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Check your governor’s grades on cannabis policy

February 3, 2020
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As US support for marijuana legalization continues to grow during a portentous election year, it’s important for voters to know where their lawmakers stand on the issue.

That’s why the cannabis reform group NORML sees fit to release an annual scorecard ranking America’s governors based on their track record of supporting cannabis reform efforts.

'America’s governors are our nation’s most powerful state-elected officials.'

Erik Altieri, executive director, NORML

This year’s rankings found an increased number of governors receiving a passing grade of C or better, although support for the issue continues to skew Democratic. Only nine governors received a top A grade—all of whom are Democrats—while all eight governors who received an F are Republican.

Gubernatorial elections can be a powerful driver of change, said NORML.

“Most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy takes place at the state level and America’s governors are our nation’s most powerful state-elected officials,” explained NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri in a written statement. “These 50 lawmakers play a key role in whether or not marijuana policy reform advances at the state level so it is vitally important that reformers are aware of where they stand on the issue.”

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C grades hit new highs

Out of 24 Democratic governors and 26 Republican governors in the US, a total of 32 top state officials earned a passing mark of C or higher, exceeding the number of last year’s number of 27.

Despite the rise, however, support for marijuana reform remains a partisan issue, as the bulk of passing grades were given to 22 Democratic governors, compared to only 10 Republicans.

This divide between lawmakers is not a reflection of the general public opinion, as recent Gallup polling found 66% of Americans in favor of legalizing marijuana.

New A’s for legalization

The small field of governors receiving a top A mark are highlighted by:

  • Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, who got an A+ for signing a legalization bill in 2019 and implementing it Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Nevada’s Steve Sisolak, also got an A for supporting a number of bills dedicated to reforming laws and sealing past criminal records involving marijuana-related offenses.
  • New York’s Andrew Cuomo received an A- despite failing to legalize cannabis last year. (California Gov. Gavin Newsom scored a B.)
Illinois first day of recreational adult use cannabis sales on January 1, 2020

Edie Moore (right), executive director of Chicago NORML makes the first purchase on the first day of recreational cannabis sales in Illinois at Mission dispensary in Chicago, Illinois, Jan. 1, 2020. (Taylor Glascock/for Leafly)

F grades for opposing legal hemp and medical cannabis

By contrast, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb earned an F for opposing medical marijuana, which 91% of Americans support. Similarly, Idaho Gov. Brad Little opposes medical cannabis and hemp, earning him an F as well. Ditto for F-graded South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

Eleven states hold gubernatorial elections in 2020. Indiana Gov. Holcomb is up for reelection this year. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (graded D by NORML) is also up for reelection.

“It is imperative that constituents know where their governor stands on marijuana law reform. Some can be pushed to be better and others will need to be voted out of office for being a roadblock to progress,” Altieri added. “We hope this scorecard serves as a tool for Americans to directly engage in the political process and put pressure on the leader of their state to join us on the right side of history.”

Register to vote today, with help from the Cannabis Voter Project.

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Oscar Pascual's Bio Image

Oscar Pascual

Oscar Pascual is a journalist based in Southern California specializing in cannabis, entertainment, sports and sneaker culture. He is the editor of Smell the Truth and contributes to Cannabis Now. His accomplishments include an interview with the Beastie Boys and a smoking session with John Salley.

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