states, such as Oklahoma and Nebraska, where activists, unfortunately, failed to pass a reform bill on the ballot. In the case of Nebraska, it was not even about the recreational use of cannabis; it was legislation for medicinal use. 

Medical Cannabis

Nebraska aside, a dozen states successfully advanced medical marijuana reform throughout 2022. Some of the states already had medical cannabis legislation in place, they just added new regulations to make the existent laws better. 

One of the more significant events in this respect occurred in February, when the governor of Mississippi signed a medical marijuana bill into law, making The Magnolia State the 37th state to enact policy change in the U.S.

California upgraded its medical cannabis program with a new law that prevents localities from blocking delivery services in their areas in a bid to improve access to medicines for patients. 

The state of Louisiana also upgraded the accessibility of medicines. Lawmakers in The Pelican State introduced a program that lets nurses issue MMJ recommendations and allows patients who are not residents of Louisiana but have a qualifying condition to be able to make purchases at its medical dispensaries. 

Furthermore, the University of Kentucky got a Center for Cannabis Research to facilitate studies into the benefits and risks of cannabis. 

During 2022, medical cannabis reforms have also been enacted in Washington D.C., Maine, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. 

However, it should also be mentioned that there are places in the world where legal moves were made in 2022 to ban medicinal cannabis. In Hong Kong, a CBD ban will be enforced early in 2023, with a possible 7-year jail term for possession to match heroin or cocaine. 

Mass Pardons

In October, president Biden announced he would mass pardon those with prior federal convictions for the simple possession of marijuana. He also called on state governors to follow step with the new policy. The first governor to mirror the president about pardons for simple possession was Gov. Kathy Brown of Oregon, who went ahead with a measure that would benefit more than 45,000 individuals with minor marijuana possession convictions. 

cannabis politics in the U.S. in 2022.


The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, signed legislation in September that mandates state courts to process record sealing and similar forms of relief for people with eligible cannabis convictions. Or, in the words of assemblymember Mia Bonta, California finally delivered on a "promise made over five years ago by ensuring that individuals with low-level cannabis offenses have their records cleared." 

The governor of Colorado enacted a similar expungement bill. In addition, Illinois's governor signed a measure during the summer which restricts the ability of courts to deny petitions to expunge or seal records based on a positive marijuana test. 

Workplace Protections

A much-debated subject throughout the year was workplace drug testing policy. As a result, several state legislatures created protections for employees. 

The law of New York says that marijuana drug tests are generally not permitted. They can only be used if federal law demands a test for particular job positions. More importantly, the employer cannot use a positive THC test to conclude that an employee was impaired by marijuana. 

Similarly, a new Californian law prohibits most employers from discriminating against hired personnel based on drug tests that indicate the presence of THC. 

The governor of Utah also signed a bill that limits state employers from enacting punitive measures against employees who happen to consume marijuana at home in line with the state's MMJ access law. Similar medicinal marijuana employment protections were also implemented in Louisiana and D.C. this year. 

Social Equity

States continued to focus on creating balanced marketplaces by granting licenses to social equity applicants. Some states like Arizona opted to give social equity licensees through a digital lottery, others through an open call where a board reviewed the submissions.

New York faced speed challenges in managing its social equity program. State authorities were late to announce the recipients of the first batch of recreational shops, nevertheless, all of them went in the hands of people with past cannabis-related convictions as well as non-profit organizations who work with people affected by previous drug laws. 

Meanwhile, Massachusetts enacted a law that initiated a "Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund" (New York has a similar trust fund to finance costs for its social equity applicants). The main goal of the Massachusetts fund is to promote cannabis market participation by people who have disproportionately been affected by the War on Drugs.

Other Intriguing Laws Enacted in 2022

A law was enforced this year in Louisiana that forbids police to use the smell of marijuana alone as a justification to conduct a search of a person's home without a warrant. In New York, marijuana odor cannot be used as evidence the person is impaired and underperforming at work. 

Another California law effectuated this year says that social workers must treat cannabis use by parents the same as they do for alcohol when child welfare investigations are underway. 

What Do Polls Say?

Legal cannabis seems to enjoy strong popularity among voters, regardless of their political orientation. 

One such poll, conducted in the spring of 2022, found that 69% of Americans, or 7 out of 10, favor adult-use legalization. As much as 92% said they support legal weed for medicinal use. These figures have never been higher.

In the same polling, 78% of Democrats, 74% of independents, and 54% of Republicans expressed a view that they support legalizing recreational use. Only 30% of Americans oppose legalizing adult-use marijuana. 

Happy end of 2022!

Stephen Andrews