Marijuana reform advocates have been celebrating since seven states elected to legalize cannabis on Election Day victories but where exactly is the legalization movement heading in the next couple years?
Tom Angell, founder of the pro-legalization nonprofit Marijuana Majority, predicted that five states will have recreational legalization on the table and that at least one state will likely consider enacting a medical marijuana system either through the legislature or voter-led ballot initiatives.
"Even though there’s a lot of uncertainty on the federal level right with respect to what the Trump administration will do on marijuana, we know that regardless of what happens with the federal government, there’s going to be a lot of movement on the state level over the next two years," Angell told ATTN:.
Here are the next states that are most likely to legalize.
There were hopes in 2016 that Vermont would become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the legislature. Though that effort stalled, support for legalization remains strong in the state and since Massachusetts became the first state in New England to legalize in November, Angell said it takes some of the pressure off Vermont lawmakers that could prompt reform action in the legislature in 2017.
2. Rhode Island
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) told The Providence Journal in November that the state would have to seriously consider the prospect of recreational legalization if Massachusetts passed its recreational measure on Election Day. Now that Massachusetts legalized, marijuana reform advocates are hopeful that the state will move forward on developing its own legal system.
Recreational legalization in Delaware could be just around the corner, according to Angell. In October, State Sen. Margaret Henry (D) who wrote the state’s medical marijuana legalization bill last year said she would introduce a recreational legalization bill to the General Assembly when it reconvenes in January 2017, Delaware Online reported.
Maryland lawmakers introduced a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana earlier this year, but it died in committee after a period of inaction. In 2018, however, advocates see an opportunity to pass legalization through the legislature. Though the state’s governor, Larry Hogan (R), opposes recreational legalization, Angell pointed out that "the legislature has overridden him" in the past on criminal justice issues.
5. New Mexico
New Mexico is another state where Gov. Susana Martinez (R), is on the record opposing marijuana reform. But advocates "are bullish" about legalizing in the next couple years, Angell said. Advocates are pushing the legislature to pass a amendment to the state constitution, which would bypass the governor, in order to get the issue on the ballot so voters can decide, The Cannabist reported.
Oklahoma nearly voted on medical marijuana legalization in November, but the measure never made it to the ballot because petitioners didn’t give the election board enough time to alter the language of the measure and deliver ballots to voters, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said. Petitioners will have the opportunity to reintroduce the measure in 2018, according to Ballotopedia.