Researcher Picks States That Will Legalize Next

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Three states and the District of Columbia now allow the sale, possession, and recreational use of marijuana. Another state will join them later this year. That reality raises a tantalizing question: Who’s next?

legalize statesA Kansas researcher thinks he has a good idea. Barney Warf, a professor of geography at the University of Kansas, picked five states he believes will legalize in the next few years.

Warf wrote an article titled High Points: An Historical History of Cannabis, which was published in Geographical Review, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, in September.

Now he says there are five states lined up for legalization. Four of them are rather obvious while the fifth, Illinois, is a seemingly unlikely choice. Even decriminalization has had little effect there, though that could change.

Reform “hard to predict”

Marijuana reform can be “hard to predict,” Warf acknowledged. But he said his forecast was based on the current laws of these states and the partisan tendencies of voters.

“All five of these states have legal medical marijuana and tend to be liberal or libertarian in voting patterns,” he said.

Here are the states Warf chose: California, Nevada, Illinois, New York, and Vermont. New York may be a good bet, but it’s a little less likely than the others given the diverse nature of the electorate there. Still, Warf notes that the state is generally very liberal and passed a medical cannabis law last year.

California likely for 2016

handful-weedIn California, Warf points to several recent efforts to put legalization on the ballot, plus the state’s early adoption of medical weed in 1996. A legalization attempt failed at the polls in 2010, and none of four separate campaigns managed to legalize the drug in 2014. But he says Californians “are sure to do so in 2016.”

Warf says Nevada is a good bet for reform because its political leanings mirror those of Alaska, which voted to legalize weed in November. Vermont, meanwhile, has “a strong liberal tradition” favorable to the idea.

Illinois, he says, is “surprisingly progressive on this issue.” Unlike other states on deck for reform, the Land of Lincoln isn’t even decriminalized yet, though Chicago has removed criminal penalties for possession. But the state does have medical marijuana, a possible springboard to legalized pot.

Legalization fever has swept the country since the first legal weed laws passed in 2012 in Colorado and Washington. The first legal weed shops in the world opened in those states last year.

In November, Alaska and Oregon joined them in legalizing. Cannabis is now legal in Alaska, while Oregon’s new law will take effect later this year. Voters in Washington, D.C., approved legal weed in the same election, though Congress has tried – unsuccessfully, so far – to block the law from taking effect.

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