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The Next US States to Legalize Marijuana

Image Credit: Flickr /  Ian Sane

Image Credit: Flickr / Ian Sane

By: Amanda Froelich,

True Activist.

Colorado and Washington made headlines in 2013 when laws were passed to legalize marijuana. And while the Midwestern state has already created a legal weed business, Washington is not expected to have the market for pot operational until June.

In the midst of such historical change, many have wondered, “what states will be legalizing marijuana in 2014?”

Activists promoting the medicinal benefits of the drug would no doubt love to see a greater acceptance of marijuana, especially with its potential to support the economy and aid those with debilitating illness. However beneficial hemp may be, though, it still will require a force of energy from activists to spur change.

Accumulated for the benefit of all in favor of ending prohibition, the following are potential states which may follow the example of Colorado and Washington and make marijuana legally available.

Oregon:

When the move to legalize marijuana was presented in 2012, it was overly broad and was quickly dismissed. This was partly due to the measures the 2012 Oregon Cannabis Tax Act allowed, for example, an unlimited amount of personal possession and cultivation.

Compared to Washington and Colorado, which were legalized by ballot around the same time, clear limits of quantity pertaining to possession and distribution were set.

This time around, legislation backers are working to correct those flaws. Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), a national pro-legalization group), told Fusion he’s “moderately confident about the funding” at the moment.

A new ballot initiative also presents a more regulated program, which will restrict personal cultivation to 24 plants and possession to 24 ounces.

Arizona

Safer Arizona, a drive created by Bob Clark of Tucson, is working to put a legislation voter initiative on the November ballot. His proposal would sales to any adult, eliminate the statute that allows DUI for cannabis metabolites, and allow any adult to grow 12 plants.

Surprisingly, it may be a bill which is passed. Polls show that the number of Americans in favor of marijuana legalizations has neared 60 percent, a large jump of about 12 percent over previous polls. And according to Phoenix-based Behavioral Research Center, 56 percent of residents now think it should be legal, a rise from the 50.13 percent who passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in 2010.

Seeking to support an Arizona as giddy as Colorado, Clark has also been working with the Tucson City Council members to draft a “prioritization ordinance” that would halt or dramatically slow Tucson police arrests for small amounts of cannabis. So far, it seems Safer Arizona’s initiative is the most likely to pass.

Alaska

While it may be surprising, Alaska has had a long history with marijuana. Already legalized as a medical aid in 1975, measures to protect citizens’ rights to possess small amounts of marijuana at home were added in the state’s constitution. In 2006, anti-marijuana law countered that law, but there have not been enough prosecutions for state courts to revisit that issue.

According to Mason Tvert, communications director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the dominant political culture is what makes a huge difference. “It’s also a state with a libertarian streak and people there are not interested in the government coming into their homes and telling them that they’re not allowed to use substance less harmful than alcohol,” he said.

Activists with the same attitude have now gained enough signatures to get a legalization initiative on the ballot in 2014. And different from other states, Alaska’s ballot initiatives occur during primary elections, not during general election. Therefore the momentum from open-minded, youthful voters may propel the passing of this bill.

California

California should be an obvious state to soon allow cannabis, but due to its enormous media industry market, gaining enough support to back a legislative act may be a difficult task. Even though the state approved of medical marijuana in 1996, the expensive undertaking to fuel any legalization campaign will be what deters its progress.

Currently the Drug Policy Alliance is exploring the possibility of a campaign in 2014, but it’s “totally up in the air right now,” according to Ethan Nadelmann. A possible decision about its strategy is tentative to emerge in the next five or six weeks, he said.

Backers know that the odds of a measure passing increase during a presidential election, so it is unknown if California will join in this year or not. MPP’s Tvert thinks it’s best to look ahead. “We really do believe that 2016 is the best opportunity to pass these laws,” he commented. “We’ve seen that the more people that vote, the more people will vote to end prohibition.”

Voice of the people: Be aware that legislators retain the ability to pass their own laws and make pot legal, so if prohibition is a matter you feel strongly about, speak to whoever represents your state.  Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts have already allowed the legalization of medical marijuana, so they may be the first states to example this act.

All in all, there is potential for a handful of states to legalize cannabis in 2014. For those who would like to get involved, many efforts are already in motion pushing for the legalization of marijuana. Seek a group in your local area.

Activism has and will continue to shape the world, so pursue what you are passionate about and act now.

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