It's been only two months since Washington and Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana, but the advocates who raised millions to pass Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 aren't wasting time celebrating. In addition to helping craft the rules and regulations in the Centennial and Evergreen states, they're also providing support to state legislators who will introduce marijuana bills—more than 20 altogether—in 2013.
"While not all of them will pass," says Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the debates around them will be different than in years past. "What I'm hearing is that a dam broke," says Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "Before Colorado and Washington, the idea of legal marijuana existed in the realm of fantasy. But after Colorado and Washington, we can have a more serious conversation."
With the start of the 2013 legislative session, that conversation has officially begun. Incremental reforms are going to happen in the next 12 months, even if the next state to fully legalize marijuana doesn't do so until 2014 or (more likely) 2016. We asked the folks at MPP, which was instrumental in the passage of Amendment 64, and DPA, which led the charge in Washington, which state legislatures could make big changes to their marijuana laws in 2013. These are the four they told us about.
1. Medical Marijuana in New Hampshire
New Hampshire in recent years has come painfully close to legalizing medical marijuana, but can't seem to seal the deal. In 2009, Democratic Gov. John Lynch vetoed the first medical marijuana bill to pass the Republican-led state legislature, even though U.S. Attorney John Kacavas—an Obama appointee—said his office wouldn't prosecute patients. A 2011 version of the bill never made it to Lynch's desk, due to language allowing for dispensaries, which Kacavas opposed. The 2012 version of the bill was more conservative, limiting marijuana only to specific caregivers and patients, but was once again killed by Lynch.
But now New Hampshire has Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, a former state senator who voted for medical marijuana in 2009 after meeting with patients. "The testimony that was the most compelling was from a woman who had small children," Hassan told local media. "She had a debilitating medical illness. There were other options, but the side-effects were so strong that she couldn't make them lunch and get them off to school."
The Marijuana Policy Project is confident Hassan's presence in the governor's office will seal the deal. "With Lynch retiring and being replaced by medical marijuana supporter Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire appears poised to finally pass this bill into law with a governor’s signature in 2013."