Based on efforts by lawmakers and polls, we believe that three more states have a strong chance of legalizing recreational marijuana in the coming year.
Now that the historic year for cannabis is coming to an end, advocates, lawmakers, and industry professionals are already looking to 2017 with anticipation. Prior to 2016, legalized recreational marijuana had been constrained to states in the West, but now adult use legalization has expanded to the east coast, putting pressure on nearby states to pay attention to the economic, social, and public health benefits of doing away with prohibition.
We had predicted that 2016 was going to be an exciting year for U.S. cannabis laws. Following this November’s election, just six U.S. states are without any type of marijuana legislation. Although 2017 may not be as monumental, noble grassroots and lawmaking efforts are still being made to continue the expansion of legalization.
Marijuana ballot initiatives aren’t an option until 2018, so cannabis legalization progress made in 2017 is going to have to come from state legislatures rather than the ballot box. Three states in particular – Rhode Island, Vermont and New Mexico – have the best chances of passing adult use marijuana laws in the coming year.
The state with perhaps the greatest chance of legalizing adult use marijuana next is Rhode Island, which for the past two years has been one of the top states for those who reportedly use marijuana.
Following the legalization of adult use marijuana in Massachusetts this November, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said she’s interested in taking a more serious look at legalizing marijuana in her own state, although she’s clarified that establishing the right regulations is more important than passing legislation as quickly as possible.
“I am very open to it, as I have been, but I’m not in a rush because I’ve talked to governors of states who’ve already legalized, and they say to me, ‘Go slow, governor, especially with edibles,’” Gov. Raimondo told NBC 10’s Dan Jaehnig.
Acknowledging that Rhode Islanders will now be able to easily cross into neighboring Massachusetts and buy marijuana, Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Matiello has said he’s also ready to look into legalization so that Rhode Island, rather than Massachusetts, collects tax revenue.
A Brown University poll conducted earlier this year found that 55 percent of Rhode Island voters support legalizing and regulating adult use cannabis.
Lawmakers in Vermont were close to legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. In February the Vermont Senate approved S.241, which would have made adult use marijuana legal for adults 21 and older beginning in 2018, but in April the bill ended up dying in the House.
Since that happened, two states bordering Vermont – Maine and Massachusetts – have legalized marijuana. A pair of lawmakers, Sen. Dick Sears and Rep. Maxine Grad has said they plan to resume the push for legalization in the coming year.
“For me, that’s a game-changer, that Massachusetts has voted to legalize,” Sears told Vermont’s NPR host Peter Hirschfeld.
Since the election, however, Vermont has replaced Gov. Peter Shumlin, who supported marijuana legalization, with Gov. Phil Scott, who has said he’s “not looking to move forward on [an] initiative this year.”
A VPR poll conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute in February found that 55 percent of Vermonters support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
It may be a longer shot, but New Mexico also has a chance of pushing through marijuana legislation this coming year. While Gov. Susana Martinez is a staunch opponent to cannabis legalization, Democrats successfully took over control of the state legislature this November. Rep. Bill McCamley has filed a legalization bill every year since 2015 and has said he will do it again in 2017.
Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino has said he plans to introduce an amendment that would be presented to voters in the next election year, which may be a more effective route as Gov. Martinez has said she’ll veto any marijuana measures that come across her desk.
A poll conducted in October by Albuquerque Journal found that 61 percent of New Mexico voters favor making marijuana legal for recreational use by adults. More than four in five (82 percent) of voters ages 18 to 34 said they would support a recreational marijuana measure.
It was also an exciting year of growth for Medical Marijuana, Inc. Learn more about the success of our portfolio of investments and subsidiaries by reading our 2016 Year in Review.