Here's Where All of the Incoming US Governors Stand on Cannabis

January is a month of change. With the new year comes new resolve - especially in state houses across America as governors elected during the 2018 midterm elections take office.

While many incumbent governors were reelected to their positions, there will be a total of 20 fresh faces who will have the chance to change the political landscape for their state. Whether or not they will enact that change is a different question all together.

Here is where each of the new governors stand on the issue of cannabis reform.

Ron DeSantis (R), Florida

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Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes to medical. No to recreational.

Cannabis history:

Governor DeSantis isn't thrilled about anyone using cannabis for any reason. But since Florida voters approved medical marijuana in a 2018 legalization ballot initiative, DeSantis says he is willing to concede to the will of the people and wants to implement the new law as soon as possible.

He is not, however, in favor of recreational use.

“I’m not somebody that thinks having recreational marijuana available for young people is something that’s good. I think it’ll make it more difficult for people to succeed,” he said. “It’s very difficult to raise children right now in the modern technological environment. We’ve got so many different distractions—To throw marijuana into the mix? I think it’ll make it harder for parents.”

Mike DeWine (R), Ohio

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Are they pro-cannabis?

No.

Cannabis history:

As Ohio's Attorney General in 2018, DeWine rejected a petition to fully legalize marijuana in the state. Although he did show some interest in reform by visiting Colorado in 2015 to assess how the recreational system was working, he said he was “alarmed” at the popularity of edibles in the state. 

Mike Dunleavy (R), Alaska

Senator Mike Dunleavy
Are they pro-cannabis?

No.

Cannabis history:

Alaska’s new governor has kept relatively quiet on the subject of cannabis. When asked directly if he supports marijuana reform, he will tend to answer simply that he does not, or that no changes are to be expected. So it looks like he's not happy about Alaska's decision to legalize recreational use back in 2014, but he's not going to try to repeal that law either.

Tony Evers (D), Wisconsin

Tony Evers

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes.

Cannabis history:

Wisconsin’s new governor has said that, as a cancer survivor, he is very much in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, which remains prohibited in the state (though certain patients can get access to the cannabis compound CBD). Governor Evers intends to proactively pursue legislation that would make Wisconsin the 34th state to legalize medical marijuana.

But he isn't as vocal about recreational use. When asked if adults should be allowed to enjoy cannabis for non-medical reasons, he said that should be up to the voters to decide.

Mark Gordon (R), Wyoming

Mark Gordon Headshot

Are they pro-cannabis?

No.

Cannabis history:

Gordon has emphatically stated that he opposes the legalization of marijuana. And while he says that there "may be some discussion" that can be had concerning medical marijuana, he is "not particularly in favor of that, either."

“My understanding is that there are some alternatives that are prescription-based. So the dosage is known, the purity is known, and we're taking risks for our patients."

Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), New Mexico

Michelle Lujan Grisham official photo

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes.

Cannabis history:

Grisham has actively worked to support and implement New Mexico’s medical cannabis program, and supported legislation at both the state and federal level that would serve to improve legal access to medical cannabis.

She has also said that she intends to support legalizing the recreational use of cannabis, which remains prohibited in New Mexico.

Laura Kelly (D), Kansas

Laura Kelly

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes to medical. No to recreational

Cannabis history:

The Kansas Democrat said that her state is “not ready” for recreational marijuana, but that she is in full support of regulated, legalized medical cannabis. That said, the issue was never on the forefront of her campaign, so it is unlikely be a major initiative during her time in office.

Brian Kemp (R), Georgia

Brian Kemp

Are they pro-cannabis?

Not really.

Cannabis history:

Georgia’s governor-elect has stated that he supports a limited expansion of the medical marijuana program, where patients with select conditions can only purchase the cannabis compound CBD right now. But he is against legislation that would allow marijuana to be grown in the state, so he doesn't want a full-fledged cannabis industry to sprout up in Georgia. On top of that, he not only opposes recreational legalization but decriminalization as well. 

Ned Lamont (D), Connecticut

Ned Lamont

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes.

Cannabis history:

Lamont said that legalizing marijuana is an "idea whose time has come," adding that it could be a great form of tax revenue for Connecticut, where medical marijuana is legal but recreational use remains prohibited. He has said that he believes the War on Drugs has led to a great deal of racial and classist discrimination, and therefore needs to be a part of criminal justice reform in the state.

Bill Lee (R), Tennessee

Bill Lee Tennessee

Are they pro-cannabis?

No.

Cannabis history:

Tennessee’s new governor is a vocal opponent of medical marijuana legislation and will certainly not consider legalization or decriminalization of recreational use.

"I think we've yet to fully search and fully utilize and fully research and expand on the use of nonaddictive, low-THC CBD oils in this state as a treatment for those conditions," Lee said. "For me, the data is not substantive enough to show that medical marijuana is the right approach right now. I would pursue other options first."

Brad Little (R),Idaho

Brad Little

Are they pro-cannabis?

No.

Cannabis history:

Little has said that he has no interest in reforming his state’s recreational marijuana laws. But at the same time, he's said that he would be open to considering some forms of cannabis in “extremely limited” medical cases. Presumably that would mean allowing access to the cannabis compound CBD, which is banned in Idaho but allowed in many other states, including Georgia and Texas.

He's so opposed to legalization that he believes the recently passed Farm Bill legalizing hemp at the federal level will serve as "camouflage for marijuana trade." 

Little has, however, fully endorsed faith-healing, so it might literally take a miracle to change his mind about marijuana reform.

Janet Mills (D), Maine

Janet Mills

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes.

Cannabis history:

Mills has summed up her feelings on cannabis with her motto “tax it, test it and regulate it.” And that's no surprise since she's very friendly with the industry. In fact, the single biggest donor to her inaugural celebration was the Wellness Connection of Maine, which runs four of the state’s eight medical cannabis dispensaries. As governor, the task will fall to her to implement recreational cannabis legalization, which Maine voted for during the 2016 election.

Gavin Newsom (D), California

Gavin Newsom

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes.

Cannabis history:

Although Newsom once disparaged marijuana by saying he “hates the stuff,” but he considers legalization a “social justice issue.” So he has no plans to repeal legalization in California, which voted to overturn prohibition back in 2016. 

“Cannabis legalization has been about recognizing this fact: that the War on Drugs has been an abject failure, it’s been a war on poor people, and people of color.”

Kristi Noem (R), South Dakota

Kristi Noem

Are they pro-cannabis?

No.

Cannabis history:

According to Noem’s campaign site, the new governor has called marijuana a “gateway drug” and equated it with prescription painkillers - even though you cannot actually have a fatal overdose from cannabis. She is very much against marijuana reform whether it's for medicinal or recreational use. 

Jared Polis (D), Colorado

Jared Polis

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes.

Cannabis history:

As a former five-term Boulder congressman, Polis has been a longstanding proponent of cannabis, which Colorado legalized for recreational use in 2012. Not only has he proposed legislation to help the medical marijuana industry in 2011 and 2013, but he has held fundraisers with members of the marijuana industry and toured hemp-research facilities during his campaign.

J.B. Pritzker (D), Illinois

J.B. Pritzker Chicago Hack Night 12

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes.

Cannabis history:

Governor J.B. Pritzker is a strong proponent of cannabis legalization. In fact, his website states that he “will work to legalize marijuana, reduce mass incarceration, and reinvest in Illinois communities.”

“The path for Illinois is clear: we need to legalize marijuana," he added. "As governor, I am ready to stand with leaders, communities, and families across our state to legalize marijuana and move our state forward.”

Steve Sisolak (D), Nevada

Steve Sisolak

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes.

Cannabis history:

Governor Sisolak has no intention of repealing recreational cannabis legalization in Nevada. But he does want to create a control board that would troubleshoot issues faced by the industry in the same way that the Gaming Control Board oversees the state's casinos. The control board would operate much in the same way as the one in Colorado does now.

One of the top issues on his to-do list is figuring out how to handle venues that want to offer onsite cannabis consumption.

"If we're going to have consumption lounges, they should be everywhere, they shouldn't just be in one local jurisdiction," Sisolak said."We have a Gaming Control Board, which sets the gold standard, and I think we could have a cannabis control board, as it relates to cannabis in the state and has consistent rules across the state."

Kevin Stitt (R), Oklahoma

Kevin Stitt Oklahoma

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes to medical. No to recreational

Cannabis history:

Oklahoma’s new governor has said that he supports medical marijuana, but he also believes that recreational cannabis has "no place" in the state. That's because he thinks it will bring unintended consequences such as employment issues and conflicts with the banking system.

Tim Walz (D), Minnesota
Tim Walz

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes.

Cannabis history:

Walz has stated that he fully supports legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use, which remains prohibited in Minnesota. He also supports expunging the records of those convicted of marijuana crimes and developing a system of taxation that would allow the state to grow its own cannabis.

Gretchen Whitmer (D), Michigan

Gretchen Whitmer

Are they pro-cannabis?

Yes.

Cannabis history:

Witmer was elected at the same time that the state voted to legalize recreational cannabis, a measure she supported on the campaign trail. Since then, the new governor has said that she will consider freeing inmates and expunging criminal records for those convicted of marijuana crimes that will become legal under the state’s new law.

Scorecard

For those keeping track, that's 13 new governors who support medical marijuana. Of those 13 governors, 10 also support legalizing recreational use. And there's quite a political divide between supporters and opponents: all 11 Democrats support some form of marijuana legalization, while only two of the nine Republicans are pro-cannabis. 

If these lawmakers were able to push reform forward in states that still prohibit cannabis, then they'd bring the total number of recreational states up to 14 while increasing the number of medical states to 35. But first, they'll have to get their state legislators onside with legalization, so there's lots of work yet to do in the year ahead for cannabis advocates. 

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It’s no secret that my husband and I are longtime cannabis and hemp advocates. We’ve cheered as the majority of Americans have come around to supporting legalization, and applauded as cannabis law reform spreads from state to state. Still, decades of prohibitionist propaganda have left many in the dark about the powerful wellness potential of these long-demonized plants.

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