Marijuana law reform has become a rapidly growing beast, with consistent movement being made across the globe – especially in the United States. 18 states plus D.C. have legalized medical marijuana, Washington and Colorado have legalized possession and retail sales (as well as home-cultivation in Colorado), and 30% of the entire nation has decriminalized marijuana possession, making it no longer an arrestable offense.
Decriminalization has shown up in various forms in states that have taken that path, with the underlining element being that they’ve taken the possession of a certain amount of marijuana (typically an ounce or less), and made it no longer a crime. Instead, most of these states have made it a civil infraction – a simple ticketable offense that doesn’t show up on someone’s criminal record, and doesn’t carry the possibility of jail time. The state’s that have taken this path: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.
By the end of 2014, judging by current legislative movement, 40% of American states will have decriminalized marijuana possession. Here’s why we think this is.
- Hawaii is likely to approve decriminalization next session. Lawmakers were close to getting something through this year: It passed unanimously in the state’s Senate, before eventually dying in the House. Lawmakers behind the measure remain optimistic at its future outlook, and will be filing the measure again next session.
- Chances of Vermont decriminalizing marijuana possession, this year, are solid. The state’s House recently approved a measure to make possession of up to an ounce a simple ticket, while taking away the possibility of a permanent record for possessing up to 2 ounces or cultivating up to 4 plants. The measure’s chances in the Senate, where its passage would send it to the governor for final approval, are good.
- Maryland‘s Senate last month approved a measure decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis. A companion measure is being discussed in the state’s House, where its passage would put it to the governor’s desk. Even if the measure doesn’t make it through this year, the momentum and support isn’t going away. We would be quite surprised if Maryland didn’t pass decrim legislation by next year.
- New Mexico‘s House of Representatives passed legislation last month that would decriminalize 4 ounces of marijuana, giving the state by far one of the most liberal marijuana policies in the world. The measure currently sits in the Senate, where its passage is uncertain. However, talks have been that an amended version (likely lowering the possession limit to 2 ounces or less) could have the votes to pass, if not this session, then the next.
With the passage of decrim in these four states by 2014, which we see as highly likely (especially if activists continue to look up and contact their legislators and governor), 40% of the U.S. will have decriminalized or legalized marijuana. This, of course, doesn’t include any of the other states which may spring up with new legislation and pass a measure by next year.
Although decriminalization is only a stepping stone (a full repeal of cannabis prohibition for adults should be the endgame), it’s a huge one, and one that has a positive effect on thousands of individuals per state.
With so many states reforming their marijuana laws, and with over half (27 out of 50) of the U.S. having either decriminalized marijuana or legalized it for medical or recreational purposes, how long can the government ignore this issue, and continue to attack states that decide to take such an approach?
As that answer gets worked out, a bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers have filed legislation to force the feds to respect states that take a more sensible approach to their marijuana policies.
This couldn’t come at a better time, with new polling showing a strong majority to be in support of legalization, with 72% in support of the feds respecting states’ rights.