These Are The Next 5 States Likely To Legalize Marijuana
Each new year brings with it the power of possibility, and 2018 could just possibly be the best year yet for potheads all across the United States. According to an October 2017 Gallup Poll, a record high of 64 percent of Americans thinks we should legalize cannabis on a recreational level. With a growing number of supporters, it’s safe to say that almost anywhere could be one of the states likely to legalize marijuana next.
Cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, and forces are ever trying to thwart the work done to legalize marijuana on a state-by-state basis (we see you, Jeff Sessions). But as it stands today, more than half of states have legalized medical marijuana, and nine jurisdictions (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia) have granted recreational legalization. Despite the death throes from the War on Drugs camp, legislation to allow for both medical and recreational marijuana will be moving through state governments in 2018. Which will be the next states likely to legalize marijuana?
This should be the year that the Green Mountain State lives up to its nickname. Vermont legalized medical marijuana in 2015, and possession of an ounce of flower is decriminalized to a $200 fine. In 2017, only one signature—that of Governor Phil Scott—kept recreational marijuana from becoming a reality for Vermont. The Republican lawmaker claimed he wanted to further examine the effects marijuana would have on both social and fiscal issues.
In the first week of 2018, the Vermont House of Representatives again voted favorably for the legalization of marijuana possession (one ounce) and home cultivation (two plants)—but not the sales thereof. We hope Gov. Scott has had time to study up of the positives effects of pot because Vermont will surely be amongst the first states likely to legalize marijuana in 2018.
States in which medical marijuana has been legalized are generally further along the recreational legalization pipeline. WIth medical weed in full effect since 2008, it’s only natural that Michigan joins the ranks of states likely to legalize marijuana this year. Folks without a medical marijuana card in Michigan still face fines and jail times, but all that could change in 2018.
In November 2017, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol turned in approximately 365,000 petition signatures to have the recreational pot initiative added to the November 2018 ballot. More than 252,523 of the signatures must be deemed valid to move on to the next stage. If Michiganders vote it into law, adults over the age of 21 could legally possess up to two-and-a-half ounces of flower and grow up to 12 plants.
Full recreational legalization often begins with legalizing medical marijuana
One of the biggest benefits of legalizing cannabis comes from the lessening of prosecution for marijuana-related crimes. Governor-elect Ralph Northam of Virginia made legalizing marijuana a focal point of his campaign with emphasis paid to the burden current laws put on non-whites. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, non-whites are arrested for marijuana almost four times more than whites, despite near equal usage in each group.
Virginia currently prosecutes possession of under a half-ounce of marijuana as a misdemeanor: $500 fine and 30 days incarceration for the first offense. Any more than a half-ounce (or getting caught more than once with under a half-ounce) will lead to felony charges, and only CBD products with low THC are given medical leeway. A motivated bipartisan Virginia state government could alter these comparatively strict laws before the end of the year.
Some of the more draconian laws against marijuana come out of the Volunteer State. Tennessee’s marijuana laws are strict: possession of under one-half ounce will result in a year incarceration on the first offense in addition to mandatory fines. Anything over a half ounce, first offense or otherwise, will net a felony charge with hefty fees and long incarceration terms.
But where there is darkness, there is hope! 2016 saw the lessening of punishments for those caught with under a half ounce (each additional infraction will be registered as a misdemeanor, whereas before, third offenses and beyond brought felony charges). Memphis and Nashville moved to decriminalize small amounts of pot in 2017, but Governor Bill Haslam struck these motions down. Recreational legalization might be off the table for the time being, but Tennessee may be one of the next states likely to legalize marijuana on a medical basis. CBD extracts are already legal to treat seizures, and a legislative committee will present their findings on the impacts of legalizing medical marijuana later this year.
Tennessee and Oklahoma currently have strict punishments for possession of marijuana
Oklahoma doesn’t fare much better in terms of punishment for those possessing marijuana: any amount will result in one-year's incarceration and a $1000 fine. Larger infractions and intent to sell carry the possibility of life in prison. Like Tennessee, however, Oklahoma’s best bet on legalizing marijuana will be under medical conditions.
It may be sooner than later for the Sooner State to bring medical marijuana to its citizens. Activists have presented the required number of votes to bring a medical cannabis measure to voters, and Governor Mary Fallin recently decided to put the motion to voters during June’s primary election. With a reported 71 percent of potential voters in favor of medical legalization, 2018 looks to be marijuana’s year in Oklahoma.