Cannabis lobbying group NORML released their 2019 Gubernatorial Scorecard on Jan. 16, ranking governors from all 50 states on their marijuana policy records, based on factors like public comments and votes related to legalization.
Midterm Election Adds New Entries to the Dean’s List
Nine governors earned ‘A’ grades and 27 passed with a ‘C’ or higher. Five governors from states where recreational marijuana is legal — California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Michigan — came out with top scores, as well as New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D). Four governors, Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R), Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), Ohio Gov. Matt DeWine (R) and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) all flunked, earning ‘F’s for openly opposing marijuana legalization efforts in their states.
Seven governors managed to climb in the rankings from 2018, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) who recently announced his intentions to begin recreational legalization in his state by April 2019. And four governors, from Alabama, Alaska, Maine and Missouri, received no score at all due to a lack of available action or commentary on cannabis.
Ever-Present Party Lines
According to an executive summary released by NORML, the results of their analysis were promising but partisan, revealing stark if unsurprising divides between each side of the political aisle. “While almost half of all Democratic governors are now on record in support of adult use regulation, no Republican governors publicly advocate for this policy,” the release said. Six of the 20 governors elected in 2018, a hefty 30 percent of the new state heads, received ‘A’s.’ All of those new, pot-friendly governors are Democrats, some of whom actually campaigned on promises to legalize recreational marijuana.
The summary also took note of a disparity between this figure and public opinion: “This partisan divide is not similarly reflected among the general public. According to national polling data compiled by Gallup in October 2018, 66 percent of the public – including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – favor legalization.”
Policy Prognosis, Stateside and Nationally
Traditionally, states that have enacted legalization policies have done so through voter initiatives as opposed to legislature. But given the power state representatives have to alter those initiatives, as demonstrated in Utah’s recent medical marijuana policy debacle, having support from the top definitely doesn’t hurt a state’s chances at ending prohibition. Especially because as far as federal cannabis policy is concerned, legalization doesn’t appear to be on the top of Trump’s list, though his pick for attorney general, is decidedly more pot-friendly than his predecessor Jeff Sessions.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, attorney general nominee William Barr said he would respect states laws when it comes to marijuana legalization. “To the extent people are complying with the state laws in distribution and production and so forth, we’re not going to go after that,” he said during the hearing.
NORML’s report gives cannabis advocates plenty of reasons to feel optimistic about the progress of legalization. The report predicted “as many as four to five additional states” will head towards legalization “in the near future,” citing Rhode Island, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut as states exemplary of this trend.
TELL US, how does your governor score on cannabis policy according to NORML? Do you agree?