By early 2020, marijuana had made tremendous strides toward legalization—for either medicinal or recreational purposes—in most states and even implicit federal recognition in the form of safe-harbor legislation for insurers and banks conducting business with the cannabis sector. But then COVID-19 struck, and progress predictably slowed. Nonetheless, unintended effects of the global pandemic may ultimately usher in a new wave of legalization and protection for marijuana businesses and the insurers and banks who work with them.
Jan. 1 marked the first day of adult-use marijuana sales in Illinois, the latest state to legalize marijuana for adults and the first to provide a comprehensive legal blueprint in the form of legislation that addresses everything from taxation to social justice. In all, at the beginning of 2020, medical marijuana was legal in 33 states, and another 11 had legalized recreational adult use, with several other states—most notably, New York and New Jersey—making a big push to do the same, despite marijuana’s continued illegal status at the federal level.