In case you haven’t noticed, the U.S. presidential election this year has been pretty heated. Political outsiders, on both the left and the right, have stirred the pot and engaged record numbers of new voters… and that was just the primaries! You can bet that we will be seeing a record turnout in November, as well.
And in November, we’ll be voting for more than just the president.
Several states are working hard to get cannabis legalization bills on the ballot this year. Six of them already have! Nevada, California, Maine and Massachusetts have all approved recreational bills; Florida and Arkansas will be voting on whether or not to legalize medical marijuana.
So, which states are likely to legalize weed in 2016? Let’s take a closer look at the latest developments in the legalization movement, and break it down state by state.
States That Could Legalize Weed in 2016
The Silver State, which has already legalized medical marijuana, is set to vote on the Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana. The initiative will appear on the November 8th ballot, and if passed, it will end marijuana prohibition in Nevada, create a system of licensed growers and retailers, and establish a 15% tax on marijuana sales.
Polls show that a majority of Nevadans (54% in 2013, and likely even higher now) support marijuana legalization, so it looks very likely the measure will pass.
Just last month, the state of California approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (or AUMA) to appear on the November ballot. If passed, the measure will legalize possession and private use of cannabis for residents 21 and over. It also establishes a system of distribution, and imposes a 15% sales tax, and a weight-based tax on commercial growth and cultivation.
The most recent polls show that 55% of Californians are in favor of legalization, so chances are good. And if you asked me, it’s past time that cannabis was legalized in California — one of the most progressive states in the country.
In November, the people of Maine will vote on the Maine Legalize Marijuana Initiative (aka “Question 1”). The initiative would make it legal for residents 21 and up to grow, possess and consume cannabis. It also establishes a 10% sales tax on marijuana and related products.
Polls show that 55% of residents are in favor of the measure, but there is still some fierce opposition in the state. It will take a strong turnout of progressive voters to ensure this initiative becomes law.
Voters in Florida will vote again in November for a medical marijuana initiative, entitled the Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions. Just like it sounds, the initiative would legalize cannabis as a medicine, but only for those with “debilitating medical conditions,” as determined and prescribed by a physician.
A similar initiative nearly passed in 2014 — 58% of voters said yes, but Florida state law requires a 60% super majority to approve new legislation. But this being a presidential election year, hopes are high that the increased number of young voters will provide the needed push to get it passed.
The Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative will appear as “Question 4” on the November 8th ballot. If passed, the initiative will legalize possession and home growing for adults 21 and over, as well as imposing a sales tax of only 3.75 percent — though local municipalities will be allowed to collect their own 2% tax as well.
With polls estimating that 57% of residents are in favor of legalization, this initiative has an excellent chance!
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than 250,000 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State last month, in support of the Arizona Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. With only 150,000 legitimate signatures needed to put it on the ballot, it looks pretty certain that voters will have their say in November.
Whether or not it passes is another story: recent polling shows only 43% of people in favor, and 49% percent opposed. Pass or fail, it’s gonna be close — so each and every vote counts!
Residents of Arkansas will have the chance to vote on medical marijuana legislation this November. The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (or AMCA) has gathered the necessary signatures, and will be on the ballot. Another competing initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act (or AMMA), is still in the process of collecting signatures.
Between the 2 initiatives, the already-approved AMCA is the more compassionate and comprehensive. It allows for more dispensaries, more qualifying conditions, and sliding scale fees and other protections for low income patients.
With polls showing 84% of Arkansans in favor of medical marijuana, it’s likely that the Natural State will become the next one to allow cannabis as medicine. However, if both competing initiatives end up on the ballot, it’s possible that neither one will get enough votes to pass.
So there you have it; my picks for the 7 states most likely to legalize weed in 2016. Several other states — including Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and my home state of Missouri — all have active cannabis legalization campaigns underway. Some, like Michigan’s MILegalize, have already collected signatures and submitted their petitions. But all of them have weaker polling, stronger opposition, and other factors preventing their initiatives from moving forward.
If you live in any of these 7 states, make sure you are registered to vote, and show up at the polls in November and let your voice be heard. But no matter where you live, continue to educate yourself about the benefits of cannabis and cannabis legalization. Get active in the legalization movement locally.
Together, we can end marijuana prohibition across the U.S., and around the world!