As of February of this year, 2015, three U.S. states have now legalized marijuana: Alaska, Washington and Colorado. In July, Oregon's initiative to legalize marijuana takes effect. (And although a similar measure has been adopted by voters in Washington, D.C., it has been blocked by Congress.)
So, way to go for the Northwest, but what does that mean for the rest of the country? One great side effect of the legalization of marijuana in a handful of states is that it takes business away from the Mexican cartels. Of course, it won't stop the cartels trying to smuggle in narcotics and other illegal goods, but one step at a time. And isn't it good to see that the reason behind the drop in marijuana smuggling is because those U.S. citizens buying marijuana want to buy it from legal sources. What a concept.
So, with that good news in mind, who's next for legalization? Reports are that Nevada is the first state who will have an initiative on the ballot in 2016-one that will legalize marijuana and have it regulated in the same way alcohol is. (Setting up regulations is key in these initiatives!)
California: Yes, our fair state has the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the Drug Policy Alliance working hard to write the right language for a ballot initiative. Again, regulations and rules are key to framing an initiative for success, and these advocates know that, so they're spelling out issues about production limits and allowances for home growth. Our state was the first to adopt a medical marijuana law, and success with this initiative will show the country legal marijuana has bipartisan appeal.
Arizona: Speaking of bipartisan, or rather, a staunch conservative state, here is Arizona getting some skin in the game. It's young Republicans taking up the banner for legalizing marijuana, with over 50 percent of them in favor of it. And if it's on the 2016 ballot, those young voters are more likely to turn up to the polls in a presidential election year.
Maine: How about the Libertarians? Well, Maine is a good place to start. Two cities have shown a willingness towards legalization through voting to make it legal for adults to possess a small amount-although it's still illegal in the eyes of the state and the Feds. And that was back in 2013. Proponents are happy that states are testing the voter waters on a city level, because that means that there's a public dialogue. People learning about marijuana usually dispels some fears about its perceived dangers.
Massachusetts: Here's something you may not have known about Mitt Romney's state: Residents voted to decriminalize marijuana in 2008, and voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2012. And both times, the measures passed with over 60 percent of the vote. And about 12 or more districts in the state indicated support for legalization through non-binding ballot measures in 2014. So supporters see that if they can educate voters, they can get the voters to legalize marijuana in 2016.
And what will happen if all five of these states legalize marijuana next year? Will it be the tipping point for the federal government to decriminalize marijuana, and let the law enforcement agencies worry about serious crime problems, instead of marijuana possession? We will have to wait and see.