Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012. Oregon and Alaska followed in 2014. In 2016, Massachusetts, Maine, California and Nevada joined the movement. Here’s a look at the five states most likely to be next, and by the end of next year.
Last year Vermont’s Senate became the first in U.S. history to approve a measure (Senate Bill 241) that would have fully legalized cannabis for those 21 and older. Despite also being supported by the state’s attorney general and governor at the time, it failed to pass the House.
However, proponents are taking up the issue again in 2017, with the added momentum of four additional states having legalized cannabis just a few months prior.
The state’s new Governor Phil Scott unfortunately doesn’t support legalization, but is at least open to the idea, saying “I can appreciate the discussion around ending the prohibition of marijuana.”
Earlier this month New Mexico’s House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 3 to 1 to advance House Bill 89, which would legalize cannabis for everyone 21 and older. It must now go through two more committees, the full House and the Senate before going to Governor Susana Martinez for final consideration. In other words it still has a long way to go, but it’s already gone as far as any legalization measure before it.
According to polling released a few weeks ago by the Albuquerque Journal, if the measure is passed into law it has support from a majority of the state’s voters; 61% of voters favor legalization, with just 34% opposed.
Last June activists submitted over 350,000 signatures on an initiative to legalize cannabis, considerably more than the 253,000 required to put the proposal to a vote later that year. However, after conducting a count the state found that too many of the signatures were invalid (any signature from someone not registered to vote, and any duplicates), meaning it fell slightly short of being put to a vote.
However, proponents of the initiative aren’t going away until the battle is won, and are already working on an initiative that would be placed on the 2018 ballot.
To many Michigan voters legalization is far from a new concept: Numerous cities throughout the state have already approved measures to legalize or decriminalize cannabis, including Saginaw, East Lansing, Keego Harbor, Portage, Mount Pleasant, Port Huron, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Oak Park, Hazel Park, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Ferndale and Detroit
Polling released last month – conducted by Public Policy Polling – found that 59% of registered voters in Rhode Island support legalizing cannabis, showing that the state is more than ready for it. Late last year when asked about legalization Governor Gina Raimondo said “We’re looking into it.” She followed that up by saying that; “If I could get myself comfortable that we, the state, could legalize in a way that keeps people safe, keeps children safe, folks aren’t getting sick, then I would be in favor.”
Such strong support for legalization in Rhode Island makes sense; the state consistently has one of, if not the highest marijuana consumption rates in the United States.
Earlier this month two proposals to legalize and tax cannabis were filed by Senator Richard Madaleno.
“Now is the time to join other states and move toward a sensible system of regulation and taxation,” said Madaleno prior to filing the bills.
According to a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll released in October, the state’s voters agree; 61% support legalization, with just 34% opposed.
Delegate David Moon (D) is sponsoring separate legislation that would send a constitutional amendment to make cannabis legal to a vote of the people; this means that if lawmakers don’t quite have the will to legalize cannabis themselves, they have the option of giving voters their say (while still being the ones to develop the proposal, making them more likely to support it).
Governor Larry Hogan unfortunately doesn’t seem to be supportive of legalization, but the legislature can overturn any veto with a 2/3rds majority. And it’s not unheard of; just last month lawmakers overturned a veto by Governor Hogan that would have kept marijuana paraphernalia illegal (it is now decriminalized). Mustering a 2/3rds majority would be quite a task, but there’s also the possibility that if it reached Hogan’s desk he would simply let it become law without his signature, especially if it passes with considerable support.