The New Year will start with California beginning legal recreational marijuana sales, followed by Massachusetts in April. That adds millions of people to the list of those living where cannabis is legal for both medical and recreational use.
So, where will that happen next?
Plenty of people offer predictions, although history has shown it’s difficult to get right. However, the following looks at some of the states where the potential seems high for adult-use marijuana legalization.
First, though, a word about medical marijuana. It’s legal in 29 states. At this point, it’s easier to list the states where medical marijuana is not legal.
They include every state in the South outside Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida (which is technically in the South, but culturally not so much). The states are: Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.
The other big area is the Midwest and states in the heartland: South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana.
And then there’s Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.
Canada and U.S.
It’s also worth noting that there is bound to be plenty of debate in both Canada and at the federal level in the U.S. over marijuana in 2018.
Canada. The plan remains to start legal recreational marijuana sales in July 2018. However, conservative politicians are threatening to hold up a vote on two key bills that still need to be passed. The Toronto Globe and Mail reported that some conservatives say it could be as long as eight months before the bills come to a vote.
United States. Is it all talk? Will there be action? Cannabis entrepreneurs and advocates certainly hope not. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to say vaguely threatening things about a crackdown on sales of marijuana, which remains illegal at the federal level. Unfortunately, this war of words looks likely to continue into the coming year.
Recreational Marijuana Legalization In The U.S.
The following are five states that seem likely to, at the very least, have a strong push for legalizing recreational marijuana.
Gov. Chris Christie, a strong opponent of legal marijuana, leaves office in January. Democrats in the state already have said they will push a bill through the state Legislature legalizing marijuana. Newly elected Gov. Phil Murphy supported marijuana legalization during the campaign and says he will sign the bill into law.
The government in Illinois faces a crushing budget crisis that has escalated into billions of dollars. State lawmakers there are considering legalizing adult-use marijuana to help pay down the state’s unfunded liabilities. Even PBS personality Rick Steves, a legal marijuana advocate, went to Illinois recently to speak in favor of legalization.
Voters there failed to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016. However, voters in California did the same before it passed it 2016. Some expect Arizona to try again, perhaps as early as the 2018 mid-term elections.
Voters approved medical marijuana there by a huge margin in 2016. Can adult-use marijuana be far behind? It’s always hard to get a read on Florida because the state is diverse and has people living there from across the country. But the fact the state allows voters to put initiatives on the ballot – meaning no lawmaker has to risk their political neck – gives the Sunshine State a higher chance than many places for having a vote soon on adult-use marijuana.
State voters already approved adult-use marijuana in 2016. But then Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the bill to create the regulated state system. He admitted he got guidance on the issue from Sessions. The Legislature has already failed to override the veto. While it remains a politically deadlocked situation, expect some attempt to get the deal done in 2018.
Those are a few of the places where legal marijuana will likely be an issue in 2018. No matter what happens, one thing seems certain: It won’t be boring.