Legalization is on its way – there’s no doubt about it. Four states have legalized recreational weed already and as many as 10 others are on slate to do so by 2017. Another 32 now allow some form of medical marijuana.
But not everyone is going to reach the finish line at the same time. It could take years – in some places even longer – to blanket the land with cannabis reform. So where does your state stand? When will legalization come your way?
The answer to that question probably depends less on the identity of your state than the region to which it belongs. States in the American West have long had the best odds of reform; it’s no accident that every state with legal recreational pot is located in the West.
It’s a safe bet that the entire West Coast will allow recreational marijuana by the end of 2016. Washington State, Oregon, and Alaska have already legalized, and California is likely to join them next year. Colorado also permits cannabis for recreation.
Nevada is another good bet within the next few years. Even Arizona could adopt reform, though the odds there are longer. Cannabis legalization is also possible in New Mexico and Hawaii, but there are no major efforts underway yet in either state.
Other Western States
Elsewhere in the West, residents can count on a long wait for legal pot. Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Kansas are all deep red states, unlikely to adopt serious reform anytime soon.
Back East, the likelihood of legalization is increasing rapidly. Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island are all candidates, though Maine is probably the front-runner. Connecticut and New Hampshire may legalize eventually, but probably not as soon.
In the Mid-Atlantic states, 2016 could bring legal marijuana to Ohio, where a reform drive has attracted increasing attention. There are no serious campaigns underway in Maryland, but the climate there could prove friendly to change. But elsewhere, from Indiana to New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Delaware, the wait will probably prove longer.
The Midwest likely won’t see serious reform for several years. Activists are already at work in Michigan, where medical cannabis has been legal since 2008. Illinois is another possible target, as is Minnesota, but even in those states resistance is still fierce. In Iowa, Wisconsin, and Missouri, residents shouldn’t expect legalization within the next few years.
Efforts to legalize in Texas, which were met with more success than expected, still failed to win enough support this year and aren’t likely to succeed in the immediate future. The same is true throughout the Deep South. Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are all long-shots for reform in the short term.
Florida could ultimately legalize, as support for the idea is strong there. But proponents will likely wait until medical marijuana is legal before pushing for recreational legalization in the Sunshine State.
So what’s the takeaway?
If you live in the more liberal parts of the American West (Nevada, New Mexico), your chances are quite good. The same is true if you live in almost any part of New England, though the victories there will probably be staggered over a few years.
The odds in the Mid-Atlantic region are longer but not insurmountable within the short run. But if you live in the South or Midwest, you should expect to wait a bit longer for retail ganja. Thankfully, as legalization spreads, the options for people in these places will increase: A quick run from Kentucky to Ohio is a lot easier than a trip from Kentucky to Colorado and back.