One of the keys to winning a war is following up your victories in various battles swiftly and decisively. Those who support marijuana legalization for all adults, aka recreational legalization, have a tremendous amount of momentum after the historic Election Night 2016. Momentum must be turned into more victories and there are several states that have a chance of passing adult use cannabis legalization in the next 4 years.
When talking about states that could legalize recreational marijuana in the near future, an obvious place to start is Arizona. Proposition 205 lost by a mere 2% on election night and recent history has shown that voters in states that have defeated marijuana proposals are soon deciding on legalization again; the second go around is usually much more successful as evidenced in states like California, Oregon and Florida.
There is a chance the state legislature could decide the issue of marijuana legalization next year, but a more likely scenario is that the forces behind Prop.205 will be back to try again either in 2018 or 2020.
“This year’s election did not close the book on marijuana prohibition in Arizona, but the writing on the wall could not be clearer,” J.P. Holyoak, chair of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona, said in a statement. “It is too soon to provide any specific details, but we intend to continue fighting in support of sensible marijuana policy reform. Thanks to the gains we made with the Prop. 205 campaign, we are confident that Arizona will be among the next round of states to end prohibition and start regulating marijuana like alcohol.”
At one point this year it looked like Michigan voters were going to get to decide on recreational marijuana legalization on election night. Then came the devastating news that a new law would invalidate many of the signatures gathered by the group MI Legalize.
So even before final word came down that they wouldn’t make the 2016 ballot, the group was already gearing up for a push in 2018. “The MI Legalize movement remains united and focused on planning over the next few months,” MI Legalize Chairman Jeffrey Hank said in a prepared statement.
“…the outpouring of support and desire to complete the mission is so profound that we really have no choice but to continue this effort and prepare for another petition drive,” he said, saying the group will take time until spring to plan, analyze and utilize data for the 2018 effort.
“We will be releasing more information on funding, but we demonstrated that we could raise over $1.1 million last time, and we started out with less than $10,000 and a whole first month of only volunteer signatures,” Hank said.
Marijuana legalization activists failed to the get Rhode Island legislature to put a measure on the statewide ballot earlier this year (citizens in RI cannot directly bring issues to the voters). But the battle is far from over.
“After a historic Election Night for marijuana policy reform, Rhode Island could become the next state to regulate and tax adult adult use – and potentially the first to do so through a state legislature,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
“The passage of Question 4 to tax and regulate marijuana in neighboring Massachusetts, in particular, will increase the pressure for Rhode Island’s political leaders to take up and ultimately pass The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act.
“The 2017 Rhode Island legislative session begins in early January. As a key member of the Regulate Rhode Island coalition, the Marijuana Policy Project will take a lead role in working with legislators to ensure that the bill to regulate and tax marijuana for adult use is voted on and ultimately passed.”
Another state where activists have the potential to help push a legalization measure through the legislature is Vermont. Earlier this year the Vermont Senate passed an adult use legalization bill but it failed to make Governor Pete Shumlin’s desk, where it surely would have been signed into law. As things stand members of the legislature are ready to give it another try, although with a new Republican governor the chances of a passed bill being signed have gone down.
“On November 8, 2016, Vermont elected a new governor, Phil Scott (R), who said he is not yet ready to support marijuana legalization,” said MPP. “However, the fact that Massachusetts and Maine both passed legalization ballot initiatives in 2016 may further encourage the legislature and may help convince the new governor to support legalization in 2017. In other positive news, reform champion David Zuckerman (P/D) won his race for lieutenant governor, defeating prohibitionist Randy Brock (R).
“The case for regulating and taxing marijuana in Vermont was bolstered in February 2016, when a poll conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute found 55% support for the idea. Only 32% of Vermonters said they were opposed.”
Another state where activists have to go through the legislature to legalize recreational marijuana is Delaware. Plans are in the works to introduce legalization in the state Senate early next year and polls have shown surprisingly robust support for the idea of legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults. Delaware may be a longer shot than some of the states mentioned above, but being a long shot is a long way from having no shot at all.
I know what you’re saying: if you’re talking about “no shot” in terms of recreational marijuana legalization, you have to mention Texas. But things are not always as they appear on the surface.
Efforts are already underway on the medical marijuana and decriminalization fronts and a bill has already been filed in the state legislature to clear a path for recreational legalization to the statewide ballot in November 2017. Can you imagine marijuana being legalized in Texas next year?
Yeah, I find it hard to imagine as well, but crazier things have happened and at the very least, the discussion has been started in the Lone Star State.
The Next Four Years
When it comes to recreational marijuana legalization, states that have a process by which citizens can bring measures directly to the voters have the best chance of success; in fact, all of the states where adult use has been legalized so far are of that type.
In theory, cannabis could be legalized for adults in any of those states in a relatively short amount of time. But it takes a lot of money and a good amount of experience to pull something like that off.
And of course, any piece about states that could legalize marijuana in the next four years would not be complete without mentioning the proverbial “elephant in the room”: President-Elect Trump and his incoming administration.
So far Trump has picked marijuana opponents to be nominated for the posts of Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services – picks that have cast a shadow over the future of marijuana law reform. While continuing to hope for the best, activists are preparing for the worst.
There is certainly nothing proactive in terms of marijuana law reform to be expected from the Trump Presidency, so the best that can be hoped for is that officials will feel taking on states over cannabis is not worth the fight and move on to something else.
Cold comfort indeed for some, but it may end up being all we have to get us through the next 4 years.