Marijuana

Five States That Could Legalize Marijuana Next

The U.S. Justice Department's announcement that it won't challenge marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington could bolster efforts elsewhere

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this year they came to seattle's hempfest with doritos
Joe Mabel/Foter.com

This week's announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice that it would not challenge states that had legalized marijuana provided it was "tightly regulated" was taken as a welcome, if late, sign by proponents of marijuana legalization, boosting efforts in other states. There's no state legislature in the country that looks ready to legalize marijuana via legislation—as the mayor of Lansing, Michigan, which has a ballot initiative seeking to legalize marijuana coming up this November, noted, the "public is far ahead of most politicians on this issue." Thankfully, more than half of U.S. states allow voter-initiated legislative or constitutional changes that don't need to originate in the state capital. This means that, as support for legalizing marijuana hits a majority in nationwide polling, grassroots efforts in states from Arkansas to Wyoming are hard at work. Here are five states that could be next to legalize marijuana.

1. Oregon

oregon crop
Umatilla County Sheriff

Oregon actually became the first state to decriminalize (possession of) marijuana (up to an ounce), back in 1973. A legislative effort to recriminalize it in the mid-90s failed. By 2012, however, Oregon fell behind its peers; while Washington and Colorado voters approved measures to legalize marijuana, a similar effort in Oregon failed by a seven point margin. Nevertheless, supporters of the legalization effort in Oregon hope this week's announcement by the feds will bolster their own efforts. New Approach Oregon is trying again to get ballot access for legalizing marijuana in 2014, and blames poor fundraising for the initiative having failed last year. Polling earlier this year found 63 percent of Oregonians supporting marijuana legalization, while another found 81 percent of Oregonians believe marijuana legalization is inevitable, irrespective of their personal views.

2. Alaska

another kind of northern lights
User Dan/Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, the Marijuana Policy Project's Rob Kampia told Reason TV he believed Alaska would be the next state to legalize marijuana by ballot initiative. Alaska's Supreme Court actually ruled in 1975 that possession of marijuana (up to four ounces, in the home) was protected by the state constitution. The Marijuana Policy Project, however, reports that since a failed recriminalization effort in 2006 the law's "been somewhat in flux," with more than 80 percent of drug arrests in 2010 being for marijuana possession. Supporters need more than 30,000 signatures to secure ballot access for marijuana legalization in 2014. An effort in 2004 lost by a more than 10 percent margin, but supporters are hopeful public opinion has swung enough in their favor in the last decade. Alaska's only congressman, Republican Don Young, co-sponsored the "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act," signaling possible support for, and at the very least tolerance of, attempts to legalize marijuana in the state.

3. California

medicinal's in the eye of the beholder
mjpresson/Wikimedia Commons

California was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana by ballot initiative, in 1996, with 55 percent of the vote. Since then, the medical marijuana industry has grown significantly in the state. Under the Obama Administration, that's led to renewed federal efforts to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries despite their legal status under state laws. Similar efforts by the feds against Colorado's medical marijuana industry didn't stop voters from approving legal marijuana last November, and it may not stop voters from doing the same in California, where the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative is actively working to secure ballot status for a proposition legalizing marijuana and hemp in 2014. The group gathered enough signatures earlier this year to file their attempt with the state in May. Starting in October, the group will have to collect 750,000 signatures starting in October to get on the ballot. Campaigns for propositions in California can get heated, but there's reason to be hopeful that a proposition on legalizing marijuana would pass: 53 percent of respondents in a poll in California earlier this year supported liberalizing marijuana laws and treating the substance like alcohol.

4. Maine

failed
Albany NY/Wikimedia Commons

Maine is another state that's decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and permitted medical marijuana. Earlier this year, the state saw a serious effort at a marijuana legalization initiative originating in the state legislature. The bill ultimately failed by only four votes in June, but the primary sponsor, Democrat Diane Russell, intends to keep pushing the issue. If the effort can gain more support in the legislature next year, it could be on the ballot for Maine voters to approve in November 2014. Voters in Portland, Maine, though, will get to vote on legalizing marijuana (possession of up to 2.5 ounces) in their city this November.

5. Rhode Island

"everything's better with a bag of weed"
Family Guy/FOX

Kampia also predicted to Reason TV that Rhode Island would be the first state to legalize marijuana by legislation. While legislators did pass a law that went into effect in April decriminalizing marijuana, a bill that would have legalized marijuana in the state received hearings in the legislature but was not voted on. The Marijuana Policy Project saw the fact that the legislature even held hearings on the bills as a sign of progress. A Marijuana Policy Project poll commissioned in 2012 found 52 percent of Rhode Islanders supporting the legalization of marijuana. Rhode Island residents cannot submit ballot initiatives for consideration (only the legislature can), but any successful effort to legalize marijuana via the legislature would be unprecedented and represent a big step from the small state for the cause of marijuana legalization nationwide.

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  1. Michigan didn’t make the list?

    1. Supporters couldn’t get it on the ballot in 2012. Maybe 2014 will be different? The Lansing effort might succeed

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  2. Thankfully, more than half of U.S. states allow voter-initiated legislative or constitutional changes that don’t need to originate in the state capital.

    And all of U.S. states allow for federal agents to come in and ignore state laws.

    1. Missouri’s working on that, with regard to guns. They’re claiming that they’ll allow state police to arrest federal agents, which should be fun.

    2. Fist of Etiquette, you sound like a crazy person. Are you a neo-confederate or something. States stand up for the rights of it’s citizens, that’s just crazy talk.

  3. “Grass”roots? Hurr!

  4. Not Hawaii? Or Montana?

    1. I was surprised, also.

  5. If Florida can have a fucking balloted Constitutional Amendment protecting pregnant pigs, why the fuck not pot?

    1. Old folks, soccer moms, socons, filthy politicians, cop unions, the childrenz, all the usual suspects.

      1. Well then, appeal to these constituencies.
        Old farts in Tampa and S. FL- Medical Marijuana
        Soccer Moms- Toke up during Snowflake’s practice
        SoCons- Ignore the bastards
        Filthy politicians- buy ’em off
        Cop Unions- Get them to hire Dunphy
        Teh Chirrenz- Give ’em a free sample

        You know: Politics as Usual …

    2. I couldn’t find that proposed amendment on this site – could you help me out?

      http://election.dos.state.fl.u…..velist.asp

      1. It’s this one:

        http://election.dos.state.fl.u…..4&seqnum=1

        1. Thank you, Sir, for completing me.

  6. California was *the* first state to legalize medical cannabis, by any means–not “one of”?

    No, federal disregard for state MC laws sure didn’t “stop” voters from supporting reform in Colorado, all right; given that polls show overwhelming disapproval across the country for such enforcement actions, even among conservatives, do you think that it’s just possible said voters were actually incentivized towards legalization, maybe?

    Research much?

    Free the Green in 2014 – http://www.cchi2014.org/

    1. Calif. was 1st if you don’t count the med mj laws of the late 1970s. Come to think of it, they may have been 1st with those too.

    2. Actually, Virginia (believe it or not) was the first state to pass a medical marijuana law, way back in 1979.

      It was never to any effect thanks to the Fedgov prohibiting the “prescription” of marijuana (and the state’s law’s use of that term), and it was limited to cancer and glaucoma, but hey. Facts are facts.

      Research much?

  7. Surprised NV didn’t make the list. Marijuana legalization was up for a vote here in 2006 and lost by a narrow margin (I believe it was less than 5 points). I believe there are efforts underway to put it on the ballot again in 2016 (they’re shooting for a presidential election year. Given the state’s pro-vice, if not necessarily libertarian, leanings, I wouldn’t be at all shocked if it passed this time, especially in light of the developments in WA and CO since then.

  8. Did this really need to be on 5 pages?

    1. Advertisers: Yes.

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  10. This pronouncement from on high, the manner and tone, is as irksome as the ignorance of those who implicitly accept its validity. What right does the agent have to tell the master what it can and cannot do. The Federal Government was an agent of the States. Now it is a master, and it attained that distinction not by consent or the persuasion of argument but by brute force. We fear our government, or more accurately those who run it, and their minions who confuse loyalty to the the men who run the government with patriotism. We have allowed the most substantial check on federal power to be steadily eroded and look on those who advocate states powers as “crazy” for even mentioning the words. But here is just another example of this ill confusion of the “sheeple”. And we wonder how this could happen.

    1. Avoid that word “sheeple” some folk don’t take to kindly to talk like that ’round these parts.

  11. For medical purposes I think should be legalized. But then, I very strict control should be applied, otherwise for sure it would degenerate.
    termopane

    1. Agree.

      Without strict control, something awful like personal freedom could break out and cause havoc across the land.

  12. Alaska’s only congressman, Republican Don Young

    Constitution fail. He’s Alaska’s only Representative. There are also two senators.

  13. California will never legalize pot. Reason? Too many growers making too much money. If you’ll take the trouble to look up Prop 19, the previous California legalization initiative, it was defeated in both Humboldt and Mendocino counties. Those are the big pot growing counties. That’s right folks, the growers HATE the idea of legalization. Just like the bootleggers were put out of business by the repeal of prohibition.

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  17. People need to keep the focus on the approval of marijuana to be for ‘MEDICINAL PURPOSES” ONLY. The States will not approve if they think that they think that it will be a free for all and present problems.! Let’s keep it real.

    http://www.wellmindedcenter.com

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  31. Surprised NV didn’t make the list. Marijuana legalization was up for a vote here in 2006 and lost by a narrow margin (I believe it was less than 5 points). I believe there are efforts underway to put it on the ballot again in 2016 (they’re shooting for a presidential election year. Given the state’s pro-vice, if not necessarily libertarian, leanings, I wouldn’t be at all shocked if it passed this time, especially in light of the developments in WA and CO since then.

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