Where Will Marijuana Legalization Expand Next?

The breakthrough successes of marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington have activists nationwide buzzing about expanding across the states. For the first time in the United States, legal  recreational marijuana use for adults is a reality. And organizers across the country are looking to expand legalization across the nation, state by state.

With enthusiasm at an all time high buoyed by the successes this year, you can expect that a number of states will have legalization ballot initiatives in the next election cycle. A few likely candidates include:

  • California: Known for liberally-applied medical marijuana access, the first serious full legalization attempt,  Proposition 19 failed to win a majority of voters in 2010. But they are a strong bet to try again.
  • Oregon: Their legalization  initiative, Measure 80 failed this year. It was said to be significantly underfunded, but they are likely to try again.
  • Massachusetts: A strongly organized local community puts on the Cannabis Freedom Rally every year, one of the biggest the country. They are already planning for a 2016 ballot initiative for full legalization.

Politicians in some state legislatures may pass marijuana legalization without citizens needing to petition. State legislators in Maine and Rhode island are introducing bills to potentially resolve these issues directly. For a state to successfully pass legalization on it’s own would truly be groundbreaking.

With Enthusiasm and Success, New Players Will Emerge

Political organization is extremely hard and often tedious work, and requires tremendous enthusiasm to keep going, especially if you have failed at your goals a number of times. But now that there is a real road map for what success looks like, veteran cannabis reform activists and enthusiastic newcomers alike are going to emerge.

One such new group is  Legalize Ohio. They have only been in existence for just over a week, but have been gaining tremendous attention, according to president Eric Spracklen. Their goal is to get their message out, assemble organizational help and local representatives across the state, and start gathering signatures for a campaign next year. While they don’t have a specific initiative ready, they plan to “bring sensible law to Ohio by legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana.”

Ohio has not previously seen much success in marijuana laws reform. Citizens attempted to get the Medical Cannabis Act of 2012 on the ballot this year, which would have regulated medical marijuana but failed to gather enough signatures. The Athens news reports that they are trying again for 2014.

Colorado and Washington have opened the door, it is now up to us to go inside”, said Spracklen.  Until that happens, possession of under 3 1/2 oz of cannabis or 100 grams remains a minor misdemeanor charge, and slightly more than that is a 4th degree misdemeanor, with possible jail time.

But with some hard work and luck, it won’t stay that way.

About David Matson

David writes about criminal justice issues.
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