For some reason (or many of them), ending a prohibition is not an easy task – it took 13 years for the U.S. to come to its senses and end Prohibition. Was it a successful endeavor, the Prohibition? Well, for 13 years while it lasted, people kept drinking, many of otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and overall, crime flourished across the country. Successful enough for you? As far as marijuana is concerned, it has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban. By doing so, they inflicted great harm on society, all just to prohibit a substance that is far less dangerous than alcohol. While many of folks would disagree with that, let us assume that there is no easy nor perfect answer to people’s concerns about marijuana consumption. However, there aren’t such answers about alcohol or tobacco either. The social costs of the marijuana wars are huge. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result described is totally racist – the numbers fall disproportionately on young black men. Needless to explain how this is ruining their lives and creating new generations of criminals.
The momentum is on marijuana’s side
There’s one enormously important thing that’s in favor of marijuana legalization – it has the forces of capitalism behind it. We found one study that has predicted the industry could do as much as $8 billion in annual sales by 2018. This was in April 2014 and there were also some signs that the federal government may be ready to help normalize the marijuana business. Besides that, the other important thing concerning the issue of legalization is that it is becoming widely accepted as a social justice issue. Marijuana advocates are louder than ever, consistently arguing that it doesn’t make any sense to continue treating cannabis as a Schedule I substance, alongside heroin and LSD. And it really doesn’t make any sense, yet the federal government remains slow as always.
If anything, the history has taught us that the balance should fall directly on the side of national legalization, on every level, from health effects and the impact on society to law related issues. In other words, decisions on whether or not to allow recreational or medicinal production and use of marijuana should be at the state level. Otherwise, the citizens would remain vulnerable to the impulses of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.
The burning question
So, how many more states need to legalize marijuana before the federal government starts taking things seriously and repels marijuana prohibition? The question has been a topic of discussion around many advocates’ tables; however, no one really knows the answer. Last month, 70% of voters in Washington, DC approved an initiative to legalize the possession and home growing. Unfortunately, drug warriors in Congress were sneaky enough to get language included in the pending bill, which might block the initiative. Things like this make it impossible to predict how many more states and over what period of time will legalize marijuana and more importantly – when will federal government step in.
Increasing support for legalizing marijuana
For the first 4/20 event the country has ever seen, people gathered in Colorado to show support for fully legal marijuana. Just months after the state opened its doors to recreational cannabis, crowds started attending events such as the Cannabis Cup, which was sold out, mind you. All this happens to celebrate a plant that has brought Colorado $14 million in taxed sales – in January alone. All eyes have been fixed on Colorado’s example, which has served as a promising sign that legal marijuana can be a powerful source of income.
While the road to legalizing and regulating marijuana across the country remains a battle with many challenges, we remain optimistic that creating systems for the manufacturing, sales and marketing of marijuana will solve many of those problems. So, without further ado, these are the states we believe are the most likely to be the next to join the list of those who have already done so:
California: California, the mother of medical marijuana legalization, had several local ballot initiatives throughout the state most of which were targeted at improving local regulations. The Marijuana Policy Project has the overview of these measures here.
Florida: The Florida ballot in the 2014 midterm election included an amendment on the legalization of medical marijuana thanks to a public petition campaign. The measure required 60% of the vote to pass, but voters struck it down 58% to 42%.
Maine: Measures to decriminalize marijuana have been dividing the country in recent years, but supporters believe Maine could be the next to legalize recreational!
Massachusetts: The state didn’t have any measures on the midterm election ballot with regard to marijuana, but it did pose a non-binding public policy question on the topic to some districts within the state. Supporters are currently drafting an initiative in which they plan to launch just in case lawmakers do not make an effort to legalize in 2016.
Michigan: Successful midterm election ballot contained 11 local decriminalization measures for marijuana, and voters decided in favor of the measure in six of these areas. Some believe Michigan could be the first in the Midwest to establish a recreational cannabis market.
Minnesota: The state has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country, but it’s still a step forward. Supporters believe things will change in upcoming couple of years.
New Mexico: Support for decriminalization has been strong in the state. In recent non-binding polling questions on decriminalization, voters decided in favor by a tally of 57 to 42 in Bernalillio and 73 to 27 in Santa Fe.
New York: When Governor Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act in 2014 and New York City has decriminalized less than 25 grams of marijuana it has certainly opened the door for recreational weed.