If Election Day 2016 taught us anything, it’s that the United States is headed down a path of further cannabis legalization. Four states legalized cannabis for recreational use on November 8 — California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — while four others expanded its use for medicinal purposes.
The change in states’ laws appears partially to be a reflection of Americans’ changing attitudes around cannabis. A recent Gallup poll found 60 percent of respondents supported legalizing cannabis — an all-time high.
However, with the actions of the new White House signaling a less-than-supportive view of legalization, it will likely be left to the states to advance cannabis law. Here are six states that are most likely to ease access to recreational and medicinal cannabis in the near future.
The only bummer to come out of Election Night — well, in relation to cannabis, anyway — was the near-miss that was the vote in Arizona (the state voted down a recreational legalization initiative, 52 percent to 47 percent).
Instead of regressing, however, the state appears to be moving forward on the cannabis front. Two state legislators have filed a bill that would allow for the cultivation of hemp, while the activist organization Safer Arizona has reportedly already begun collecting signatures to place the issue on the ballot in 2018.
It has not been completely smooth sailing, though. A state House committee recently voted to kill a bill that would have legalized the home cultivation of medical cannabis by authorized patients.
The Great Lake State tried in vain to have recreational cannabis appear on the state ballot, with a shortage of signatures ultimately bringing down the endeavor. However, the state has allowed for the legal use of medical cannabis since 2008, and the executive director of MI-Legalize has already promised that a petition drive for the next election is to begin in April.
Another state that only barely missed getting cannabis legalization on the ballot due to signature issues, the Show Me State has an otherwise promising future on the legalization front. Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander came out in the aftermath of the signatures debacle and asked that the state legislature pass comprehensive medical cannabis reform. The executive director of NORML KC, also indicated in a recent interview that he organization would regroup and try again in 2018.
In a state that has already decriminalized cannabis and has a fully functioning medical cannabis program, it makes sense that the next step would be full-on recreational legalization. There appears to be healthy appetite for it among the state’s voters. A poll conducted last month found a healthy 59 percent of Rhode Islanders supportive of regulating and taxing the substance like alcohol, with 36 percent opposed. An initiative is already under way to cajole lawmakers into passing recreational cannabis reform.
Recreational legalization looked like a lock in Vermont in 2016. The state legislature drafted a bill to legalize recreational cannabis through the legislative process — which, if passed, would have made Vermont the first state in the union to do so — and the bill even had the support of the governor. The bill, however, died in the state House.
Despite solid public support in the Green Mountain State for legalization, the state does not allow for ballot initiatives; only measures passed by the state legislature may be signed into law. However, with Massachusetts leading the way in New England on cannabis legalization, many activists believe it is only a matter of time before Vermont follows suit.
The Old Dominion State already allows for the medical use of CBD. The state’s political actors appear ready to take things to the next level: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said in an interview late last year that he would like to see the substance legalized statewide for medicinal purposes, while a prominent Republican state senator signaled that he could get behind further research by the state government into decriminalization.