Governors Supporting Cannabis Legalization

Cannabis is a hotly-debated topic in political circles. However, in recent years, increasing numbers of US governors have supported the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in their states. These governors come from both parties and have been elected in a broad stretch of states across the US.

This change in cannabis opinions shows a greater shift in public opinion. Voters are increasingly concerned about the future of cannabis in their state; public awareness on the benefits of cannabis (and its low risk) is improving. Soon, the US may see cannabis legalized nationally.

One organization, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), tracks political support for legalized cannabis. Each year, they grade states’ governors on marijuana reform and release their grades to the public.

We’ve summarized their report for you, so you know which states to watch and which politicians to support:

NORML logo
Photo from NORML website

Top-Scoring Governors

Washington: Jay Inslee

Gov. Inslee has taken significant steps to protect marijuana use and reduce criminal charges for previous users during his six years in office.

Under Gov. Inslee, over 3,000 residents of Washington will have their records cleared of marijuana-related charges. He opened up industry opportunities by increasing the types of cannabis available for purchase in the state and removing cannabis’s status as a “controlled substance” in Washington.

On continuing legislation, he announced, “If you don’t sell this product to children if you keep violent crime away from your business if you pay your taxes and you don’t use this as a front for illicit activity, we’re going to be able to move forward.”

Colorado: Jared Polis

It should come as no surprise that Colorado’s governor supports legalized marijuana strongly. During his time in congress, before being elected governor, Polis was instrumental in pushing marijuana bills through the House of Representatives. As governor, he’s supported incentives for cannabis businesses and increased accessibility for medical marijuana.

New Jersey: Phil Murphy

Gov. Murphy has only held office a year, but in that time, he’s remained actively involved in reforming New Jersey’s medical marijuana laws. His actions have increased the number of providers in the state, opened up treatment to new patients, and urged lawmakers to make medical marijuana increasingly accessible.

California: Gavin Newsom

Gov. Newsom hasn’t been in office long – he took office in January of this year. However, was a vocal supporter of recreational legalization in 2016. Newsom is expected to bring marijuana reform and support to California during his time in office.

Michigan: Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Whitmer was also elected in January of 2019. One of her first statements as governor indicated her intention to remove marijuana-related penalties for previous offenders in Michigan. To quote Whitmer’s inspiring speech, “For conduct that would now we considered legal, no one should bear a lifetime record.”

Lowest-Scoring Governors

Ohio: Mike Dewine

Gov. DeWine, unfortunately, remains uninformed on the impacts of marijuana legislation. He received an “F” grade from NORML for incorrectly spreading the idea that legalization increased marijuana use in other states (it does not), and supports jail time for those who possess or use cannabis.

Nebraska: Pete Ricketts

While some of Gov. Ricketts’ concerns are valid – preventing substance abuse, discouraging criminal activity, and supporting more research before full legalization – he still views marijuana as a drug only.

Rightly, he supports “thorough examination by the FDA to study any potential adverse effects, appropriate treatment schedules, drug interactions, and long-term effects among other topics.” This is research that cannabis users and non-cannabis users alike have called for, supported, and benefited from.

Nevertheless, Ricketts refuses to acknowledge the currently-known medicinal benefits, comparing cannabis to “any other dangerous drug” (which it is not).


Over twenty-five, governors received a “C” grade or higher, an encouraging statistic for cannabis enthusiasts. In addition, the number of governors receiving an “A” grade tripled from 2018 to 2019 – proving that the marijuana movement is quickly gaining momentum.

As the number of states supporting marijuana increases, so does the likelihood of a federal bill supporting nationwide legalization. You can help support cannabis legalization: check the NORML list to see how your state scored, call your governor to share your opinion, and don’t forget to vote in the next election.