Colorado, Washington State, and now Alaska and Oregon, too. In a matter of months, the cultivation, sale, and purchase of recreational weed will be legal in all four of these states.
Washington and Colorado legalized back in 2012, and the first retail pot went on sale last January. Then, in November, Oregon and Alaska voted to join the party. Legal pot isn’t yet available in those states, but it will be soon.
Now that we’ve reached this critical juncture, what comes next? Where is reform most likely to strike? What states are in line to legalize? Could 2016 turn out to be even more momentous than 2012 or 2014?
These are all unanswerable questions until we come to them. But we will get there soon. As for who’s next to legalize recreational weed, there are a number of possibilities. California may be the most important and the most likely to go green.
The Golden State led the medical movement
Medical marijuana has been legal in the Golden State since 1996, and full legalization is headed its way. Voters could get a say in the matter in 2016, when there will likely be a reform question on the ballot.
If California goes for weed, it probably won’t be long before the rest of the country follows suit, with prohibition falling like a string of 50 dominoes. California is the nation’s most populous state and is already home to a large part of America’s weed supply.
Pro-pot groups tried to put legalization on the ballot this year, but four separate efforts failed. Political donors decided to wait out this election and build their money in anticipation of 2016.
That year will include a presidential election, and these races typically draw a heavy crowd of young voters. Midterm elections, like 2014, don’t pull in as many. These are the voters most likely to support legalization, so many donors have opted to keep the wallets closed for another year.
Legalization is possible in other states, too. Arizona could see a concerted campaign to legalize in 2016, as could Michigan and Massachusetts. Other states could enact legalization by legislation, such as Rhode Island and New York.
Outside California and New York, the biggest state up for grabs in 2016 is Florida. An attempt to legalize medical marijuana failed this year, but it managed to draw 58 percent of the vote (60 percent was needed to pass). Pot advocates will almost certainly try again in the Sunshine State.
In Massachusetts, meanwhile, the legislature could legalize cannabis in the coming months. If they fail to act, a pro-weed group plans to launch a ballot initiative.
East Coast states are getting closer
Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island are all vying to become the first legal state on the East Coast. Maine is a strong bet for legalization by 2016, while lawmakers in Rhode Island are already considering the idea.
In Michigan, a strong vote for medical weed in 2008 speaks to the strength of the reform movement there. Every county in the state voted for MMJ, and advocates in Michigan believe they can muster the votes to make the state the first in the Midwest to allow recreational weed.
The New Mexico Legislature could make that state the first in the Southwest to legalize. A bill is likely to come before lawmakers this year, and the state already has a strong MMJ system.
Legislation is also pending in New York, where a state senator is pushing a plan to regulate and tax recreational marijuana. The Legislature only narrowly adopted medical marijuana, so it’s unclear whether this effort stands much chance in the next year or two.
Be on the lookout for a few surprises, as well. Minnesota, for example, recently adopted one of the most stringent medical cannabis laws in the country, but could be ripe for change.
Wherever you look, expect big results by the end of 2016. Marijuana policy reform is in full swing now, and it looks sure to reach new places soon.