These States Are Most Likely To Legalize Weed in 2015

This weekend, people will gather in Colorado for the first-ever 4/20 to show their support for the full legalization of marijuana. Just a few months after the state legalized pot for recreational use, people will go to events like the sold-out Cannabis Cup on Sunday to celebrate a plant that brought in $14 million in taxed sales in January alone in Colorado. Colorado’s example shows that legal marijuana can be a good source of income, which is good news for other states that want to ease up on their strict laws against pot and listen to voters, who are increasingly in favor of legalization.

Soon, marijuana will be taxed and regulated in Washington state, which, like Colorado, voted to legalize it in the 2012 general election. And now that Attorney General Eric Holder says he is at least “cautiously optimistic” about the new laws, marijuana policy reformers in other states are looking even more closely at how to move forward.

Things are going in favor of marijuana. It has the forces of capitalism behind it. One study said that the industry could make as much as $8 billion a year in sales by 2018, and there are signs that the federal government may be ready to help normalize the marijuana business. More and more people are also seeing legalization as an issue of social justice. Advocates are getting louder about how it doesn’t make sense to keep marijuana on the federal government’s list of Schedule I drugs, which also includes heroin and LSD. Around 750,000 people are arrested for marijuana yearly, with more than 650,000 just for possession. This is in a country obsessed with the drug war and already has more people in jail than anywhere else.

These numbers seem less important for people who think marijuana is bad for the body and mind. Even though supporters of marijuana often compare the effects of weed to those of alcohol or counter anti-pot studies with new research that supports the drug’s therapeutic qualities, one thing is certain: objective, conclusive scientific research into the effects of marijuana will continue to be discouraged until the federal ban on the substance is lifted or loosened.

Even after the next wave of legalizations, people should and will still argue about the health effects of marijuana. However, the floodgates have already been opened. Pot will be legalized in more states, and some will do it soon. In states all over the country, lawmakers who favor legalizing pot are bringing up the once-taboo topic to their colleagues, hoping to be the first state to do so through legislation. They are backed by public opinion and the examples set by Colorado and Washington. Activists are also working to bring the issue to voters’ attention in 2014 and beyond.

Here’s what’s likely to happen next with legal pot:


Alaskans will have the first chance to make their state the third to legalize marijuana. A ballot measure to tax, regulate, and legalize weed for recreational use by adults was supposed to be on the primary election ballot on Aug. 19, the earliest date in any state. However, because of a problem with timing in the state Legislature, it was recently moved to the general election in November. Groups that are against marijuana want to stop it from passing.

Pot has already been taken out of the criminal code in Alaska and is now legal for medical use. Public Policy Polling, which leans toward the Democratic Party, surveyed Alaska voters earlier this year and found that 55 percent supported making marijuana legal.


Even though it may be less likely that weed will be legalized in 2014, pro-pot organizers are still hopeful that they’ll have a strong campaign for the state before 2016. Efforts are being made to get the legalization issue on the 2014 ballot by collecting the 259,213 signatures needed by July. However, without a lot of money, this seems unlikely. Marijuana Policy Project activists have said they support a 2016 ballot initiative to fully legalize the drug when more people are likely to vote in the general election. The group has also said that they will have had enough time to figure out which parts of previous efforts have worked in other states by then.

In 2010, a ballot initiative made medical marijuana use legal in the state. A poll earlier this year showed that 51% of Arizonans favored making it legal to sell marijuana for recreational use.


In 2010, a statewide initiative in California to legalize marijuana for recreational use failed, but reformers have said they are hopeful that they will be successful in 2014 and beyond. Early this year, activists gave up on a big petition drive that would have put the legalization question on the November ballot. People have also tried to get people to support the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative. Still, they haven’t been able to do so because they don’t have the money other proposals have. Even though there is a lot of support for legalizing marijuana in California, some influential people have told organizers to wait until 2016, when demographics and voter turnout will be even better for them.

In California, cannabis has already been legalized for medical use and is no longer a crime. In multiple polls taken in California last year, the majority of people said they were in favor of legalizing pot. In one long-running poll, this was the first time in 45 years that this was the case.


Delaware just took steps to start putting in place a system for medical marijuana. Still, activists with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) think the state legislature could move forward with a bill to legalize marijuana for more uses. Delaware also doesn’t let citizens put issues on the ballot, so any such effort would have to come from the state legislature.

A recent poll showed that most people in the state would be in favor of this.


This year, Hawaii lawmakers looked at a number of bills to both decriminalize and legalize marijuana, but they all died before they could be put to a full vote. Activists can’t get legalization through a citizen ballot initiative, so they’re hoping that the momentum for legalization will carry over to lawmakers in the Aloha State this year and in the years to come.

Hawaii has already made it legal for people to use cannabis for medical purposes, and lawmakers passed a bill to improve the system. Earlier this year, a poll showed that 66 percent of Hawaiians favor legalization.


Pro-pot activists say that the state of Maine is one of their top targets for legalization in the next few election cycles. This is because Portland, Maine, voted in November to make marijuana legal. Even though attempts to legalize through the state legislature have failed many times, MPP has said it will help coordinate a grassroots campaign to get a legalization measure on the ballot, probably not until 2016. In the meantime, it looks like more communities are ready to legalize marijuana on their own.

Cannabis is no longer a crime in Maine and can be used for medical purposes. A PPP poll from last year found that 48 percent of registered voters in Maine think it should be legal to use pot for fun.


Small amounts of marijuana are no longer illegal in Maryland, thanks to the work of state lawmakers. Some people think legalization is the next step, but it won’t happen this year. A Democratic candidate for state governor is a big supporter of the decriminalization movement and has backed the legalization of drugs. Maryland’s system only lets referenda be held on laws that have already been passed, so the state will have to wait for lawmakers to decide what to do about marijuana.

Maryland has also passed a law that lets people with medical needs use cannabis. This year, a poll showed that half of the people who voted in Maryland want marijuana legal.


People who want to legalize marijuana are looking at the bluest state in New England as a good place to do it. They point out that previous pro-pot initiatives have won by large margins. Bay State Repeal, a group that wants to change the laws about marijuana, has already started laying the groundwork for a 2016 campaign to legalize pot through a ballot initiative. A bill to legalize has also been sent to the state legislature and will be heard later this month.

Cannabis is no longer a crime in Massachusetts, and just last November, voters passed a measure making it legal for medical use. Recent polls show that about half of people support legalizing, taxing, and regulating cannabis.


Montana’s laws on marijuana have changed a lot over time. In 2004, voters passed a measure that made it legal for people to use cannabis for medical purposes. Since then, though, people who don’t agree with the measure have tried to change it or eliminate it. Reformers still hope voters will back full legalization, and MPP has said it will back a statewide effort to legalize on the 2016 ballot. Reformers didn’t waste any time after the 2012 election to file a ballot question to put the issue on the 2014 ballot. In the end, they gave up on this cycle.

There haven’t been any recent statewide polls in Montana to determine how people feel about legalizing pot. Still, in the past, most voters have supported making marijuana less illegal.


Advocates of legalizing marijuana in Nevada are putting together a plan to force a vote as early as 2015. If that doesn’t work, most state and country organizers think 2016 is the best time to try again. Reformers like to go after the state because it tends to be on the liberal side.

Nevada has made medical marijuana legal, and last year, the state passed a law that set up a dispensary system to help sick people get more of it. A recent poll found that 56% of Nevadans would favor making cannabis legal for recreational use if the money from it went to education.

New York City

People who support legalizing marijuana have said that they hope New York will be the third state to do so and maybe the first to do so through legislation. So far, however, support for such measures has been low. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recently came out in favor of efforts to loosen marijuana laws. Still, he has been hesitant to show support for a popular medical marijuana bill moving through the state Legislature. The governor has also announced a set of actions to ensure people with serious illnesses can get marijuana. There is no way for people to put issues on the ballot in New York.

Cannabis possession is no longer illegal in New York, but there are still harsh penalties for anyone caught using it in public or showing it off in public. Pot reformers say that law enforcement has taken advantage of this loophole. In 2013, 82 percent of New Yorkers said they favor medical marijuana for the whole state. In a poll taken earlier this year, 57 percent said they were in favor of legalization.


People in Oregon who wanted to legalize marijuana first approached the issue from two directions: they pushed for a ballot initiative and asked state lawmakers to do something. The second way seems to have failed for the time being. An earlier attempt to legalize marijuana, which was not well organized and was made fun of by many people in the state, failed in 2012. Organizers knew there was a lot of room for improvement. They think they’ve found it with New Approach Oregon, a group backed by high-profile national donors trying to get its legalization measure passed into law. It has just started collecting signatures. Paul Stanford, a well-known marijuana business owner, is also pushing for two more legalization plans. Here you can learn more about the details.

Oregon has already made cannabis legal for medical use and stopped making it a crime. A poll taken in Oregon last year found that 57 percent of likely voters back a plan to tax, regulate, and legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Rhode Island

Marijuana supporters hoped Rhode Island would be one of the first states to legalize it in the next round. Rob Kampia, the executive director of MPP, said last year that the state’s lawmakers could do the work because there is no way for people to start a ballot initiative. Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) seemed to be open to the idea, and people who wanted to change the laws about pot were sure that this year’s push would be different than last year’s. But earlier this month, lawmakers stopped a group of bills from getting out of committee.

Around 2007, Rhode Island took marijuana out of the criminal code and legalized it for medical use. In January, a PPP poll found that 52% of voters in the state support making marijuana legal for recreational use.

Washington, D.C.

We know that Washington, D.C., is not a state. It’s already taxed without a voice, so you have no reason to make fun of it. But either way, the District will stop making marijuana a crime as long as a congressional panel approves a recently passed bill. Marijuana activists have also been permitted to gather signatures for a legalization initiative on the November ballot.

Cannabis is already legal for medical use in D.C., and a bill to make it less illegal is likely to pass. Earlier this year, a survey found that 63 percent of people in the District wanted marijuana to be legal.


Vermont has taken steps to make marijuana less illegal in the past few years. A bill to decriminalize marijuana was passed, and a separate bill set up a system of dispensaries for people who need medical marijuana. Observers have seen the strong support for Gov. Peter Shumlin’s (D) reelection as a sign that voters may be ready to legalize. Shumlin is a supporter of marijuana reform, but not full legalization. Vermont is another northeastern state that doesn’t have a way for people to start a ballot initiative. This push will have to come from state lawmakers. There have been bills to legalize it, but some of the first steps are being held up by disagreements in the legislature.

Polls have always shown that Vermonters favor making marijuana less illegal, but they are split on the legalization question.

Do you think Marijuana should be legal in your State? Do comment and let us know!

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