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Executive Summary

NORML is pleased to announce the release of our 2019 Gubernatorial Scorecard. This extensive database assigns a letter grade 'A' through 'F' to states' governors based upon their comments and voting records specific to matters of marijuana policy.

Public opinion in support of marijuana law reform, including adult use legalization, is at an all-time high. Nonetheless, few federal lawmakers are espousing views on cannabis policy that comport with those of the majority of their constituents. As a result, most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy takes place at the state level. America's governors are our nation's most powerful state-elected officials and they often play a key role in this ongoing legislative debate. Here is where each of them stands on issues surrounding cannabis policy.

KEY FINDINGS

  • Twenty-seven US governors received a passing grade of 'C' or higher (22 Democrats, 5 Republicans)
  • Of these, nine US governors -- all Democrats -- received an 'A' grade; this marks a significant increase since 2018, when only two governors received 'A' grades
  • Ten governors received a 'B' grade (9 Democrats, 1 Republican)
  • Eight governors received a 'C' grade (4 Republicans, 4 Democrats)
  • Fifteen governors -- 14 Republicans and 1 Democrat -- received a 'D' grade
  • Four governors -- all Republicans -- received a 'F' grade
  • Four governors received no grade because of insufficient data
  • Of the 23 Republican governors receiving a letter grade, only five (22 percent) received a passing grade of 'C' or higher
  • Of the 23 Democratic governors receiving a letter grade, 22 of them (96 percent) received a passing grade of 'C' or higher

Among the 20 governors taking office for the first time in 2019, six (30 percent) received an 'A' grade. All are Democrats.

Seven governors received a raise in their grade since the publication of NORML's 2018 report. They are:

  • Jay Inslee -- Democrat, Washington: to B+ to A
  • Andrew Cuomo -- Democrat, New York: from C- to B+
  • Tom Wolf -- Democrat, Pennsylvania: from B- to B
  • Ralph Northam -- Democrat, Virginia: from B- to B
  • David Ige -- Democrat, Hawaii: from C to C+
  • Jim Carney -- Democrat, Delaware: from C to C+
  • Greg Abbott -- Republican, Texas: from D- to C-

THE TAKEAWAY

There exists unprecedented political support among US governors for marijuana policy reform. However, this support is more partisan than ever before. 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. 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.

The results of the 2018 midterm elections also show that advocating for marijuana legalization is a successful campaign issue. Several newly elected governors -- such as Ned Lamont of Connecticut, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, and Tim Walz of Minnesota -- actively campaigned on a pledge to legalize the commercial cannabis market, while two additional governors -- Gavin Newsom of California and Jared Polis of Colorado -- have prominent histories as marijuana law reform advocates. One governor, New York's Andrew Cuomo, moved decidedly in favor of legalization during his re-election campaign.

This shift in political support among governors bodes well for the prospects of the passage of successful legislative reforms in various states in 2019 and beyond. While to date only one state -- Vermont -- has moved to legalize adult marijuana use via legislation (as opposed to the passage of voter initiatives), NORML anticipates that as many as four to five additional states (e.g., Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Rhode Island) may similarly do so in the near future.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This information is continually changing and was last updated 1/16/2019. If you have an additional public comment that we do not have record of or any additional information please email politics@norml.org.

Important and timely publications such as this are only made possible when concerned citizens become involved with NORML. Please consider making a today so we may continue to work towards legalization and providing you the tools necessary to be an informed voter.